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For the last 50 years various approaches to agricultural project cycle management have evolved. J. Price Gittinger's, "Economic Analysis of Agricultural Projects" (EDI, World Bank) was published in 1982 and revised in 1996. Attempts at formalisation of project preparation and management introduced the Log Frame Approach (LFA) associated with Monitoring  Evaluation (M&E). Former, well-established procedures such as Programme Evaluation & Review Technique (PERT) and Critical Path Analysis (CPA) have found less application.

In the mid 1990s a review of major economic development loans, many for agricultural projects, found that most were not performing and, indeed, many projects, around 25% woldwide failed.

In the early 2000s several aid agencies began to reassess the effectiveness of the Log Frame Approach raising a series of constraints and identifying diffficulties in application. In 2011, McNeill & Belko published a review of project cycle methods which highlighted the limitations of LFA and conventional M&E. In this report, McNeill & Belko recommended substituting LFA by a so-called Tactical Options Map (TOM) and to replace M&E by Real Time Audit. These recommendations were presented to a Decision Analysis Initiative (DAI 2010-2015) work group in 2011 and the George Boole Foundation (GBF) requested that these recommendations be reviewed and used as a basis for developimg an actionable set of best practice guidelines by the newly-formed Open Quality Standards Initiative (OQSI). In 2015 OQSI was renewed under the sponsorship of the GBF as a central activity of DAI 2015-2020 to develop and disseminate best practice recommendations in project cycle & portfolio management (PCPM), taking into accountthe needs of the agricultural sector, and with a specific emphasis of the effective use of online technologies.

In 2017, the OQSI released the first set of PCPM recommendations as due diligence procedures under recommendation OQSI:1 2017.

Projects consist of an organised process that uses human and other resources to achieve some objective. Even in the absense of agricultural policies farmers and rural dwellers advance their condition through a range of initiatives or "projects" or various dimensions and types. Projects cover any process including surveys, research, new product prototyping and any grant-based initiatives or economic development projects involving investment based on private or government equity or loans.

Since all projects are a process they can be structured according to the "process approach" which is a well-established basis for quality control, performance improvement and oversight of projects. The Organization for International Standards (ISO) has a generic "process approach" under ISO:9000 but this does not fully cover the requirements for agricultural projects (se box on right). Today the only set of ue diligence procedures that consi=titute a best practice recommenations for quality standards for agricultural projects is the Open Quality Standards Initiative recommendation 1, released in March, 2017 as OQSI:1 (2017).

This set of recommendations was based on work by McNeill & Belko (see box on right) and differs from the conventional ISO and LFA/M&E approaches by dividing the project cycle into two parts:
  • one section that handles diagnostics, design and selection
  • another section is a Real Time Audit
Rather than have a single Log Frame the OQSI approach bases project design on a decision analysis model that can simulate project options so as to optimise them according to costs, timeliness, output quality, margins and risk. Each option is a "Logical Process Option" (LPO). Although what is considered to be the best option at the time of selection will be selected to initiate a project, it is acknowledged that changes in conditions invariably occur and require a re-run of simulations to generate a new LPOs so as to enable the most appropriate real time response to change. So the Log Frame is replaced by a family of LPOs (LPOs are an evolution from McNeill & Belko's Tactical Option Maps (TOMs).

All implementations are covered by Real Time Audit which provides on-demand analysis and reporting and this eliminates ex-post, after-the-event M&E.

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The Decision Analysis Initiative 2010-2015
George Boole Foundation