Enumerators from the Community Development Center (CDC) collecting baseline field data with their smartphone using Akvo Flow. Photo by CDC. May 2017

Since the end of last year, our regional Akvo team in South East Asia and Pacific has joined two exciting new consortia programmes, GREENcoffee (Vietnam) and SMARTseeds (Indonesia). Both programmes aim to create self-sustainable information services that reach 100,000 farmers, with an end-goal to increase production and income of farmers by 10%, and reduce inputs such as water, fertilisers and pesticides by 10% as well.

Akvo provides the technology to collect farmer information, provides innovative solutions for soil testing, and the ability to validate remote sensing models on the ground. We also support the lead agent, ICCO, in smartphone-based project monitoring and evaluation. In this blog we lay out the planning, monitoring and evaluation (PME) approach for the farmer baseline, using the GREENcoffee programme as an example.

The GREENcoffee initiative targets coffee smallholders in Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Dak Nong and Lam Dong provinces where 80% of the coffee growers live. A baseline for the Green Coffee project had to be established so that the project impact can be measured over time. These are the specific steps Akvo supported, which give an insight into the approach to field data collection:

1. Build on existing data sets

Our consortium partner UTZ had already gathered a database of about 6,000 key farmers from the coffee companies that it collaborates with in the region. The data contained basic details, but was spread over a number of spreadsheets and available in different formats. Akvo supported in bringing these into a standard structure and the data was then mapped to identify farmer distribution.

Farmer distribution based on data collected by UTZ. Map visualisation by Joy Ghosh.

2. Determine sample size

The sample size required to conduct a baseline of 100,000 farmers was determined. Akvo supported proportional sampling based on farmer distribution and concentration, coffee companies and administrative regions, to be able to identify farmers who were to be surveyed. Basic random sampling was then done for a population size of 100,000 farmers with 95% confidence level and 5% confidence interval (standard practice). The sample size was set at 393 coffee farmers that needed to be surveyed in 4 provinces, 16 districts and 31 communes. The methodology resulted in handing out a list of farmers per enumerator, along with commune and village names and companies that needed to be surveyed in the field. The details about the farmers that needed to be surveyed for the baseline were crucial for easy access in the field and to remove any enumerator bias.

3. Set up smart phone based data collection system and digitisation of surveys

Akvo deployed a dedicated online workspace of Akvo Flow and an android app that allowed surveys to be created and data to be collected using smartphones (also in areas with no Internet or mobile connection). The system interface was made available in the Vietnamese language. The first draft of the survey was created by ICCO and then it was further refined in joint sessions in which Akvo, the Economics Research Institute of Posts and Telecommunication (ERIPT) and UTZ participated. The main objectives were to capture basic socio-economic farmer data, plantations details, information on water, fertiliser and pesticide use, income and production, local farm practices, and data on farmer needs for specific information services.

4. Field training and data collection by enumerators

From 21st Feb, 2017, Akvo’s regional team conducted a three day training session on Akvo Flow at the Community Development Center (CDC) office in Buon Ma Thuot, Dak Lak. Akvo trained six staff members from CDC, one from ICCO, one from ERIPT and three from the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD), all of whom would act as enumerators in data collection. The training focused both on the use of the tools and the understanding of the surveys, to ensure data quality. Following the training session, the data of 393 farmers was collected over a period of two weeks in the field.

5. Data analysis and visualisation

In this case, Akvo played the role of overall ‘dashboard manager’, meaning we were responsible for overseeing the data collection effort, and monitored incoming data continuously to ensure quality control. The baseline data was summarised in a baseline report. To simplify data analysis and decision-making, a dashboard (using Akvo Lumen) was created to display the main results. The dashboard set-up is flexible and is likely to be adjusted based on the consortia partners’ needs over time.  

A smartphone-based baseline for the GREENcoffee project was conducted in March 2017. A total of 393 farmers across 4 provinces, 16 districts and 31 communes were surveyed. This dashboard visualises some of the key monitoring and evaluation (M&E) indicators for the project.

6. Next steps

ICCO and our other programme partners will now use the results of the baseline to strengthen programme design, and monitor progress and impact over time. The farmer needs that are mapped will drive and influence prioritisation of information services based on local needs. Akvo is also working with both ICCO and the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) to share lessons that can be learned from this exercise more widely with other programmes. We’re also expecting to further fine-tune the link between the overall monitoring framework and ‘smart’ field surveys.

This blog was written by:

Peter van der Linde, co-founder and regional director of Akvo South East Asia and Pacific. Follow him @petervdl, and

Joy Ghosh, technical program manager for Akvo South East Asia and Pacific. Follow him @joycarpediem.