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Grounding a global tool- Principles and practice for agroecological assessments inspired by TAPE

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In 2018, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) described agroecology in terms of 10 Elements. Using this framework, FAO then designed the Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation (TAPE) for assessment of the agroecological state of farms and landscapes as part of their mission to produce globally comparable data. A network of 11 agroecology research project teams working in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda investigated the use of TAPE for their own agroecological assessment needs through a series of workshops and practice, including a field workshop with farmers in Uganda. The key lesson learnt was that there are inspirations to draw from TAPE, including the stepwise approach, rapid assessment across all 10 agroecology elements, and the use of simple rating scales. However, the teams also concluded that TAPE could not be used in their contexts as a readymade tool for three main reasons. First, objectives matter—there are multiple reasons for carrying out an agroecological assessment, and the tool used needs tuning to those objectives. Second, the ethical value of codesign means that those engaged need to be served by the assessment and be involved in negotiating its design. Third, localization is necessary—the same precise set of concepts, terminology, indicators, and scales in TAPE are not relevant in all contexts, and this localization can be done using the codesign process. Based on this experience, we proposed a set of 10 principles that could underlie any agroecological assessment. We further outlined, and project teams used, a process for putting the principles into practice and planning such an agroecological assessment. It involves the following steps (1) Identifying the objectives of assessment within the broader project and community goals, (2) Choosing the approach and breadth of the assessment scheme, (3) Designing details of the assessment scheme, (4) Testing and revising, (5) Implementation, and (6) Reflection and sharing learnings. The steps have potential application by researchers, development agents, and farmer organizations to assess the agroecological status of farms and landscapes in different contexts. Together, these take inspiration from TAPE but should lead to tools that are adapted to the specific purpose, context, and capacities where they will be used.

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