Process Evaluation of the Peace Corps/Senegal Master Farmer Program
From late 2013 to early 2014, Peace Corps/Senegal and Peace Corps/Washington collaborated on a process evaluation of the Master Farmer Program, which is supported through a partnership with USAID to support Feed the Future in Senegal. The program goal is to improve the lives of farmers and their families in the communities where Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) work by improving food security through the adoption of improved agriculture and agroforestry technologies. Peace Corps/Senegal trained its first Master Farmers (MFs) in March 2010. There are 40 MFs throughout the country.
Photo: Master Farmer Program and Evaluation Diagram.
The goal of the evaluation was to determine if the program is meeting its intended objectives to:
- Provide MFs with appropriate resources to develop “Master Farms”
- Support MFs to conduct relevant training
- Promote adoption of improved agricultural technologies and management practices by local farmers
The evaluation also assessed the program’s applicability for other Peace Corps posts and identified best practices, lessons learned and overall recommendations for improving the program as it continues.
The assessment used a mixed-method approach for data collection, including quantitative and qualitative data from interviews, observations, and review of secondary information about the program. The six-person evaluation team conducted structured interviews with four participatory groups:
- 15 MFs selected and trained by Peace Corps staff and PCVs
- 16 PCVs working with the program
- 14 key informants from Peace Corps, USAID and the Government of Senegal
- 192 program participants (local farmers who have been trained and advised by MFs in the application of improved technologies)
To improve data collection and processing, the evaluation team’s five enumerators interviewed all 237 respondents in the field using Google 7 Nexus tablets. All the data from the questionnaires were recorded on the tablets using DataWinners’ online survey software, and survey results were uploaded to DataWinners for summarization. This process reduced transmission errors and shortened the time required for data analysis.
The greatest program benefits as reported by all respondents said that MFs/Master Farms serve as:
- Local demonstration sites for improved agricultural technologies
- Permanent local sources of improved knowledge related to agriculture and agroforestry
- Local sources of improved planting materials
When asked how to increase numbers of MF training events, all the respondents suggested:
- Increasing advertising and explanation of this extension education model to local farmers
- Continuing to increase MFs’ agricultural technology knowledge and skills
- Continuing to improve physical infrastructure on Master Farms, such as wells, fences, tools and drip irrigation systems
- Increasing training resources, such as lunches and travel expenses
Program participants specifically urged program managers to:
- Increase training to help the MFs be better extension agents
- Encourage MFs to conduct more training activities
- Help MFs collaborate more with local development agencies and the Government of Senegal extension service
- Help local farmers with inputs such as fences, tools and water
More than half of the Program Participants interviewed reported having applied a new technology as a result of the Master Farmer Program. The most commonly reported technologies include composting, mulching, integrated pest management (IPM) in the garden, double digging, tree nursery establishment and use of soil amendments (see Annex E for a list of all technologies). Reasons for applying the new methods were that they observed success from the Master Farms, they expected beneficial outcomes, and MFs assisted with the implementation.
Key informant recommendations for the Master Farmer Program included more careful selection of MFs and adding more women; increasing the variety and amount of MF training, especially on business development, marketing and learning to think like entrepreneurs; and urging MFs to work more closely with PCVs and the national extension service.
When asked about replicating the Master Farmer Program at other Peace Corps posts, key informants said “yes,” with the following specific recommendations:
- Peace Corps staff must have strong backgrounds and technical skills in agriculture and extension
- The program must be careful to adapt to the local context
- New posts should work closely with Peace Corps/Senegal at the beginning to benefit from lessons learned and promising practices
Overall, the Peace Corps/Senegal Master Farmer Program demonstrates evidence of meeting it goals to improve food security and help other farmers apply improved technologies. Still, key informants shared specific suggestions for improving the program as it continues:
- Decentralize program management, especially in streamlining the process for holding training and empowering PCVs to better support MFs
- Encourage continuous knowledge and skill development with ongoing training for MFs and networking among MFs and agricultural production and research sites
- Increase and improve MF extension activities by having better demonstrations; more small, hands-on training opportunities; and more coordinated extension activities with PCVs
- Generate more seed, seedlings and cuttings so they are available to community members
- Continue diverse technology demonstrations on the Master Farms