Programme Evaluation of Plan and Reseau Marps VSL Programme in Burkina Faso
Plan Burkina Faso’s VSL programme implemented in Namentenga has created 1,025 groups in 18 months covering 19,908 members (July 2010 MIS reports). This is divided between Boulsa with 487 groups and 9,444 members and Tougouri with 538 groups and 10,464 members. This has been achieved using 10 Animateurs and 168 Animateurs indigènes. This implies an Animateur productivity of 1,990 members in 18 months, which can be crudely pro-rated to about 1,300 per Animateur per year: this is about double best practice norms.
This extraordinary productivity arose because Plan Burkina Faso was under pressure to spend its grant of about $440,000 in 12 months, extended to 18 after representations to the donor. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine if this drive for large numbers came at a cost of group quality and/or sustainability of the delivery channel.
All but 9 of the 11 groups visited scored in the good quality range and none was considered poor quality. Thus, it can be said that the project appears to have achieved its objective of creating sustainable and effective groups. The areas of weakness, which do require remedial attention were in the following areas, In order of importance:
Poor quality loan record keeping: far too many variable approaches and an unsuitable technical methodology (old-style passbooks). A new layout for the passbooks is suggested, but, vitally, much more attention is needed to Animateur and Animateur indigène training and supervision to ensure a high and consistent standard. Reduced productivity is an acceptable price to pay
Low Animateur indigène productivity in terms of new group creation, partly attributable to the lack of kits, but more to a programme decision to relegate most Animateurs indigènes to the role of supervisors rather than trainers. As such (see second bullet) they are not as effective as they should be, even in this subordinate role, because there is too much procedural variation between groups. There is a need to recruit fewer, higher-quality Animateurs indigènes (so at to make sure they are effective and well-supervised) and put them through a structured curriculum and certification process
Lack of a policy on Animateur indigène fees, chargeable to the groups. This is essential to ensure retention of good-quality Animateurs indigènes
Too much variation (departure from) standard procedures, to the detriment of transparency and effectiveness
Insufficient transparency of the money-counting process
Subsidy policy for the supply of kits, preventing the emergence of market-based solutions, that are essential of Animateurs indigènes are to work independently
Having noted these weaknesses, it is clear that there is a lot to learn from Burkina Faso, particularly in shifting the role of the Animateur mainly to that of trainer and diminishing his/her monitoring responsibilities. This clearly leads to faster programme growth and productivity. As the programme evolves, it should preserve this bias, but make it less extreme and be more active in promoting the Animateurs indigènes as trainers.