Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture
In 2014, Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) carried out a project performance assessment of the Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (Projet d'Appui au Plan Stratégique de la Transformation de l'Agriculture ) in Rwanda. A key recommendation from the assessment is a proposal to pilot a "programmatic financing" approach. Such an approach would provide flexibility to respond to unforeseen emergencies, allow for follow-up support to critical target groups (women and child-headed households) and in the long run reduce costs associated with design. This proposal would require having an "in-depth" country strategic opportunities programme (COSOP) along the lines of a single five-year-period design document and thus identifying clearly differentiated target groups, thematic focuses, geographical priorities, etc. in priority order - for which full criteria would need to be developed and agreed.
Plurinational State of Bolivia Country Programme Evaluation
This country programme evaluation is the second one carried out in Bolivia by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD. It covers the partnership between IFAD and the Government from 2005 to 2012. Overall, the results of the IFAD-Government partnership were positive.
The main achievements include the adoption by families of soil and water conservation techniques, improved crop and livestock farming practices, and the development of new production activities. The participatory and open competition approach - with direct cash transfers managed by the communities - clearly led to enhanced human capital. The programme impact was however less than expected because most supported businesses are not sustainable; the introduction of environmental management practices did not reverse the desertification process; and the planned private market for technical assistance did not materialize.
Main programme limitations were weak relations with the territories where it was implemented and with public programmes; inability to define the target population and overreliance on short-term technical assistance.
Brazil Country Programme Evaluation
Federative Republic of Brazil Country Programme Evaluation Brazil and IFAD have developed a solid and strategic partnership over more than 35 years.
IFAD is supporting the Government in promoting family farming and grass-roots development in the north-east of the country, as a means to improve productivity, food security, nutrition and incomes.
IFAD has six ongoing projects in the country, which are all in the early stages of implementation. Attention therefore is needed to consolidating activities to ensure desired outcomes. While recognizing the importance of non-agricultural activities for wider sustainable and inclusive rural transformation, the evaluation finds that a better balance between agricultural and non-agricultural activities could be achieved in the future. This would require placing more emphasis on the agriculture component of investment programmes, such as in areas of water and land management, crop production and livestock development.
Performance in non-lending-activities (policy dialogue, knowledge management and partnerships building) has improved since the last country programme evaluation in 2007. However, the evaluation recommends further strengthening engagement in these activities including greater attention to South-South and Triangular Cooperation. Finally, to ensure enhanced performance in non-lending activities, and considering more generally that Brazil is IFAD's largest country programme in the Latin America and the Caribbean, the evaluation recommends the out-posting of the Country Programme Manager to Brazil.
2014 Annual Report on Results and Impact of IFAD operations
The Annual Report on Results and Impact of IFAD Operations (ARRI) is the flagship report of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE). The ARRI was first published in 2003, and provides an independent assessment of the performance of IFAD operations and identifies issues that need to be addressed to further strengthen results on the ground. This year's ARRI draws on a robust sample of ratings from 224 project evaluations carried out by IOE since 2002 - including 35 project evaluations undertaken in 2013. One of these is the first impact evaluation by IOE, which was carried out in Sri Lanka.
IFAD is one of the very few development organizations that produces an annual report like the ARRI, reflecting its commitment to promoting accountability, learning and transparency in reporting on results and impact.
Performance and trends
This year's ARRI shows that IFAD's performance as a partner is the best since the ARRI was first produced in 2003. The numerous changes and reforms to IFAD's operating model – in particular direct supervision and implementation support, the establishment of IFAD country offices and better portfolio management – are contributing to better performance.
Other areas of good performance include the relevance of operations and rural poverty impact, including promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, and innovation and scaling up. In fact, rural poverty impact is moderately satisfactory or better in 90 per cent of the projects that were evaluated during 2012-2014.
This year's ARRI also analysed independent evaluation ratings grouped by IFAD replenishment periods, starting with the Fifth Replenishment (2001- 2003). Generally speaking, with the exception of efficiency, IFAD operations have performed best during the Ninth Replenishment period (2013-2015).
However, there is scope for strengthening the performance of IFAD-supported operations in some critical areas in order to achieve greater development effectiveness. Firstly, efficiency remains the weakest area, with 42 per cent of operations rated as moderately unsatisfactory or worse. Secondly, further efforts will be needed to support governments in enhancing their capacity and performance, since they are ultimately responsible for executing IFAD-funded projects and programmes. Thirdly, although there have been recent improvements, sustainability of benefits is still weak and will require greater attention.
