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Autor: Hardi Vieira and Rodrigo Dias/ Brazil Hub-IFAD
The restriction of physical contact between people in the current COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to carry out activities in the field, especially for the application of surveys that used to be performed face-to-face. In an emergency, the need for creating or inventing new ways to do the same arises. Thus, a new methodology was introduced to conduct the outcome assessment surveys in three projects in Brazil: Viva o Semiárido, Paulo Freire, and Pró-Semiárido, funded by IFAD.
During the first half of 2020, three assessments were held entirely online to obtain updated and reliable information on the action outcomes carried out in the field by the projects. This with a focus on the effect indicators that compose the Logical Framework. Besides, it also provided the opportunity to collect relevant data regarding the pandemic effects on families’ livelihoods.
The main actors involved in the preparatory activities of the outcome assessments were the IFAD’s M&E specialist, government and M&E professionals, local technicians, and Technical Assistance entities. This team undertook the following steps to conduct the surveys:
Nevertheless, it is important to note that this type of survey has a limitation: random distortion of statistics–selection biases–given that having a smartphone and internet connection was necessary to be part of the survey. It can be assumed that survey participants may have better financial possibilities and access to information than non-participants. In other words, survey participants do not necessarily represent the characteristic of all beneficiaries within the project’s community.
The rollout of the survey’s results allowed obtaining important lessons learned for other projects that need fieldwork and could not be performed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it is a good practice to keep implementing since it could be hard to reproduce the success rate of response in person, in a rural environment, without investing more resources.
The participatory methodology allowed beneficiaries to play a leading role, with broad and direct participation. Young people, due to their familiarity with technological means, played an important role in conducting the research. Nowadays, Brazilian projects are using online tools together with other initiatives (remote Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (ATER), small trading, etc.), and this successful experience encourages the use of it by beneficiaries and it contributes to reducing isolation in the rural area.
It is important to highlight the rapid planning, execution and extremely low cost of the studies that were indeed prepared and implemented in a short period. Performing a complete digital survey also facilitates the analysis of the results, considering that the applications used generate databases almost instantly. However, given their limitations, the surveys do not replace the impact assessments. Still, they offer an important source of information in the framework of outcome surveys and for decision making to address, guide/adjust and improve the projects’ actions in the last year of implementation–the case of Brazilian projects.
Here are some lessons learned and suggestions coming from this experience:
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