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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Five questions, a hundred advantages, a thousand farmers benefit

Sometimes even researchers have this brilliant idea of how to make science easier instead of even more complicated. One of these ideas is a methodology called 5Q: five simple questions to measure changes in knowledge, attitudes and skills (KAS). The piloting of this tool has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is currently conducted in Lushoto, Tanzania.

Photocredit: Manon Koningstein (CIAT)

Photocredit: Manon Koningstein (CIAT)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation posted a Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) call for proposals from 2013 – 2014 around the topic of “Feedback & Accountability Systems for Agricultural Development Programs.”  This call sought to address a longstanding problem for practitioners in the agricultural development arena, particularly for donors and implementing organizations: How to hear from the programs’ core constituents – the smallholder farmer – much more.  Smallholder farmers tend to be geographically and culturally distant from most donor and implementing organizations, hard to reach, and diverse.  The GCE call sought technological or process innovations worldwide that would enable the process of collecting feedback from smallholder farmers to be more cost efficient, more speedy, and more representative.  The thought was that if we are able to hear from smallholder farmers directly, and much more, they will be able to more proactively participate in programs that directly impact their lives, including throughout the project design, implementation, and evaluation processes.

Only ten months into the project are the out scaling possibilities of this tool clear, and therefore is the methodology re-used during a research in the northern departments of Tolima and la Guajira.

“The 5Q approach is proving very useful for quick, rapid feedback during a particular climate related challenge in Colombia. It will enable CIAT, the Ministry of Agriculture and major local and national actors respond to emerging problems with the most appropriate solutions” according to Andy Jarvis, DAPA’s team leader.

Historically in Colombia, the first quarter of the calendar year is characterized by a low water supply associated with lower rainfall. This is typical for the first dry season of the year, particularly in departments of Tolima and la Guajira. However, in recent years it can be seen that this characterization of the climate cannot be taken as ‘normal’ anymore. This has high consequences for farmers for they are depending on their crops for their livelihoods and food security. Therefore CIAT has started an agreement with the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR). During a recent meeting in La Guajira to discuss the agro-climatic newsletters and to identify vulnerable areas, 5Q has been used as a tool to measure the process of implementation of an inter-institutional regional network for agro-climatic discussion to reduce the vulnerability of farmers against the weather. This measurement took place done at various times throughout the project.

Photocredit: Manon Koningstein (CIAT)

Photocredit: Manon Koningstein (CIAT)

The objective of the 5Q survey in La Guajira was to assess the link between local authorities, climate and the farmers in the area. Furthermore, it is created to understand what actions are carried out by these institutions against climate variability to strengthen producers.

The 5Q surveys were implemented to different representatives of institutions to measure changes in:

  • Production of useful information and understandable to the monthly agro-climatic newsletter  and generate changes in practice in future (technical) and final (farmers) users.
  • The sustainability of a network with frequent meetings of regional actors around agro-climatic issues.

“We can see that the 5Q methodology helps us to strengthen the inter-institutional work at the regional level; to improve the production and dissemination of useful agro-climatic information and that it can support the decision making of climate vulnerable farmers. Thanks to the fact that the surveys exist of only 5 questions, we obtained very interesting information that allows us to move forward in meeting these objectives”, says Fanny Howland, researcher linked to the CIAT-MADR agreement.

From the surveys we can conclude that the majority of the participants do receive some kind of climate information, whereas the most requested information is about the potential loss of crops. Furthermore it is suggested to enlarge the part for recommendations and use more standard and easier to understand wording; to improve the communication channels and to provide more local information per region.

The participants expressed that they find it fundamental to continue these types of meetings to practice and develop exchanges with other institutions. However, for example in Tolima, 33% of the participants state that they are interested in continuing the meetings, but they do not possess the time needed.

The conclusions from the use of the 5Q tool in the MADR project will be taken in account in the further development of the agro-climatic newsletter as well as the design and implementation of the network with regional actors.

Manon Koningstein is a Research Associate and Communications Specialist for the Gender & Climate Change team of CIAT. Furthermore is she responsible for the communications of the 5Q Closing the Feedback Loops project. For more information on this project, please click here.  

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