MEAL- An essential for development programs

The acronym MEAL stands for Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning. The term finds its roots from the evaluation activities taken up by welfare agencies. With the increase in funding of the welfare organisation  more resources are at their disposal to carry out advanced and technical monitoring and evaluation activities. Hence this has now become an integral part of any program delivery by welfare agencies. 

Before going further into its advantages and challenges let us try to understand each terminology in brief.


It is overseeing or recording of the implementation process of a program which includes resources being utilised, performance of the staff, adhering to the logical frame, inputs and output  etc. This can be taken up by an internal person or department  or an external agency. Monitoring is mainly concerned with collection of information which can be utilised later for assessing the progress made. 


It is a broader aspect of measuring the outcome of the program. For an effective measurement of the outcome the evaluation activities are usually taken up at three phases of the program delivery:

  1. Before implementation of the program which is termed as baseline. This provides a benchmark for the progress to be made.
  2. During the program after some period of providing inputs. This is termed as midterm evaluation. Besides measuring and assessing the progress made, this also helps to identify any gaps or challenges in the program delivery at an early stage so that it can be rectified. This also helps the implementers in gauging whether they are going in the right direction or not. 
  3. Towards the end of the program implementation and is termed as end-term evaluation. This assesses the overall progress achieved by the program with respect to each indicator.


This is a relatively new terminology incorporated in the evaluation realm. It refers to the procedures adopted to gauge the beneficiaries’ perceptions about the role of the welfare agency in bringing about a change in their environment. It consists of  a feedback mechanism to get an insight into the extent of involvement of the beneficiaries in the decision making process and how far their opinions were incorporated. Accountability checks the participatory approach adopted by agencies.


Learning refers to the lessons learnt from the evaluation and accountability exercises and how far these observations are incorporated to improve or address the gaps in future  programs. Based on these learnings recommendations are made for future programs. Learning through midterm evaluation helps to address any challenges faced during the program implementation and prevent wastage of resources.


  • It helps to measure and evaluate the impact made by the program on the target population.
  • It helps the organisation to gauge their acceptability in the community in which they are intervening and in doing so build their credibility among the various stakeholders.
  • It helps to improve the program design by identifying whether the gap is in the implementation or in the policy on which the program is based.

Challenges in MEAL

Besides the advantages of carrying out MEAL activities, there are certain challenges associated with this exercise. 

  • Some organizations struggle with resources to take up MEAL exercise. These resources may be financial or expert manpower.
  • Sometimes these exercises tend to focus on one aspect more than the other and hence are unable to produce a balanced finding. A biased finding may not provide a concrete   learning which can be incorporated further into the program. 

Taking up meal activities has definitely revolutionised the program implementation strategies by welfare agencies. This has also opened doors for information sharing which are both intra-organisation and inter-organisation. Small scale agencies now have access to resources from which they can learn and incorporate in their program.

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