Seasonal calendars are useful for evaluation as they can help analyse time-related cyclical changes in data. A calendar allows people to visualise patterns of variations over particular periods of time - such as across weeks, seasons, one or several years.
By seeing these patterns, calendars offer a simple and effective option to understand links between different indicators, stimulate discussions, plan for change, and monitor and evaluate it. Seasonal calendars are often used as a participatory tool to find out community perceptions on time-related variations in indicators such as weather patterns, time spent on labour and other activities, level of food security, nutrition, illness (in people, crops or livestock), cash availability, and production patterns and yield. This option has been used effectively for a variety of purposes (from learning and awareness-raising, to participatory research, project planning and evaluation).
The calendar is either based on a table with a horizontal linear time-scale with indicators along the vertical axis – or as a circular representation of time, such as in a 24-hour clock to show daily routines. Fill the calendar in with symbols representing indicators such as activities, weather or crop seasonality, or labour activities. Calendars can also provide quantitative information by for instance asking participants to distribute a fixed number of stones (or other object) over a year or season to represent relatively weighted levels of availability of an indicator such as food, cash or water; or to represent expenditure of labour hours on a particular activity. This information can then be traced into a graphic representation of the data. Dividing the participants according to gender or age, and asking them to complete their own calendar can provide even more insights into how different groups function within a community (or household).
Seasonal calendars lead to insights into processes and needs at a local level, and help to stimulate discussions on patterns of variation over time. They provide baseline information useful for planning. The data are however not necessarily accurate as they are based on perspectives and memory, and could even be biased because of hidden agendas. If greater precision is required, supplement the participatory data with larger-scale information such as meteorological records. Repeating seasonal calendars at different intervals in a project cycle helps to identify problems that need addressing at particular moments, and also to indicate evidence of project impact. Seasonal calendars offer a simple participatory tool that does not require a high level of expertise (or literacy) to use.
A research project in Northwestern Mozambique sought to improve small-scale farmers’ livelihoods through the addition of an oil-tree (Jatropha curcas) to provide cash and bioenergy for the household. Based on observations, the project assumed that labour peaks for jatropha would not coincide with those of the current crops produced.
After three years, this hypothesis was tested. Different farmers’ clubs made two seasonal calendars, showing labour demand over the season for both types of crops. These calendars indicated that the labour peaks did in fact coincide (see graphical representation of their two seasonal calendars to the left).
With this information, the project then tested whether the jatropha harvest could be delayed until after other crops had been harvested. This turned out to be feasible. However, the farmers decided after some experimentation to harvest jatropha at the same time as other crops after all. They stated that harvesting jatropha is a relatively relaxing task that they liked to mix with more heavy duties.
The seasonal calendar was a helpful tool for decision-making because:
The seasonal calendar was a limited tool because:
Source: Flemming Nielsen, Banana hill. For more information on this project see http://mozambiquejatropha.bananahill.net/
Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)
Choose to include seasonal calendars in your M&E systems:
Do not rely on Seasonal calendars:
Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)
Before making the calendar:
Make the calendar
Use the calendar:
Geilfus, F. Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), (2008). 80 tools for participatory development. Retrieved from website:http://www.iica.int/Esp/regiones/central/cr/Publicaciones%20Oficina%20Costa%20Rica/80tools.pdf
Guijt, I., & Woodhill, J. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Office of Evaluation Studies. (2002). Managing for impact in rural development: A guide for project M & E, Annex D. Retrieved from website:http://www.ifad.org/evaluation/guide/annexd/d.htm