There is scope to further enhance performance in non-lending activities, i.e. knowledge management, policy dialogue and partnerships development, which are also essential for scaling up impact.
As in the past, this year's ARRI benchmarks the performance of IFAD operations externally and internally. Externally, it compares the performance of IFAD operations with that of the agriculture sector operations of selected multilateral development banks. Internally, it compares operational performance across the five geographic regions and against the agreed targets in the corporate results measurement framework.
The ARRI finds that the performance of IFAD operations is on par with or better than the performance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB) and World Bank agriculture operations. When interpreting these findings, the different nature and size of the organizations must be kept in mind – especially the fact that IFAD operations are normally implemented in more challenging contexts, such as remote rural areas, and give special attention to participatory approaches, gender mainstreaming, targeting and grass-roots institution-building.
Internally, the analysis revealed that the performance of IFAD operations is strongest in Asia and the Pacific Region, followed by East and Southern Africa. IFAD's operations performance is weakest in West and Central Africa, even though an important contributing factor is the relatively weaker policy and institutional context, as well as the large proportion of fragile and conflict-affected states in the region. Finally, the ARRI finds gaps in current performance based on independent evaluation ratings and IFAD's Ninth Replenishment targets for operations, to be accomplished by the end of 2015. While the gap is relatively small in some areas (relevance and impact), it is quite large in others (efficiency, sustainability, partnerships and government performance).
- Completion reviews of country strategic opportunities programmes (COSOPs). The ARRI found that the preparation of COSOPs is underfunded and would be enhanced if new COSOPs were informed by completion reviews by IFAD Management. The ARRI recommends that these reviews be conducted systematically in the future.
- Budgets for COSOPs and projects.
Consider a more differentiated approach towards budget allocations ( e.g depending on the country context) for COSOP development and management, project design, supervision and implementation support, and non-lending activities.
- IFAD's organizational decentralization.
For better on-the-ground results, opportunities for greater decentralization of IFAD and further out-posting of country programme managers, should be explored by building on ongoing efforts. Consideration for establishing other regional/subregional offices, based on the experience accumulated thus far should also be considered.
- Use of independent evaluation ratings.
The Independent evaluation ratings of IOE, where available, should be used in applied in the Report on IFAD's Development Effectiveness ( RIDE) against the criteria/indicators in the IFAD Results Measurement Framework and in other ad hoc reports relating to results. This is consistent with practice of other selected multilateral development organizations and will ensure consistency in the reporting of the ARRI and the RIDE in relation to country programme and project performance.
2014 ARRI learning theme: Project management
Project management is the learning theme for the 2014 ARRI. Overall, evaluations by IOE and others find that a strong project management team is a key determinant of successful project outcomes.
The ARRI identifies a number of features that enhance the performance of project management: the commitment and ownership of project management staff; regular supervision implementation support by IFAD; participation in annual country-level portfolio review and regional implementation workshops; clear guidelines and procedures for procurement and financial management; and participation in training on issues of priority to IFAD.
There are also several challenges affecting the performance of project management: delays in the appointment of, and frequent changes in, project staff; low priority given to monitoring and evaluation activities; challenges in applying the IFAD Results and Impact Management System; limited knowledge of IFAD policies and procedures; and interference by the designated executing agency.
Good project management is a key driver towards ensuring sustainability of benefits. For instance, evaluations found that sustainability prospects were higher in those cases where project management proactively prepared ‘exit strategies' together with IFAD and government early on the project life cycle.
Senegal Country Programme Evaluation
This is the second country programme evaluation conducted by IOE in Senegal and it covers ten years of IFAD’s operations (2004-2013).
Overall, the IFAD-supported country programme in Senegal led to positive results in terms of enhanced social capital, improved agricultural production and food security.
The project portfolio contributed to build capacities among the rural poor and their organizations, as well as to introduce innovations, notably in production techniques, research, local agricultural advice and pasture management.
At the same time, results were limited by the partial reforms in the agricultural sector and a fragmented approach to major environmental challenges, climate change and gender equality issues. The evaluation also identifies the need to ensure sustainability of results after project completion, and to build complementary partnerships to maximize support for scaling up successful innovations.
