April 25, 2012

Metrics for Biodiversity

Palm Oil Expansion in Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia

By Lee Gross, Project Manager for Markets and Biodiversity
EcoAgriculture Partners, Washington DC, USA

How do we know we are having an impact? This is a critical question posed by resource managers, businesses, and policy-makers worldwide. Fundamental to answering this question is an effective system for monitoring and evaluation. Since 2008 EcoAgriculture Partners has provided monitoring and evaluation (M&E) support to the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Program (BACP) funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Commodity landscapes provide considerable challenges for monitoring and managing sustainable outcomes for people, food and nature.  The production of tropical agricultural export commodities has dramatically increased in the last fifty years, resulting in the destruction of much tropical habitat. BACP seeks to reduce the threats posed by agriculture to biodiversity of global significance by transforming markets for target agricultural commodities such as soy, palm oil, and cocoa.

To transform the commodity markets, BACP supports projects that generate greater supply, demand, and financing for biodiversity-friendly and certified products. The BACP has awarded more than US $3.5 million to fourteen organizations working in five tropical developing countries. At local and regional levels, grantees work collaboratively with communities, companies, and governments to improve farming practices, sourcing procedures, and policies to improve biodiversity, social standards (e.g. working conditions, etc.), and production outcomes. Internationally, grantees contribute to field test and improve the principles and criteria of major roundtable initiatives for the sustainable production of soy and palm oil.

To measure impact the BACP finalized a set of 35 standard indicators (adopted from IFC and GEF performance indicators) that constitute a key set of criteria to determine whether the program is successfully affecting change. EcoAgriculture Partners works with grantees to customize their project’s M&E plans for measuring outputs, outcomes, and impacts, and to aggregate these values to understand how individual project activities contribute collectively to the program’s overall objectives.

To date, the program has contributed to 117 entities (e.g. producer groups, mills, companies) implementing recommended changes, the training of more than 1000 farmers in best practices, and the verification and/or certification of nearly one million hectares of land. For the palm oil and soy sectors, the program has developed essential new financial mechanisms, tools, and training materials to assess and monitor high conservation value areas within production landscapes. This helps roundtable members comply with the sustainability standard and increase the amount of certified product they purchase. As we approach the program’s mid-term these values and achievements will be compared with the five and ten year targets established at the onset of the program to define meaningful transformation within the sectors; bringing us one step closer to objectively answering questions about the true impact of our efforts for people, food and nature.

For more information visit the BACP website or contact Lee Gross, M&E project manager at EcoAgriculture Partners.

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