Blockchain Technology and Monitoring & Evaluation: Africa and Beyond

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“What happens to the planet is the cumulative result of over 6 billion independent producing and consuming individuals. Without their support, sustainability actions at other levels have little effect” (Dahl, 2012:17).

Global changes from human activities include profound alterations of ecosystems and the services they provide to humanity, resulting in substantial effects on the health and function of ecosystems. Alterations to these sensitive life sustaining systems have occurred at a rapid rate in the form of degradation and require intervention if these ecosystems are to continue to support life on Earth. “Drivers of environmental change are likely to intensify as the human population grows and per capita consumption increases” (Carpenter et al, 2012:134). Both Sustainability and resilience science concepts create the backdrops and theoretical frameworks for analysing the integrated nature of social–ecological systems. Bettencourt and Kaur (2011 cited in Carpenter et al, 2012) also noted that the global network of sustainability science created an inclusiveness and integration of work carried across the socio-ecological interface of science and goes on to state that this will positively impact scientific collaboration and ‘on the ground’ implementation. With much of the African continent lagging far behind in fundamental aspects of understanding the intricacies of climate change, project preparation and accessing funding to implement mitigation and adaptation, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) falls to the wayside. As a global society we have swiftly moved beyond the ‘climate mitigation window of opportunity’ to significantly arrest the warming of our climate, adaptation efforts are now at the forefront of humanity’s survival. As a result, the potential of Blockchain Technology is briefly noted regarding climate change, innovative solutions to smarter cities and resilient communities. Supported by Carter et al. (2018:295), who advocate that the measurement of the impacts of ongoing initiatives “is key to understanding how to implement a landscape approach”. However, recognising the current state of affairs on the African continent, “how is one then to grasp and adapt to technological change beyond the ability to get through fundamental hurdles first?”. In most cases, M&E practices are ignored altogether not because they are considered insignificant pieces of the puzzle but because the social and economic needs of poverty-stricken people take priority. 

Moving back to the science for a moment, Theoretical and Conceptual frameworks are only as effective as the workforce implementing mitigation and adaptation efforts at grassroots level and the processes and procedures put in place at the broader organisational level such as M&E systems. This therefore requires the creation of, testing and improving socio-ecological vital sign indicators of success, focusing on the interrogation of projects at grassroots implementation level. Carpenter et al (2012:135) show that The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), published in 2005, “revealed gaps in both understanding the links between ecosystem services and human well-being” as well as “how social–ecological systems evolve over time and respond to policy interventions”. This clearly illustrates that there is a need for more evidence-based research focusing on the integrated nature of socio-ecological systems and the interchangeable relationship between ecosystem services and humanity, especially on the hardest hit climate change continent, Africa. According to the UNDP Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results (2014), M&E is one of the identified weaknesses in organizations’ aiming to measure impact on “quality of life” aspects of projects/ programmes, this concept can extensively be expanded on and if undertaken through Blockchain approaches could also create more robust data archives. The UNFCCC Secretariat acknowledges Blockchain technology by reinforcing that it contributes to “greater stakeholder involvement, transparency and engagement and help bring trust and further innovative solutions in the fight against climate change” as well as fraud mitigation, transparency and risk management (UNFCCC, 2018: par 22). Robust M&E systems along with structured philosophical resilience, adaptation, mitigation and sustainability frameworks need to formally and publicly exist in order to strengthen “quality of life” and sustainable livelihoods aspects of projects/ programmes not only on African soil but globally. As a Climate Change Specialist, I see an entry-point for Blockchain technology to fill this gap and help the African continent log data into a system where data-fraud is mitigated from inception of a project, create transparency for results-based projects and remove this particular item from the list of responsibilities of already overworked specialist workforce on the Continent and in other cases globally.