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Use nutrition indicators to monitor and evaluate projects

Forestry projects and nutrition projects each have their own systems for monitoring and evaluation. Forestry often looks at the physical outputs from forests (i.e number of seedlings planted or nurseries established). Nutrition, on the other hand, often uses anthropometric measurements. In a forestry project that incorporates nutrition concerns, but does not have a nutritionist on hand, new measures may need to be designed. Measures of nutritional well-being and indicators for monitoring/evaluation should focus only on those items that are relevant to the project. For example, clinical examinations, laboratory tests and anthropometric measurements are not the most appropriate measurements of nutritional well-being for forestry projects without nutritionists. These measures require trained personnel and/or equipment. Moreover, it is difficult to determine the specific effects of forestry activities on nutritional well-being through these measurement techniques. Change in the weights of children, for example, might be due to factors involving changes in household food distribution, which forestry cannot influence. The goal is to measure the impact of the project activities on the target population's nutritional well-being.

Measuring the impact of a forestry project with nutrition indicators requires creative thinking. No single indicator is appropriate for all projects. The choice of indicators will depend on the resources and skills of the people involved. The indicators chosen should reflect project objectives as determined by the community. Nutritionists, if involved in the project, can help select indicators. If the objective is to increase employment, the number of jobs created for the nutritionally vulnerable could be an indicator for project monitoring and evaluation. Agroforestry projects that seek to introduce technologies to increase agricultural productivity, to spread work across the seasons, or to increase fodder, could monitor and evaluate how project results contribute to the availability of year-round food supply. Thus, indicators for these projects could assess the year-round food supply. Possible measures include seasonal availability of foods (especially for the selected beneficiary groups), food diversity, food storage supplies, and how long supplies last. Projects that aim to improve nutrition by expanding women's available time (through labour-saving technologies or an increase of water and fuelwood supplies) might assess the project impact by monitoring time for child care and the number of daily household meals.

The selection of appropriate indicators might begin with determining how the community assesses its food and nutrition situation. It is important to know what nutrition or food supply problems are of major concern to different rural men and women within the community and how they would like to approach the problem. Furthermore, many indicators might be chosen based on how the local people define the success or failure of the project. Some possible suggestions for indicators based on Ogle (1987) are given in Appendix 4. Indicators are divided into categories based on possible nutrition-related objectives and should be modified in light of particular circumstances.

Worksheet F

Objectives: to select indicators based on project objectives that will measure the impact of the activities on nutritional well-being and to implement monitoring and evaluation.

Responsibility: nutritionist or individual responsible for nutrition component.


1. What is the nutrition objective?

2. How does the community define the criteria for success or failure of the project? Are local systems of measurement already in place?

3. What indicators can be used to monitor the current and future situation with respect to (see Information Bank F for a list of possible indicators):

household food security;
environmental conditions;
infection rates;
women's time constraints;
income levels;

4. How often do the indicators need to be measured?

5. What is the project and community's capacity to carry out monitoring and evaluation?


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