Gash Sustainable Livelihoods Regeneration Project
The project aimed to regenerate the livelihoods of poor rural people based on equitable, secure, transparent access to land and water in a society with a strong tribal hierarchy and power structure. The project made an important contribution in terms of setting a reform process in motion and supporting institution-strengthening, notably the introduction of irrigation management transfer to newly formed water users associations and land tenancy reform. The project helped improve access to safe water for rural households and it made contribution to empowering women in a highly conservative society.Despite important steps taken and contributions made, the overall achievements fell short of the set objectives. The design underestimated the complexities of the social, political and institutional contexts. Opportunities arising from irrigation infrastructure rehabilitation were not adequately exploited to generate expected results at farm level. The sustainability of the Gash spate irrigation scheme is a matter of concern.
China Country Programme Evaluation
This is the first country programme evaluation conducted by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD in China. It covers the partnership between IFAD and the Government from 1999 to 2013. Overall, the CPE concludes that the China-IFAD partnership is strong and the aggregate performance of the loan portfolio, non-lending activities (i.e. policy dialogue, knowledge management and partnership-building) and country strategic opportunities programmes was satisfactory. However, the main challenge in the future partnership is to increase the emphasis on non-lending activities, which will need to be linked to an adequate investment project portfolio that focuses on promoting innovation and scaling up.
Corporate-level Evaluation on the IFAD Policy for Grant Financing
Corporate-level evaluation. IFAD’s grants programme has a long history, dating back to the Agreement Establishing IFAD. The Executive Board approved a policy for grant financing for the first time in 2003 and a revised policy in 2009.
The overall objectives of this evaluation were to: assess the performance of the IFAD Policy for Grant Financing, in terms of relevance, effectiveness and efficiency; and generate findings and recommendations that will inform IFAD’s strategic directions and priorities for future grant activities.
This evaluation finds that grants can be an invaluable tool for IFAD to promote its agenda of rural poverty alleviation. Grants have allowed IFAD to collaborate with a wide range of organizations, such as farmers organizations, civil society and indigenous people’s organizations, and international agricultural research institutions. However, the relevance of the policy has been limited by lack of clarity and prioritization. Overall, the effectiveness of the policy has been moderately unsatisfactory, overall though have are signs of improvement since 2010.
Zambia Country Programme Evaluation
This country programme evaluation is the first carried out in Zambia and it covers the period 1999-2013.The interventions by IFAD have helped to increase and diversify production by beneficiary smallholder farmers, enhance access to markets and improve the livestock. The portfolio is also contributing to augment the social capital and empowerment of the target groups, in particular by promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. The overall project portfolio achievement has been considered moderately satisfactory. However, the programme was not fully effective due to substantial delays in implementation, weaknesses in financial management and the broad targeting strategy that did not sufficiently focus on the most disadvantaged households and communities.
Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Programme
The evaluation reveals that the programme activities brought about improvements in the production and productivity of crops and livestock in the targeted area, through training of farmers and on-farm demonstrations, along with the distribution of inputs and farm implements. The programme also promoted conservation agriculture and contributed positively towards improving the environmental quality in the three districts covered by the programme, leading to a more efficient use of the existing natural resources. At the same time, a weak monitoring and evaluation system led to a number of difficulties in assessing the programme's impact on rural poverty. In addition, the programme activities were not fully integrated in the Government operations due to limited ownership and coordination among the central and district-level institutions.
Rural Youth Evaluation synthesis report
Evaluation Synthesis. IFAD started enhancing its focus on rural youth in the last decade and particularly in 2010, when the Strategic Framework for the period 2011–2015 reflected the Fund's attention and commitment in promoting rural youth development. Overall, among the projects selected for this evaluation, about 83 per cent of past pro-youth projects targeted rural youth explicitly and 42 per cent included youth-specific activities. The evaluation also highlights that IFAD is equipped with ad-hoc strategies, policies and guidelines to work with rural youth. Looking forward, the evaluation offers a number of reflections for IFAD, to ensure that rural youth plays a catalyst role in rural transformation and agricultural sustainability: mainstreaming youth across country programmes in all regions; investing in the update of the knowledge base on youth and adequate socio-economic profiling; resolving the issue of efficiency versus equity upfront at design stage in terms of target group identification; adopting systematically age-disaggregated monitoring indicators, to foster IFAD's learning and replication processes; and enhancing strategic partnerships to support the scaling up of successful and innovative models.
