Part 1 in this series highlighted the importance of ecosystem differences. In part 2 I discuss some of my recent thoughts on the use of income as an indicator of poverty alleviation…
On 21st October we held an experts meeting in conjunction with Flora and Fauna International and International Institute for Environment and Development about what constitutes good evidence in the context of conservation and poverty alleviation projects. Part of the discussions focussed on how evidence fits within broader project monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Since I’ve been working on the Darwin Initiative we’ve had lots of discussions about strengthening project M&E, so the workshop provided lots of food for thought.
A recent Darwin Initiative briefing paper highlights that indicators are an essential component of any effective M&E system; they provide information to monitor performance, measure achievement and demonstrate accountability. For the Darwin Initiative, indicators are part of the framework for collecting evidence to show how projects have contributed towards poverty and biodiversity.
Kenya 20-011 Aweer community women representatives prioritizing livelihood options. Credit Nickson Orwa
On the poverty side of things, projects tend to select income as an indicator of poverty alleviation. The thematic review has revealed 2 issues that are worth considering:
- Increasing household income is difficult to achieve within 3 years (average timeframe of a Darwin Initiative project). It can also be difficult (or expensive) to measure. Also, income may increase but the household is still living in poverty. Linked to this, income does not capture wider wellbeing benefits which are often more tangible in 3 years. For example a recent evaluation in Kenya revealed that one of the benefits the beneficiaries of a project thought were most important was empowerment in particular recognising people’s access rights and supporting people to manage resources. This demonstrates that income is not always an appropriate or relevant indicator for projects to use.
- Increasing household income may increase environmental degradation and/or have unintended social consequences. Case studies have shown that raising incomes can increase pressure on natural resources, for example if people use income to buy and graze more livestock. At the same time, household income may not benefit all members of the household, if for example it is spent on alcohol or gambling. In such circumstances additional consumption indicators may be needed to monitor how household income is being spent. Participatory methods can provide a useful way to understand how household distribution of income and monitor changes over time.
So when designing projects and selecting indicators, here’s a couple of questions that may be worth thinking about:
Do you are have any experiences trying to measure income, wellbeing or assets that you can share?
What do you think are good indicators?
Do you have any examples of good indicators?
We’d be keen to hear from you, so let us know what you think.