Indicators have to be clearly designed. Does “20 per cent women” (of 10,000 ha) refer to land cultivated by female-headed households or to land over which women have primary decision-making rights?
Photo: Jörg Böthling


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A results framework, which specifies objectives, indicators and targets, is the basis to monitor progress of development projects. Selecting appropriate indicators and measuring results, however, can be extremely challenging. If indicators are not well selected or data quality is low, their use to support decision-making and to report on results may lead to wrong conclusions. This article provides an overview on criteria to select indicators and explores the main challenges when measuring results in agricultural and food security projects.

Various issues and criteria need to be taken into account when selecting indicators and organising the data collection process. A few of the most important ones are listed in the Box.

◾ Direct: The indicator clearly represents the intended result.
◾ Objective: The indicator is unambiguous about what is being measured.
Use of country systems: The indicator is part of a country-led results framework, and data is  provided by country-level M&E systems.
◾ Owned: Partners and stakeholders agree that the indicator is useful.
◾ Attributable: The indicator can be plausibly associated with the intervention.
◾ Practical: Data can be collected easily, on a timely basis and at a reasonable cost.
◾ Reliable: Data is consistent and comparable over time.


There are often trade-offs between the criteria, which have to be carefully weighted. In the following, the most common trade-offs as well as the challenges when defining indicators and measuring results are described.

Defining indicators

Indicators often include a variety of concepts, which have to be defined and clarified.

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