Consultancy for the External Review of ASLI Project

  • Added Date: Monday, 10 August 2020
  • Deadline Date: Tuesday, 25 August 2020

1.1. Context

The agriculture sector has been recognized by the Afghan government as the backbone for economic development and GDP growth. 61% of households depend fully or partially on income derived from agricultural activities, while their poverty rates are higher than average. Up to one third of the Afghan population faces food insecurity, but levels vary significantly between areas. Currently, agricultural productivity is limited by several factors such as outdated agricultural practices, lack of quality inputs, insufficient irrigation infrastructures and a weak extension system. These issues are exacerbated by larger trends: the very high population growth rate leads to a fragmentation of landholdings; land resources are overexploited, resulting in reduced soil fertility; and climate change affects rain- and snowfall, with droughts and floods becoming more frequent.

Low productivity and high vulnerability characterize farming households, many of whom remain poor and food insecure. This is especially true in Afghanistanโ€™s mountainous Central Highlands[1] and its main province Bamyan. With a poverty rate of 40.5 percent and food insecurity levels of over 70%, Bamyan is one of the poorest and most food insecure provinces in the country. Access to the mountainous region is difficult and climatic and topographic factors limit agricultural productivity. The long winters allow for only one yearly harvest and only a small portion of the land at the bottom of the valleys can be irrigated and cultivated. Even though the agricultural potential in the province is limited, it is still underused and there is usually little surplus to sell. The main crops grown in Bamyan are wheat, barley, beans and potatoes. Animal husbandry, agricultural productivity, pasture improvement, post-harvest technology, and irrigation system improvements have significant potential for development, as do womenโ€™s income generating activities, such as poultry and vegetable production. Potato is the main cash crop in Bamyan, but over-production and the lack of storage facilities have resulted in very low prices for this crop during the harvest season. On the other hand, horticulture is a potentially lucrative area for the province with the production of mainly apple and apricot, but also peach, cherry, walnuts and pears.

Women are strongly involved in agricultural activities particularly in cultivation of fodder, vegetables, cereals, and grains, drying fruit, and shelling nuts. Both women and men are actively involved in raising livestock and poultry in Bamyan, where women are in charge of producing dairy products and processing wool into yarn. On the other hand, men are more involved in trading of livestock and dairy products.

Given the dependence on agriculture of a large part of the population, improving agricultural production is of high significance for the livelihoods of poor rural households in Bamyan. Currently, however, progress is hampered by insufficient infrastructures and weak service delivery. This limits the ability of farmers to adopt improved techniques and make use of quality inputs. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) has defined the implementation of a farmer-centred service approach as a critical enabling factor for agricultural development. In the National Comprehensive Agriculture Development Priority Program (NCADPP) it outlines an ambitious reform plan, which emphasizes on decentralizing institutional structures to strengthen the provincial and district levels and improve public service delivery.

1.2. Programme background

ASLI is a government implemented project with technical assistance and implementation support provided by FAO. The project works in close collaboration with the MAILโ€™s Extension Department, which is the main government counterpart for ASLI. The implementation approach of ASLI allows government resources to take the lead in the overall implementation at provincial level including need assessment, data collection, procurement, farmer capacity building, and Common Interest Group (CIG) formation. Involving the Extension Directorate as a direct implementing partner ensures ownership of the project by MAIL. On the subnational level, the Provincial Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (PAIL) will strengthen its operational and technical capacities in terms of planning, budgeting and monitoring. The District Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL) will be implementing the project โ€œin the fieldโ€, by training farmers, establishing CIGs and coordinating input distribution. While district extension workers are present in all districts, they usually donโ€™t receive the necessary resources (financial and knowledge) to perform their tasks and deliver advisory services. A core component of ASLI is the training and equipping of the district staff.

By strengthening subnational structures and improving service delivery to farmers, ASLI is fully in line with the reform agenda of the MAIL, which foresees a strengthening of the subnational levels, including by increasing human resources at PAIL and DAIL level. The extent to which this agenda is successfully implemented, is one of the objectives of external review. Currently, capacities at the subnational level are still weak and may negatively affect result achievement of the project under outcome 1 in the short term. In the medium term, the project will develop the capacities of subnational government institutions, resulting in long term quality service provision.

The ASLI project started in August 2017 and is expected to last until July 2021. The overall budget of the project ASLI phase 1 project is USD 7 million, which is a contribution of SDC to the FAO programme on Household Food Security and Livelihood Support (HFLS). The overall funding to the HFLS programme by all donor is equivalent to USD 21 million.

