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The SHARP Tool: History and Applications in Climate Adaptation Programming

This post was written by John Choptiany, a climate resilience expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in conjunction with other members of the SHARP team. This post is the first in a three-part series from the FAO. Read the second post here.

The ‘Self-evaluation and Holistic Assessment of climate Resilience of farmers and Pastoralists’ (SHARP) tool was developed by the FAO in 2013, in response to the needs of a number of Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The tool combines an academically rigorous, quantitative assessment of resilience with a participatory self-assessment component that allows farmers and pastoralists to express their perceptions on access to, and adequacy of, a number of different resources. As CCA projects rely on close work with farmers and pastoralists to define local climate change adaptation strategies, SHARP was needed to understand participants’ resilience levels and priorities and to qualitatively and quantitatively measure changes in their capacity to adapt to changes.

Photo Credit: FAO/Basterretxea, Txaran

The tool was developed in collaboration with a number of partners, including NGOs, FAO country offices, and academic institutions such as the University of Leeds and ETH Zurich. The ‘academic‘ components of the questions are scored based on an e-discussion with experts from different fields of study that took place in autumn 2014. 

SHARP works through a participatory survey developed for Android tablets spanning environmental, social, economic, governance and general agricultural practices. Each survey question cluster is used to assess the relative resilience of a specific aspect of the farm system, measured using four components: 

  1. A numerical or discrete question, such as “Do you have access to climate/weather information?” (“academic” resilience based on quantitative responses);
  2. Free space to elaborate or short follow up questions (context);
  3. A question on the respondent’s assessment of that aspect’s adequacy (self-assessed adequacy);
  4. A question on the respondent’s assessment of the importance of that aspect to their livelihood (self-assessed importance).

By combining the responses from the “academic”, self-assessed adequacy and self-assessed importance, the SHARP application produces a relative ranking of resilience priorities for each participating household. The results can then be discussed with respondents, individually or in a group. In addition, all results are uploaded online and can be used for further analysis to understand resilience priorities, trends and determinants at a more aggregate level. We can look at the resilience ranking holistically or in its individual components and then look deeper into the elaboration of the questions to better understand why they responded the way they did.

The SHARP tool is flexible and allows for a number of different applications, depending on different projects’ needs, resources and timelines. While it is primarily aimed at better understanding the resilience of farmers and pastoralists’ farm systems and communities, it has also been used as a learning tool in the context of farmer/agro-pastoral field schools (FFS). The FFS approach is being used by FAO worldwide as a way to work with farmers and pastoralists in a participatory manner where participants learn from each other and can try new farming methods and crops in a risk-free and exploratory manner. Over a growing season, FFS facilitators and farmers/pastoralists meet once a week for half a day to observe, discuss and decide over what happens in their field. SHARP has been used in this FFS context to probe participants further based on the learning curricula. It allows project staff and facilitators to better understand the resilience levels and interests of the participants and for the farmers/pastoralists to better understand their own agricultural systems. SHARP has also been used in the context of university courses for academic research (ETH Zurich, Technical University of Munich and National University of Costa Rica), and as a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and risk assessment tool. For M&E, it establishes a baseline from which the impact of project interventions can be measured. In risk assessments, SHARP is used to identify the lowest resilience areas that might be most vulnerable to internal or external impacts.

SHARP is constantly being improved and updated as well as implemented in new contexts. SHARP has been tested in: Angola, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe and implemented in Angola, Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Uganda. Upcoming countries include: Germany, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Niger, Mozambique, Senegal, Mali and Burundi.

In the next two blog posts we will explore results to date, lessons learned and differences between groups, especially related to gender.

Please click here for more information on the tool.