Assessing the impact of advisory services provided by the Marz Agricultural Support Centers
- Services: Monitoring and evaluation
For more than a decade, Marz Agricultural Support Centers (MASCs) have been operating in Armenia. They were founded in the scope of “Agriculture Reform Support Project” implemented by the RA Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the World Bank.
MASCs were established as entities providing management, technical consulting, information and marketing services. The main characteristics and advantage of the MASCs is that their services are more affordable and accessible for rural households (farmers).
MASCs, in cooperation with local and international organizations, implement multifaceted agricultural projects; also they provide farmers with necessary specialized information and marketing services. The scope of the activities of the MASCs includes:
- Arranging a more affordable technology assessment study for farmers,
- Providing advisory services to farmers on alternative technologies and techniques,
- Expanding the information base provided and received from farmers,
- Supporting farmers in the preparation of loan and marketing business plans.
The assessment of the MASCs aims at identifying channels and resources to make the current system of advisory services more rational and efficient and promoting high quality customer service and sustainable development of the advisory system.
The subject of the assessment is the perception and appreciation among farmers of the importance of MASC services, the impact of MASCs services on the performance indicators of farmers’ activities.
AM Partners Consulting Company conducted the assessment of the MASCs twice, in 2012 and in 2014. The assessment was conducted based on the methodology defined by the World Bank, which offers the sampling approaches and the survey tool, i.e. the standardized questionnaire. To implement the evaluation study, the Consultant conducted surveys among 300 farmers of 20 rural communities of 4 marzes and 20 community mayors.
Quantitative and qualitative research methods were applied for the impact assessment of MASCs advisory services. In the scope of the quantitative research, surveys were conducted among the farmers who used MASCs services, through which farmer satisfaction with MASCs advisory services and the changes in the operations of farmers conditioned by MASCs advisory services were assessed.
Within the qualitative research, a limited number of surveys were conducted among community mayors to find out the impact of MASCs activities on local communities. The surveys were conducted using the method of face-to-face interviews and standardized questionnaires.
2 approaches were applied for the impact assessment of MASCs advisory services:
- The data obtained during the evaluation study were compared with the monitoring indicators defined in ''Community Agricultural Resource Management and Competitiveness'' Project Appraisal Document,
- The data obtained during the evaluation study were compared with the findings of the evaluation studies implemented during previous years. Through comparison, the progress made by the MASCs in course of carrying out their mission was portrayed.
Most remarkable findings of the evaluation study are:
- Dynamic increase in the income of the households (farmers) who used MASCs services, has been recorded.
- Year on year the link between the MASCs and the communities they serve grows stronger.
- Farmers’ appreciation of MASCs advisory services has heightened.
- The skills of MASCs advisors were highly rated by farmers.
- The opinion of the community mayors on the MASCs activities is the following: the efficiency of MASCs activities is highly rated and the continuous delivery of their services is a necessity.