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2.2 Monitoring and evaluation of sustainable landscapes

  • Monitoring programmes aim to ensure that the project fulfills its aims: reducing deforestation, improving the environment and creating jobs and other benefits.
  • Certification schemes such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance have well-established monitoring systems. Sustainable landscape initiatives should build on the work of these systems as much as possible.
  • Monitoring may not directly generate income. This means initiatives will need to find innovative ways to fund it.
Even the best-planned interventions may not work as intended on the ground. A monitoring programme can help landscape projects ensure that planned changes in the landscape are on track, and help producers to adapt to new methods in the most effective way possible.
A scientist monitors progress in a rice field. Copyright Neil Palmer (CIAT).

In the United Nations Development Program Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results, monitoring is defined as “the ongoing process by which stakeholders obtain regular feedback on the progress being made towards achieving their goals and objectives.”

There are several different levels of monitoring. At the highest level, monitoring schemes can examine the overall effectiveness of the sustainable landscape initiative. A different kind of monitoring is needed to measure progress on the ground, at the individual farm level.

1. Monitoring change in the landscape

Monitoring is useful for reporting the initiative’s real impact on the landscape to investors and other stakeholders. Sustainable landscape initiatives will need to design a monitoring framework to assess whether the scheme is delivering expected benefits.

This should monitor and evaluate the initiative according to its stated goals, based on real outcomes such as a specific reduction in deforestation or an increase in production. General goals of the sustainable landscape initiative may already have been specified in other pieces of analysis, such as the Ecosystem Services Assessment and the cash flow models.  

The first step is to establish a baseline as a reference point. This may include deforestation rates, greenhouse gas emissions, forest cover, employment and so on. Changes are assessed against this baseline.

The aim is to keep the project on track to meet its goals. If it is not on track, monitoring can help identify why. If the project is failing to meet its stated aims, it may be necessary to change the Codes of Conduct or change other processes.

It may be possible to cut costs by using monitoring from other sources. For example, greenhouse gas emission changes are already monitored to comply with the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. Monitoring could could also be carried out by bodies certifying carbon credits.

2. Monitoring at the farm level

A monitoring programme for producers should be designed before the project is put into action. Ideally the cost of this programme will be paid using returns from investments.

On the ground, monitoring aims to ensure farmers are meeting a set of agreed milestones. These milestones are based on the Codes of Conduct. Targets should be based on concrete and measurable actions. Examples of appropriate targets include planting a certain number of trees, paying back loans on time or reducing fertiliser use to a defined level.

Monitoring at the farm level can also help those coordinating the initiative understand what is happening. This helps them respond to changing circumstances and modify the initiative to make it delivers on its overarching objectives.

Different targets may have different monitoring systems. In the case of financial targets, investors (or the organisations disbursing the money) will likely have their own monitoring systems to ensure that the investment is on track. For monitoring environmental and social targets, certification schemes show one way these schemes could be designed.

Cattle, Brazil. Credit: AC Moraes.

3.  Funding monitoring

Ideally, the cost of monitoring will be paid for from the investment. In some cases, this will mean building a financial case for the monitoring programme. Some certification schemes have managed to do this successfully through charging members a fee to join, which should be covered by improved sale of products.

However, investment will not be able to cover monitoring in every case, especially if it is not possible to make a financial case for it. For small projects, it may be possible to raise funds separately for a monitoring programme. At a larger scale it may be necessary to find other solutions.

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