With greater scrutiny on every dollar spent, governments are increasingly interested in monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of their rural programs. The Mexican Agriculture Ministry’s (SAGARPA) recent implementation of SMART real-time monitoring is a premier model to do that and to assess the return-on-investment (ROI) of its sustainability efforts. It also did something unique. A new administration patiently listened to its producer communities and revamped its entire way of delivering services. Would it work? To find out, SAGARPA teamed up with COSA and the Asociación Mexicana de la Cadena Productiva del Café (AMECAFÉ) to drive new levels of innovation and in record time (3 months) set up and piloted systems to get the critical field information they needed to drive good decisions. The innovation illustrates that it may not be so difficult for governments to more effectively respond to their citizens’ needs while also improving their own governing efficiency.
A key sector illustrates the point. Faced with a dramatic decline of the coffee sector to historic low levels of production that devastated hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers, SAGARPA leveraged its resources to deliver new planting materials, supplies, and training for its coffee producers. Compared to a static intervention typically measured in the number of plants and technical assistance distributed, COSA’s strategic plan for assessing the effort gave SAGARPA real-time monitoring systems that reported more than just raw output; they helped the agency identify outcomes and the likely impacts. Did the plants actually reach the targeted farmers? Did those plants have a productive yield? Was it cost effective?
Streamlining information in real time to government decision-makers as a project evolves gives them the power to make fine-tuned adjustments to their intervention delivery and project design as they go. Such managerial dexterity is simply not possible when information is received only after an intervention has concluded. Tools such as just-in-time dashboards can empower governments to be nimble and more resourceful.
This makes government more responsive to its citizens’ needs, especially in economic downturns when impactful gains in net income and quality of life measures are most needed. SAGARPA partnership with COSA signaled its readiness to engage new technologies to make smarter investments that leveraged real results for its farmers.