Cohort study provides learning points

The LFSP cohort study has been designed to track and attribute the reasons for changes in beneficiaries’ food security and dietary diversity status, livestock and asset holdings and crop yields, all of which are the indicators that will be used to assess the Programme’s effect.

The objective of the Cohort study is to track – and attribute the Programme specific and external reasons for – changes in key outcome indicators  for a specially selected group of LFSP beneficiaries three times every year over the course of the Programme. This regular stream of information will complement MOs’ and IPs’ internal monitoring products, add to the body of evidence that can be used for programme evaluation and be used as the basis for correcting or reinforcing Programme activities

LFSP outcome indicators encompass: number of Tropical Livestock Units Owned, Household Hunger, Household Dietary Diversity, Assets owned, crop production (not collected in this round) and household income (not collected in this round).

By collecting data three times a year from a panel of 96 households to provide an oversight of changes within these indicators as well as external and Programme-related reasons for these changes, the cohort study will serve both as a useful dash board indicating the direction of travel and a management tool, enabling Managing Organisations (MOs) and Implementing Partners (IPs) to take reinforcing or corrective action in the field.

Two instruments are used to collect data: the relevant quantitative modules from the baseline survey, allowing the size of the change within a particular indicator to be measured; and a force-field analysis tool, which allows the reasons for changes in the indicator under question to be quantified. After selecting cohort households based on various criteria to ensure that all household typologies are represented, data was collected by a team of especially trained enumerators over a seven day period at the end of October / early November 2015. The fieldwork yielded a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, which has been combined with the baseline dataset to produce this learning brief.

As would be expected considering the short space of time between the collection of this data and the baseline survey (July / August 2015), the extent of change observed in the indicators (especially asset holdings) under analysis is minimal, although, as is normal as the hunger season gains traction, a slight deterioration in food security, dietary diversity and livestock holdings can be identified.

Beneficiaries’ main challenges with keeping livestock revolve around housing and veterinary care, both of which require labour and cash resources. Death – that of chickens often resulting from an inability to access vaccines and vets – was the main cause of livestock loss.

Important factors that drive food security and dietary diversity outcomes in a positive direction include community vegetable gardens and remittances from family members, as well as good harvests in 2014/15 for the small number of households that managed this.

The value of assets owned has varied little since the baseline, and one of the lessons that will be taken from this round of data collection is that collecting data on assets is not appropriate on a four-monthly basis; rather it will be collected annually.

In the coming months MOs and IPs should focus on supporting the things like community gardens, irrigation and off-farm income generating activities.

Coffey will refine the tools to ensure, amongst other things, that more information on the efficiency and appropriateness of LFSP interventions is collected. Sampling will also be reassessed before the second round of data collection to ensure that all cohort households are registered beneficiaries – a process that will require the complete beneficiary registration lists from implementing partners.

Download: Cohort Study Learning Brief

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