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Assessment of Implementation and Sustainability Strategies

 for A4N Community Agricultural Promoter Extension Model 


Agriculture for Basic Needs (A4N), financed by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, aims to help more than 15 thousand poor Central American families sustainably increase food production and agricultural income. The project, led by Catholic Relief Services and implemented by 14 local NGOs in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, focuses on strengthening a set of basic skills so that very poor rural families reach a minimum threshold capacity that allows them to successfully begin to engage with markets and lead their own development processes. The five prioritized skill sets include:

· Group organization and management
· Sustainable agriculture
· Savings and lending
· Marketing
· Innovation and learning

In order to reach scale and to leave capacity within local communities, A4N has implemented a strategy of “community extension based on promoters”. Since project inception in 2009, the project has trained 1,000 community promoters, who are working with at least 9,000 families at project mid-term, improving productive infrastructure at the farm level along with crop management technologies and practices for basic grains, small livestock and horticulture. As part of the implementation model, promoters are trained by field agents and organize farmer field schools to share advice with farmers groups in a practical manner. There are also a number of local agricultural research committees (CIAL) assisted by promoters and field technicians.

As the project moves into its final year of guaranteed funding (COP August 31, 2012), the team is exploring strategies for building on the success of the promoter model, deepening its potential for on-going impact and sustainability.

Evaluation Questions:


Promoter Training
· What have been the strengths and weaknesses of the training received by the A4N promoters?
· What recommendations can be made about how to improve the curriculum and distribution of training themes among skill sets and individual promoters?

Social Capital, Innovation and Learning
· To what extent has the model supported building social capital among poor farming communities? What adjustments are recommended to strengthen this aspect of the model?
· To what extent have the extension themes responded to farmer demand? What adjustments are recommended to strengthen this aspect of the model?
· To what extent has the approach contributed to on-farm research? What adjustments are recommended to strengthen this aspect of the model?
· How have different types of incentives been used in the model and how might these be improved for the future?

Linkages
· To what extent have the promoters been linked into formal extension systems? What steps are recommended to act on existing opportunities?
· To what extent have the promoters been linked with research institutions? What steps are recommended to act on existing opportunities?
· What opportunities exist to build government accreditation of promoters into the model? What specific proposals can be made for this?

Results
· What are the principal results on farm productivity and income as reported by farmers and evidenced in quantitative data?

Methods:
The evaluation will be carried out by the A4N Regional Technical team, including the Regional Project Coordinator, Learning and Knowledge Manager and Agricultural Specialist, with support from a consultant specializing in extension systems. Methods will include:

· Document review
· Focus groups with national project managers and partner coordinators
· Focus groups with community promoters, members of Farmer Field Schools and Local Agricultural Research Committees
· Interviews with government agencies and agricultural advisory services providers
· Roundtable discussions in each country with key local actors
· Participatory workshops among A4N project staff and other key actors to analyze conclusions and develop a proposal for building on the model

Evaluation Report
The evaluation report will include an analysis of performance of the current model as well as a proposal for a community-based extension model which incorporates lessons learned and forms the basis for future efforts. This proposal should include:

· Suggested operational structure, linking farmers, governments and key actors in the territories
· Training model for promoters, including suggestions for accreditation by government agencies or other appropriate entities
· Suggested incorporation of farmer experimentation, building on Farmer Field Schools (ECA) and Local Agricultural Research Committees (CIAL)
· Proposal for an incentive structure that contributes to system sustainability


Timeframe:
Field work will begin by March 2012 and the final report will be submitted by July 1, 2012.
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