How Tesfaye’s Road Helps Agriculture Imagine and Create Impact
Prior to launching the co-creation process for Nuru Ethiopia’s Agriculture Program in February 2013, Nuru International held a summit at Stanford University to brainstorm on our program planning process. We tried to envision a way to merge different program design tools together to create a story about how our programs would unfold in the lives of individuals in communities living in extreme poverty. At the summit, we foresaw that the logic models and complex flow charts were program design tools that would give our approach to program co-creation a purely organizational lens. We needed an imaginative (or “conceptual”) tool that would allow us to see how a program functions in the life of an ordinary farmer (or participant in one of our other three Impact programs). We needed to find a way for Nuru International and Nuru Ethiopia to imagine a project from within the day-to-day lives of farmers. Or, more precisely, we needed a tool to permit us to imagine what it might look like for a farmer to find his or her way through our project – from the problem to the goal. That is when we came up with the idea of “Tesfaye’s Road.”
“Tesfaye’s Road” is a way of thinking about a project from the perspective of someone who is participating in it. Once you have identified the problem, the goal, and a rough idea of the activity groups (general practices or programs that you want to implement) you can begin to envision what it might look like for someone to go through the steps of an intervention. When we introduced this tool to the Nuru Ethiopia team, we used the example of a malaria project in the local area. The hypothetical problem was that numerous people in a community were suffering from malaria infection. The goal was to eradicate malaria within the community. The activity groups included disbursing mosquito nets through a small buy-in from the participant, training communities in vector control (clearing out standing water or spraying areas where mosquitoes thrived), and training communities in household malaria prevention.
We then tried to imagine how Tesfaye might navigate through these activity groups to reach his goal of a malaria-free household and community. The Nuru Ethiopia staff, working with the “Tesfaye’s Road” tool, became very creative. First, they said, Tesfaye would hear about the program from one of his neighbors and realize that they were benefitting from having a malaria-free household. Their household had lower medical bills and were less vulnerable to shocks from malaria, all characteristics that Tesfaye would realize were optimal. Then, Tesfaye would enroll in a training program and learn about malaria prevention and the usefulness of mosquito nets. He would pay a small percentage of the cost and receive bed nets for everyone in his household. He would also be trained in removing standing water and spraying areas around his house for mosquitoes. Over time, he would internalize the understanding that mosquito nets were saving his family’s health and their resilience to the shock of malaria outbreaks. Tesfaye would then reach the goal of the program and his example would reverberate throughout the community, inspiring even more “Tesfayes” to enroll in the program.
This was simply a way of training the “Tesfaye’s Road” tool. But in July, the Nuru Ethiopia Agriculture Team identified the activity groups that we are going to include in our program. These activity groups include:
- Establishing or strengthening granary cooperatives
- Capacity building and training of best agronomic practices
- Increased access to improved and environmentally appropriate seeds, fertilizer, and other inputs through loans (payable back in-kind and in cash)
In addition to the problem statement and goal of Nuru Ethiopia’s agriculture program, these activity groups gave us all the tools necessary to imagine the way a farmer might navigate through such a program. We spent an entire day putting together hypothetical “Tesfaye’s Roads” for our Agriculture Program in separate groups, before deliberating upon and agreeing on a final “Tesfaye’s Road” for the program (see image below). It is important to remember here that, as an imaginative tool, “Tesfaye’s Road” can be used to test logic models, flow charts, and other ways of modeling impact programs. It is a way of taking abstract ideas and placing them into narratives where problems and opportunities might be imaginatively addressed.
Here is the “Tesfaye’s Road” that the Nuru Ethiopia team finally arrived at. It is not a set-in-stone program design, but rather a road that we will continually reassess, adapt, and improve upon:
Problem: Farmers living in extreme poverty in Southern Ethiopia, Boreda Woreda in three Kebeles (Meteka Mele, Hambisa, and Dubana Bulo) are suffering from hunger and low crop production. This is due to weather pattern fluctuations, poor agronomic practices, low levels of income and lack of awareness.
1) Tesfaye hears about Nuru Ethiopia’s Agriculture Program from Boreda Woreda Agriculture office and decides to enroll in program.
2) Tesfaye receives training on best agronomic practices and cooperatives.
3) Tesfaye becomes a member of the cooperative and through it gets improved seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs through a contract.
4) Based on the training he receives, he plants maize, haricot beans, and sweet potatoes during short “Belg” rains season and gets frequent technical support from Nuru Ethiopia Agriculture experts.
5) He increased his yields of maize, haricot beans, and sweet potatoes and is able to feed his family, sell a surplus, and pay back his loans.
6) Tesfaye continues to work with cooperatives.
Goal: Our goal is to end hunger, increase crop production, and improve the ability to cope with environmental fluctuations for farmers who are living in extreme poverty in our targeted areas.
 Farmers living in extreme poverty in Southern Ethiopia, Boreda Woreda in three Kebeles (Meteka Mele, Hambisa, and Dubana Bulo) are suffering from hunger and low crop production. This is due to weather pattern fluctuations, poor agronomic practices, low levels of income and lack of awareness.
 Our goal is to end hunger, increase crop production, and improve the ability to cope with environmental fluctuations for farmers who are living in extreme poverty in our targeted areas.
About Douglas La Rose
Agriculture Program Specialist — Douglas is an anthropologist and agriculturalist who has been working in rural Africa since 2005. He received his MA in Applied Anthropology from San Diego State University in 2011 after conducting an extensive quantitative and qualitative research project on agricultural adaptations to environmental change in the Volta Region of Ghana. Douglas has extensive experience in agriculture, having managed an agroforestry project in Ghana that focuses on sustainable cocoa, plantain, banana, and palm nut production.Read More Stories of Hope