A R100 000 prize for a non-profit organisation’s excellent monitoring and evaluation (M&E) methods has made a world of difference to rural Limpopo households battling to survive the ravages of drought and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), which supports sustainable water resources and communities in the water catchment areas of north-eastern South Africa, scooped the prize at the Trialogue Business in Society Virtual Conference last month (13-14 October).
The money has enabled AWARD to augment its food parcel programme to highly vulnerable families in the Sekororo-Mametja area, on the northern banks of the Olifants River.
This award was one of the MTN Awards for Social Change, sponsored and presented by the MTN Foundation at the Conference. AWARD won in the category of the non-profit organisation (NPO) with the best evidence of advanced M&E practice.
“We are obviously delighted,” said AWARD Executive Director Dr Sharon Pollard. “We have all worked so hard for nearly eight years to implement multiple projects whilst ensuring that we are able to track progress and learn along the way.
“Getting buy-in for a relatively innovative M&E system that we have called MERL (Monitoring, Evaluating, Reflecting and Learning) has not always been easy, but staff and partners now recognise the benefits of reflection and learning. The recognition given through this award really builds confidence in the fact that we are on the right track.”
Dr Pollard said since the lockdown from late March, AWARD had started to see the impact in many areas where it provides assistance. Most families no longer have income from tourism, construction, labour on farms or providing services in their own villages.
Many people have run out of food and money completely. In some cases, the entire family lives off a child-care grant or an old-age pension while others beg from neighbours. Many struggle for access to water, said Dr Pollard.
“Due to financial constraints, we have had to limit our support to the most vulnerable, such as child-headed households or those with no support whatsoever. The award will enable us to extend our reach to other desperate families and to extend our programme for many more months.”
Trialogue Director Cathy Duff said 143 NPOs entered the MTN competition this year – more than double the number of entries in 2019. Trialogue shortlisted 20 entries that three judges reviewed and scored.
The judges were Zulaikha Brey, an economist and M&E practitioner with Trialogue; M&E specialist Asgar Bhikoo, currently working at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation; and development practitioner Kenneth Thlaka, Executive Director of SangoNet.
Said the judges: “AWARD has a thorough grasp of the tools that are appropriate for their context as their programme addresses systemic issues in a highly complex system. The revision of their M&E framework from one that reports against a logic model to one that reports against systemic changes shows that they have learnt through practice that their M&E approach needs to adapt and be reflective of their developmental philosophy and approach to programmatic delivery.
“The application demonstrated that their programme design and implementation is highly participatory and inclusive in its approach and included a very well thought through theory of change.”
To support the AWARD feeding scheme project: www.backabuddy.co.za/help-vulnerable-families.