The overall goal of the programme is to improve livelihoods of poor and vulnerable farming families through demand-driven public agricultural service delivery.

In view of continuing its contribution to the agricultural sector in Afghanistan in the most efficient and best possible way, SDC intends to commission an external review to assess on one hand the key achievements and results of the project and on the other hand to get concrete insights and recommendation for the design of the second phase.

1.3. Objectives of ASLI Phase 1

The outcome objectives are that 1) Target households in the selected districts are more productive, resilient and better linked to markets and 2) Subnational institutions have developed their capacities and deliver improved services. As planned, the project will directly benefit at least 20% of food insecure and resource-poor farming households in four target districts of Bamyan province (approximately 30โ€™000 people).

1.4. Switzerlandโ€™s strategic orientation as of 2019

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is the Development Agency of Switzerlandโ€™s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and responsible for the overall coordination of Switzerlandโ€™s international development activities and cooperation in Afghanistan. The overall goal of the Swiss Cooperation Strategy for Afghanistan 2019-2022 for domain 2 โ€œAgriculture and Natural Resource Management, where this project belongs to, is that smallholder farmers sustainably improve their livelihoods and enhance their resilience. The domain has two outcomes: 1) "Smallholder farmers increase their productivity and income, and food insecurity is reduced" and 2) "Smallholder farmers sustainably manage their natural resources and become more resilient". Swiss interventions shall strengthen public service delivery and promote sustainable natural resource management. Disaster Risk Reduction measures will be mainstreamed throughout the domain.

Duties & Responsibilities :

  1. Scope and Objectives of the External Review

2.1. In General

SDC is commissioning this external review in order to assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and impactof the first phase of the ASLI project. Further to that, the external review should provide concrete insights and recommendations to SDC for the development of the second phase of the program, aligned with SDCโ€™s strategic priorities for Afghanistan for 2019-2022. The external review shall take place in both Kabul and Bamyan.

2.2. In Particular

The external review should particularly focus on the following aspects/questions:

a. Evaluation of current phase:

ยท Which components of the project are sustainable and do not need further external support?

ยท How efficiently were the overall outputs and outcomes of the projectachieved?

ยท What are the major external and internal factors influencing the achievement of the project?

ยท Are the current promoted income generating activities for the poor and women sustainable?

ยท How is the project monitoring and evaluation mechanism assessed? Does this mechanism serve as a feedback system for improving project implementation? Make recommendations on improving the project M&E systems for improved future integration of economic and financial analysis.

b. Recommendation for next phase:

ยท What are the good practices and the lessons learnt from the first phase, which could be replicated andscaled up in a next phase?

ยท What are proposed measures and alternate implementation approachs to make the program more efficient and sustainable?

ยท Which income generating activities should be promoted for the poor and women?

ยท Are the CIGs performing in an efficient way? Are the structure and the creation process appropriate? What could be done better?

ยท Does it make sense to organize CIGs into associations (at district level) and unions (at provincial level)?

ยท Which alternate measures could be useful to be taken to gradually transfer implementation responsibility to the MAIL/PAIL/DAIL staff?

  1. Methodology of External Review

The external review will be carried out in three stages:

  1. Desk review: A comprehensive review of the available documents, reports and evidence will take place in the desk review stage. In this stage, SDC and FAO will act as focal points for the external review team and will provide the external review team with the available written documentation which may include but are not limited to:

ยท Project documents;

ยท Project progress and financial reports;

ยท Project annual reports;

ยท Mission reports;

ยท Agreements/contracts;

ยท Organizational chart of the project;

ยท SDC cooperation strategy 2019-2022;

ยท Any other available relevant and important documents.

The review will be complemented by interviews with SDC, FAO, and PAIL staff (if needed) to provide the consultant with as much information as possible.

  1. Data collection and consultation in the field: In this stage of the review exercise, a participatory and inclusive approach shall be used to collect primary data and verification of secondary data obtained through the desk review stage throughout the external review exercise. In this stage, the review team shall conduct interviews and focus groups discussions with all main stakeholders. The use of surveys needs to be evaluated by the team and prepared during the preparatory phase. As a focal point for the review, SDC together with FAO will assist the review team with arranging all required meetings and consultation sessions and forums.

  2. In the final stage of the review, the review team shall analyze the collected data and materials to produce the deliverables of the evaluation.

