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Participatory Monitoring, Evaluation, Reflection & Learning (PMERL) for Community-based Adaptation: A Manual for Local Practitioners

The PMERL Manual can help measure, monitor and evaluate changes in local adaptive capacity within vulnerable communities for better decision-making on community-based adaptation.
Manual cover photo, by Mette-Marie Nielsen

Developed by CARE in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the PMERL Manual supports a methodology that can help measure, monitor and evaluate changes in local adaptive capacity within vulnerable communities for better decision-making on Community-based Adaptation (CBA).

By presenting a participatory methodology for developing and monitoring against CBA indicators, PMERL provides a new platform for local stakeholders to articulate their own needs, which is a fundamental part of building and strengthening adaptive capacity. The PMERL methodology also responds to the need for continuous feedback and joint learning and communication in order for CBA to be flexible in light of the challenge of uncertainty. When monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is carried out in a participatory fashion it enables an ongoing dialogue with and within communities as part of the promoted continuous learning and reflection process.

The manual is available to download from the right-hand column. This publication is also available to download in Spanish – please see the Further Resources section below.

About the PMERL Manual

This is a manual not a recipe book. It does not provide a blueprint of how to do monitoring and evaluation for CBA. Instead it provides a menu of options that is intended to guide the participatory development of specific PMERL strategies that respond to the context-specific needs and challenges of different groups in different contexts.

The PMERL manual has been designed for use by and to benefit the following three groups:

  • Project managers and field staff. This manual is primarily intended for use by field staff engaged in designing and implementing Community-based Adaptation projects and programmes. This group will find guidance for how to develop a participatory monitoring and evaluation system in partnership with the communities with whom they work.
  • Local partners (government and NGOs). The methodologies and tools are also designed to be used and adapted by a wide range of stakeholders and are applicable to a range of different CBA planning and evaluation processes. Local government and non-governmental organisations can use PMERL to help inform and implement a more flexible and responsive approach to adaptation planning. Finally, the PMERL can be used to verify if the investments made are having the intended results and impacts.
  • Communities. The main objective of the PMERL process is to collect the information required by vulnerable groups and their representatives, to understand how well CBA interventions are working, to strengthen adaptive decision-making at the community-level. After initial guidance from partners above, the goal is for communities to use the tools in this manual themselves to support their own continuous process of investigation and learning. The results can be used to help inform decision-making at the community, household or individual scale, and help communities to recognise and lobby for appropriate support for effective Community-based Adaptation. Involved communities–and the sub-groups, households and individuals that make up a given community–can therefore both use and benefit from the MERL process.

This manual provides a system to:

  • Develop participatory monitoring, evaluation, learning and reflection strategies to help stakeholders assess Community-based Adaptation so that practices can improve over time.
  • Guide the development of locally specific, community-based indicators for local adaptation, for project planners to assess whether CBA projects are effective in the context of longer-term adaptive processes.
  • Monitor changing contexts of vulnerability to inform Community-based Adaptation planning.
  • Help ensure mutual accountability of and to stakeholders, managers and donors by demonstrating to what extent project objectives have been met, and whether the objectives remain the right ones.

The manual is presented in three sections:

  • Section 1: Key concepts– Describes the key concepts used in Community-based Adaptation and participatory monitoring and evaluation.
  • Section 2: Designing a participatory PMERL strategy for CBA– Describes the PMERL process in detail. It begins by showing where the PMERL process fits in with the overall CBA program cycle and when it should be initiated. It then takes practitioners through how to develop a PMERL system step by step from design, through to data collection, analysis, and use, linking each step back to the various steps of the CBA program cycle, particularly the planning one.
  • Section 3: Tools and methods for PMERL– Presents a selection of different tools that can be used for each stage of PMERL development. Many of these tools will be familiar to community development practitioners, who have been involved in Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) processes. Yet, the tools included in this manual have been adapted to the climate change context and for use in PMERL.



  • Jessica Ayers, International Institute for Environment and Development
  • Simon Anderson, International Institute for Environment and Development
  • Sibongile Pradhan, Consultant, International Institute for Environment and Development
  • Tine Rossing, CARE International Poverty, Environment and Climate Change Network

Suggested Citation:

CARE and IIED (2012) Participatory Monitoring, Evaluation, Reflection and Learning for Community-based Adaptation: A Manual for Local Practitioners, CARE International. Available online:

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