Posted on 20 October 2022
Stanley Walet, Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor for Mobilising More for Climate (MoMo4C) travelled to Cameroon to see how impact monitoring operates on the ground. He noted several challenges and offers some recommendations.
From behind my desk in The Netherlands the framework I designed with colleagues to measure impact for the MoMo4C programme seemed very logical. We formulated a set of impact indicators related to what we aspire to achieve by the end of the programme and beyond. The collection of the data on these indicators should mainly come from the business cases that MoMo4C is supporting. Now how does that data collection work on the ground?
To answer that question, I travelled with the WWF Cameroon team to the TRIDOM landscape, where MoMo4C is currently operating, to monitor the programme’s progress. My intentions for the trip were straightforward: to see whether the impact monitoring we have designed for the programme functions well, to review whether the data to report on the framework is accessible, and to speak to our stakeholders and entrepreneurs directly to get a better understanding of the meaning of the numbers we collect.
In the municipalities of Yokadouma and Ngoyla, I got the opportunity to speak to all four developers of business cases that the programme is currently supporting, as well as several stakeholders in the field. One of the business cases in Yokadouma is developed by the women’s organisation AAFEBEN. Their ambition is to improve productivity of existing cocoa farming plots and by providing providing loans to cocoa farmers with more favourable conditions than they currently have. Another business case is proposed by the organisation SARB, with the objective to introduce alternative livelihoods based on several different Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) for cocoa farmers. In Ngoyla, we work with two smaller scale business cases on coca. One of which is proposed by the indigenous Baka, with the aim to introduce sustainable production of NTFPs within cocoa plantations. The conversations with the entrepreneurs did not only clarify the extent to which MoMo4C is involved in the landscape but also gave useful insight into how we can adapt our monitoring to better fit the programme.
How do we define impact in MoMo4C?
The ultimate goal of the programme is not just facilitating successful businesses, but to see these enterprises contribute to a more sustainable, climate resilient, biodiverse and productive landscape. Through our impact indicators, we aim to get a sense of how well we are faring in achieving these goals. The supported businesses have an obvious direct impact on the land they manage and the people working for it, but its impact may spread further into the landscape, depending on the size and functioning of the business.
This is where the monitoring work gets challenging. After all, we operate with a diverse set of entrepreneurs that may have an impact at different geographic scales and that may contribute differently to landscape adaptation. We therefore make a distinction between what we call direct impact (which is achieved through our entrepreneurs), indirect impact (which is achieved through the business case) and plausible impact (the effect the business has on the landscape).
Collecting production data through pilot studies
To assess our direct and indirect impact, we collect data that explains well how big the business is and how many people it provides a living for. While this data is often easily collected by the smallholders who get involved in the business case, the entrepreneurs are hesitant to ask the smallholders for this data too early in the process. Asking for these details creates expectations of involvement amongst the smallholders, which cannot yet be guaranteed by the entrepreneurs since the business case has not yet moved to investment. However, for an investor to be convinced of a business case, it is essential to have the production details of the smallholders. Moving forward it is therefore important that we strive for this information, whilst carefully managing the expectations of the farmers.
For the AAFEBEN and SARB cases, we see potential in setting up pilots with a limited number of smallholders. This would requires less starting capital and allows the entrepreneurs to focus on testing and detailing their business plan. Additionally, since these farmers would be actively involved and see the direct benefit of being part of the business case, we can more easily access the production details. This can contribute to both a stronger business case, as well as provide the data that can be used to track MoMo4C’s impact.
Understanding MoMo4C’s plausible impact through narratives
To assess our plausible impact, we need to understand how a business is positioned in the landscape. By improving the situation of the business, we may positively influence the surrounding nature and people as well. To do this, we partly rely on the business case proposals, and combine that with the knowledge WWF and our local partners have of the landscape. We aim to capture that story and its relevance through what we call impact narratives.
Let’s take an example of a business case in Ngoyla that aims to convert high intensity cocoa farms to more diverse crop systems. This intervention will locally improve biodiversity, create less dependency on the cocoa production cycles and improve resilience against climate stressors. But since the farms are located near natural areas, they will also function as a buffer zone to those areas and the species living there.
Close collaboration with MoMo4C field staff
During the visit, I had the pleasure of traveling together with programme lead Roberty Essama and Anne Ntongho. Anne is the sole monitoring and evaluation (M&E) officer for the WWF Cameroon office. Having worked there for more than 20 years, she is a veteran of the organisation. Not only does she know the project area by heart, the people living in the area know her as well, which became all too evident by the many greetings as we travelled through the landscape together.
But Anne’s job is not an easy one. Her involvement as M&E staff in the projects requires her to be involved in the project’s design as well as do the quality control. That meaning she needs to have a thorough understanding of what the project aims to do. Considering that she does that for every single programme and project that the WWF Cameroon office is running, that leaves little time to visit the field sites regularly.
For MoMo4C it is therefore important that we continue working in close collaboration with the field staff based in the Yokadouma and Ngoyla on monitoring. Together with them, we come to better estimations of the types and sizes of smallholder farms in the landscape. That does not only benefit us in showing what impact the programme may be achieving, but will aid the entrepreneurs with promoting their business case to investors as well.
Mobilising More for Climate (MoMo4C) is a five-year programme (2019-2024) of IUCN Netherlands, WWF Netherlands and Tropenbos International, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It brings together local entrepreneurs, companies, policymakers, investors, and civil society organisations to make green business propositions that tackle the impact and causes of climate change at a landscape level. It works in developing countries to attract investments to implement these initiatives.