The external review team, nevertheless, is allowed to revisit proposed methodology and come up with a modify/revised methodology, shall the team feel such a need. In any case, the team will submit to SDC work plan of its proposed methodology. The outline may contain the following information:

ยท A specific and time bound work plan within the suggested timeframe

ยท Details of how the review exercise will take place

ยท Reporting, debriefing

It is anticipated that the external review team will present its methodology and detailed work plan to a joint meeting (briefing) attended by SDC and FAO prior to commence the review.

The external review will be carried out in three stages:

  1. Desk review: A comprehensive review of the available documents, reports and evidence will take place in the desk review stage. In this stage, SDC and FAO will act as focal points for the external review team and will provide the external review team with the available written documentation which may include but are not limited to:

ยท Project documents;

ยท Project progress and financial reports;

ยท Project annual reports;

ยท Mission reports;

ยท Agreements/contracts;

ยท Organizational chart of the project;

ยท SDC cooperation strategy 2019-2022;

ยท Any other available relevant and important documents.

The review will be complemented by interviews with SDC, FAO, and PAIL staff (if needed) to provide the consultant with as much information as possible.

  1. Data collection and consultation in the field: In this stage of the review exercise, a participatory and inclusive approach shall be used to collect primary data and verification of secondary data obtained through the desk review stage throughout the external review exercise. In this stage, the review team shall conduct interviews and focus groups discussions with all main stakeholders. The use of surveys needs to be evaluated by the team and prepared during the preparatory phase. As a focal point for the review, SDC together with FAO will assist the review team with arranging all required meetings and consultation sessions and forums.

  2. In the final stage of the review, the review team shall analyze the collected data and materials to produce the deliverables of the evaluation.

The external review team, nevertheless, is allowed to revisit proposed methodology and come up with a modify/revised methodology, shall the team feel such a need. In any case, the team will submit to SDC work plan of its proposed methodology. The outline may contain the following information:

ยท A specific and time bound work plan within the suggested timeframe

ยท Details of how the review exercise will take place

ยท Reporting, debriefing

It is anticipated that the external review team will present its methodology and detailed work plan to a joint meeting (briefing) attended by SDC and FAO prior to commence the review.

  1. Deliverables:

The review team is expected to produce the following specific outputs:

  1. An inception reportdescribing how the evaluation will be carried out, bringing refinements, specificity and elaboration to the terms of reference. The inception report shall comprise at least the following elements:

a. Overview of the mandate and expectations of the reviewer;

b. Review techniques methodology;

c. Key expected issues for all elements of the external review described above;

d. Reporting;

e. Work schedule (timeframe).

  1. Briefing and presenting the work plan, methodologies, procedures etc.to SDC and FAO in Kabul prior to the start of the review process.

  2. With SDC/FAO support, the review team will organize a de-briefing at the end of the review in Kabul presenting SDC and FAO with the initial findings and recommendations.

  3. Draft report, providing comprehensive and well-structured information and answering the review questions outlined above.

  4. Final Report: Upon receipt of SDC and FAO comments on the draft report, the review team will revise the report and incorporate received comments and suggestions, unless not contrary to the review findings and submit it to SDC.

The External Review Report should not exceed 30 pages and summarize the key findings and recommendations, and comprised of at least the following parts:

a. Executive Summary (not to exceed 3 pages);

b. Overview of the mandate;

c. Key issues, findings and recommendations on all elements of the external review;

d. Conclusion

The document(s) shall be delivered in electronic format (Ms. Word and Excel) and in English.

Qualifications :

This external review is for a team of two to three consultants (international and national, female and male) with solid expertise in monitoring and evaluation (especially NGOs working in agriculture and livelihood) and in the field of agriculture and livelihood development. In particular, the team shall have the following expertise and skills:

Advanced degree in a relevant field;

At least five years of experience in reporting, monitoring and reviewing of projects in the agriculture and livelihood sector;

Extensive experience in undertaking reviews/studies and impact assessments of development projects;

Ability to present information in a transparent and comprehensive manner;

Good interpersonal skills and time management;

Written and spoken fluency in English and in Dari

Previous work experience in Afghanistan, preferable in M&E-related fields.

[1] According to the definition used by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Central Highlands region includes Bamyan and Daykundi province, as well as four districts in Ghor (Lal), Wardak (Behsud I and II) and Ghazni (Jaghori) province.

This vacancy is archived.

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