IFAD Replenishments Evaluation
The corporate-Level evaluation reveals that replenishment consultations are critical for IFAD's financial sustainability and also provide a unique platform to ensure accountability for results and collective reflection on IFAD policy and strategic priorities. In particular, the changes introduced in the Ninth Replenishment of IFAD Resources have further strengthened the effectiveness and efficiency of the Fund's replenishment processes. At the same time, the evaluation identifies some areas for further development. On the financing side, IFAD would need to intensify its ongoing efforts to mobilize additional resources beyond replenishment contributions to meet the increasing demand for its assistance in all recipient countries. Moreover, the current representation system of IFAD Member States in the replenishment consultations might require some adjustments to better reflect the existing geopolitical and economic landscape. Finally, the evaluation also highlights the value for IFAD to simplify the current results measurement framework, including by more explicitly defining a theory of change for achieving rural transformation.
Ecuador Country Programme Evaluation
The country programme evaluation reveals that IFAD’s country programme in Ecuador has made a positive contribution to the country’s rural development through social and productive investments focused on the rural poor, the development and promotion of trade, the boosting of rural organizations, natural resource management and support to cultural diversity. In particular, the closer monitoring by IFAD through direct supervision and the presence of a liaison officer in Quito since 2008 has helped to improve the portfolio status and give a better visibility to the Fund in Ecuador.
At the same time, the evaluation identifies opportunities for IFAD to strengthen its partnership with the Government. For example, more attention will be needed to ensure the next Ecuador country strategic opportunities programme takes carefully into account the political and socioeconomic situation in the country, as well devotes more resources towards policy dialogue, knowledge management and partnerships with other donors
IFAD’s Engagement in Middle-income Countries: Evaluation Synthesis
The evaluation synthesis concludes that there is a solid cause for IFAD’s continued engagement in middle-income countries (MICs). In fact, IFAD remains a relevant and highly valued partner for MICs, where there is an extensive demand for the Fund’s assistance, given its specialization and comparative advantage in working in remote rural areas and inclusive growth. However, taking into account the heterogeneity of these countries, there are opportunities for IFAD to further sharpen some of its existing products and instruments, devoting greater attention to non-lending activities, technical assistance and South-South and triangular cooperation. In addition, IFAD should intensify its ongoing efforts to mobilize additional funding and to strengthen strategic partnerships with other bilateral and multilateral development organizations.
Rural Development Project in the Mountain Zones of Al-Haouz
The Rural Development Project in the Mountain Zones of Al-Haouz aimed to pilot various approaches that could then be scaled up and replicated in other mountain areas in the country, to encourage beneficiary participation through decentralization, and to support the creation of productive socio-economic infrastructure accessible to beneficiaries. In addition to evidence being found of increased local economic emancipation through the establishment and strengthening of numerous grass-roots associations, important results were also achieved in terms of socio-economic infrastructure, rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation schemes and soil and water conservation.
On the less positive side, the Project Performance Assessment noted that insufficient budgets needed to cover long term plans led to a focus on separate individual activities, in turn resulting in weaker sustainability of projects. Likewise the project faced challenges with respect to the gender activities and a large and disperse set of activities. On the whole, however, the project achievement is rated as satisfactory, with high relevancy of and several positive contributions to core objectives. The evaluation recommends continued support to communal planning processes, establishing more partnerships between involved institutional players and special attention paid to agricultural extension.
Moldova Country Programme Evaluation
Overall, the country programme has made good achievements on the ground over the past decade. IFAD support has contributed to increased levels of agricultural production, development of viable rural enterprises and job creation in rural areas. One of the most impressive elements of the portfolio performance is its high efficiency, especially with a consolidated project implementation unit responsible for all IFAD-funded projects and a high degree of ownership by the Government.
On the other hand, progress has been limited in value chain development, microfinance for small and microenterprises, and in setting up a clear strategy for phasing out heavy reliance on the credit line approach. Moreover, it is important for the next country strategic opportunities programme to reflect the Fund’s comparative advantages and its approach to rural poverty reduction within the evolving country and sectoral context more explicitly.
