Monitoring the effectiveness of UK Assistance to the Afghan Agriculture Sector

In 2016, Coffey was appointed as the Independent Technical Reviewer by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the Comprehensive Agricultural and Rural Development Facility (“CARD-F”) in Afghanistan.

CARD-F delivers integrated Economic Development Packages (EDPs) at district levels in a number of Afghan provinces, which provide a mix of infrastructure, technical assistance and grants to farmers and entrepreneurs to help increase their agricultural production, develop value chains, and improve market access. With security worsening in the country, DFID needs ‘eyes on the ground’ to assess whether UK aid is delivering results.

In Afghanistan, it is not possible for most international researchers to obtain permission to conduct fieldwork and manage quality in non-permissive areas and local research teams have to track down a beneficiary population that is highly mobile – moving from location to location in order to survive a harsh economic environment aggravated by conflict. As a result, Coffey experts need to depend on Afghan enumerator teams for data and information on the programme and ‘work blind’ from the data that is available.

Leveraging the power of technology

One way that Coffey navigates these obstacles is by leveraging technology. Cosmos has been deployed to execute monthly surveys of programme grantees across over a dozen provinces in the country. Field researchers are given smartphones, with the Cosmos app installed and configured to work in areas with low or no Internet connectivity. Every data point, be it a response to a survey question or a photograph of a greenhouse, is tagged with GIS metadata. When enumerators get back to a regional field office, they synchronise their phones online and data is uploaded to Coffey servers.

In remote, limited-access regions, it is critical to the success of a programme that enumerator capacity and performance can be continuously reviewed. Cosmos allows real-time monitoring of survey quality with GPS-tracked data, which allows remote programme staff to monitor performance targets, whether surveys are being completed at the assigned locations and also whether sufficient time is being allowed to record full and complete responses to every question in the survey.

Given the volume of sensitive data collected each month, coupled with Afghanistan’s fragile safety context, data security on CARD-F is particularly important. All data that the enumerators collect on their phones is stored locally in the encrypted, password-protected Cosmos app. Once an enumerator reaches an area with internet connectivity and synchronises their app all data is wiped from their phone and immediately sent to Coffey’s secure Cosmos server.

Microsoft Power BI software is then utilised to analyse the survey data, which identifies patterns and trends, and feeds the data directly into a dedicated web-based Performance Monitoring Dashboard, which communicates results to government and CARD-F donors, as well as agriculture sector ministries – in real time.

“The best thing about COSMOS is that it enables us to remotely monitor our survey implementation in real time. By simply logging into the online COSMOS dashboard, we are able to view all completed and in-progress interviews by device, including their exact GPS locations and durations. This allows us to quickly and effectively respond to individual issues as they arise.” – Elias Pogany, ITR of CARD-F Project Manager

Many programmes like CARD-F depend on a complex web of factors to do with conflict, politics, local government capacity, tribe and ethnic affiliation. While technology cannot ‘solve’ the development puzzle, Cosmos is bringing the complexity to light and aiding better and faster decision making.

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