Water Conservation and Management Evaluation synthesis report
Evaluation synthesis. Overall, IFAD’s engagement in the water sector has improved also as a result of better performance in related sectors such as financial services, value addition and market development. Despite not having a specific policy on water, as the other multilateral development banks, IFAD compares well in regard to agricultural water management, in which it has a distinct comparative advantage. The scenario emerging on the water front presents a set of challenges and opportunities such as: water is both a constraint to development and an opportunity for innovation; water productivity is critical to enhancing development effectiveness; and rainfed farming is now key to increasing food production and agricultural productivity. This is where IFAD, in partnership with local governments and other development agencies, can take the lead in developing a strategy that can bring about a “brown revolution” in rainfed agriculture akin to the “green revolution” of irrigated agriculture.
Management of Natural Resources in the Chaco and High Valley Regions Project
The project is evaluated positively in terms of attention to natural resources management, participatory methods in the training of vulnerable populations and the delivery of technical assistance. It promoted new productive activities and the dissemination of soil-conservation and water-management techniques as well as new farming and animal husbandry practices. At the same time, the overall impact could have been higher, as there was only a slight improvement in the living conditions of the beneficiaries, and such improvement did not occur among the more vulnerable populations. Moreover, there was low demand for the business development and market access component, which failed to create the anticipated market for non-financial rural services.
Agriculture, Marketing and Enterprise Promotion Programme
The overall project performance assessment of the Agriculture, Marketing and Enterprise Promotion Programme is satisfactory, with one of the key achievements being the prolonged presence and support of IFAD within the targeted area. The programme activities were largely effective in contributing to improved connectivity and access to services, higher income and assets for many households, and greater farm and enterprise productivity. On the other hand, the likelihood of sustainability is being affected by the difficulties in infrastructure maintenance, and by social and economic processes beyond the influence of the project, including rural-urban population drift, increasing areas of fallow land, shortage of labour, crop damage by wild life and climate change.
Jordan Country Programme Evaluation
This is the first IFAD country programme evaluation (CPE) for Jordan since the Fund started its operations in the country in 1981. The evaluation has made it possible to assess the results and impact of IFAD-supported activities in the country, and has generated findings and recommendations that will inform the definition of future cooperation between IFAD and the Government of Jordan. In terms of results, the evaluation found, first, that IFAD-supported programmes have not achieved the overarching country strategic opportunities programme (COSOP) strategic objective of reaching the poor. The land-ownership-based soil and water conservation (SWC) investments supported by IFAD– while important from the point of view of natural resource management and increasing agriculture production, has been inherently unsuitable for reaching the poor in Jordan. Few of the IFAD target groups as defined in the COSOP (families earning less than US$2 per day) are land owners, or own only small plots.
Rural Development Programme for Mountainous and Highland Areas
The project performance assessment of the Rural Development Programme for Mountainous and Highland Areas focused on agricultural production, small infrastructure and project management. After facing great challenges in the implementation process between 2001-2007, IFAD suspended its loan and redesigned the project around a single component (small infrastructure). This was key in ensuring a successful implementation during the subsequent phase (2008-2011), fostering the renovation and construction of 63 kilometres of community road and 14 bridges in mountainous areas, which improved general accessibility and quality of life for local beneficiaries. At the same time, this project performance assessment highlighted the presence of serious sustainability issues, together with little evidence as regards to the project’s impact on farm productivity and household incomes.
IFAD’s Supervision and Implementation Support Policy
This first evaluation synthesis report issued by IOE makes an initial assessment of the progress made so far in implementing IFAD’s Policy on Supervision and Implementation Support, identifying promising practices and emerging issues. IFAD’s decision to move to direct supervision and implementation support was one of the most far-reaching changes since the Fund was established. It has facilitated more direct follow-up with implementing agencies to resolve bottlenecks that have emerged during implementation and has allowed IFAD not only to achieve closer cooperation with other partners but also to establish and nurture partnerships with multiple stakeholders. Overall, IFAD should be commended for implementing such decision. However, the direct supervision and implementation support of IFAD operations has posed several challenges. The specific preparations needed for implementing this ambitious supervision policy were inadequate and implementation has progressed at different rates and with different modalities among the five regional divisions. In the longer term, IFAD should now consider drawing on the best practices from the different approaches to increase harmonization, efficiency and shared responsibilities across IFAD departments, and to reduce risk. There is also a need to optimize the division of labour in undertaking direct supervision and implementation support, within IFAD and between IFAD headquarters and its country offices
Indonesia Country Programme Evaluation
This is the second country programme evaluation undertaken by IOE for Indonesia and it covers nine years of IFAD’s operations in the country (2004-2012). Overall, the IFAD portfolio in Indonesia has led to good achievements in social mobilization and gender equality, and to a marked progress in making investments for the enhancement of social infrastructure. The overall project portfolio achievement has been considered moderately satisfactory. At the same time, results related to on-farm and off-farm development and agriculture productivity enhancements have been limited: although these areas were included in project design, they did not get adequate attention during the implementation. Monitoring and evaluation systems have been constrained by insufficient capacity and are in need of improvement.
Microfinance for Marginal and Small Farmers Project
The project was successful in introducing microcredit services targeted at small and marginal farmers, combined with technical support. During implementation (2005-2011), the project made a significant contribution to mainstreaming microlending for agricultural activities, with an option of lump-sum repayment. Moreover, good progress was made towards gender equality and women’s empowerment through microfinance interventions, social development, technical trainings and women’s mobilization. For these reasons, the project’s overall achievement is satisfactory. While the inclusion of marketing and business development support in the project was appropriate, there could have been better integration and synergy of this aspects with microfinance services and technical capacity-building.
2013 Annual Report on Results and Impact of IFAD Operations (ARRI)
This is the eleventh edition of the Annual Report on Results and Impact of IFAD Operations (ARRI), prepared by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE). It consolidates and summarizes the results and impact of IFAD-funded operations on the basis of evaluations conducted during 2012 and in previous years.
The Fund is one of the very few multilateral and bilateral development organizations that produces an annual report similar to the ARRI. Its production is a reflection of IFAD's overall commitment to promoting accountability, learning and transparency in reporting on performance. While the primary audience for the ARRI is IFAD Management, staff and consultants, and the Fund's Evaluation Committee and Executive Board, the report is also of interest to recipient countries and the wider development community.
The objectives of the ARRI are to: (i) present a synthesis of the performance of IFAD-supported operations based on a common methodology for evaluation; (ii) highlight key learning issues and development challenges that IFAD and recipient countries need to address to enhance the development effectiveness of these operations.
IOE is able to produce the ARRI because all its evaluations follow a consistent methodology, captured in the Evaluation Manual, which builds on international good practice. In preparing the 2013 ARRI, IOE took serious note of feedback on last year's edition by IFAD Management and the Evaluation Committee and Executive Board, and, accordingly, adjusted the way independent evaluation data have been analysed and reported on in this edition.
Two changes have been made. First, the 2013 ARRI has analysed and reported evaluation results based on the year in which projects were completed, rather than the year in which evaluations were undertaken (the past practice). This is consistent with the practice in other international financial institutions and has ensured that the results for each time period are representative of a similar cohort of projects.
Second, a new data series has been introduced based only on evaluation data from project completion report validations (PCRVs) and project performance assessments (PPAs). This avoids a possible problem associated with combining results across a diverse mix of evaluation types. The one limitation of the new data series is that IOE only began conducting PCRVs and PPAs in 2010. Thus it is difficult to conduct trend analysis based on these data at this stage, a limitation that will be overcome once data from other years become available. Consequently, the series based on data from all types of evaluations will continue to be presented for the time being in order to report on trends.
The relevance of IFAD-supported projects remains generally high, illustrating the importance of the Fund as a global organization promoting sustainable small-scale agricultural development. The rural poverty impact of IFAD operations has shown improvement since 2005-2007. An upward trend is also visible in project performance and overall project achievement in projects that closed since 2009-2011.
There are three further areas of good performance that deserve to be highlighted. First, IFAD's own performance as a partner over 2011-2013 is the best since the ARRI was first issued in 2003. This is noteworthy, and the coherent Change and Reform Agenda introduced in 2009 is likely to have also been a key ingredient in improved performance in this area. Direct supervision and the consolidation of existing, and establishment of new, IFAD country offices are two fundamental changes to IFAD's operating model that are contributing to better results.
Second, IFAD operations score high in promoting innovative approaches and in scaling up, which are fundamental to achieving a wider impact on rural poverty. In fact, for a relatively small organization such as IFAD (compared with the World Bank or other regional development banks), the capacity to develop and test innovative solutions in agriculture and rural development is critical, because, if successful, these can eventually be scaled up by governments, donors and other partners. Third, IFAD operations are very good at promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, an area in which the Fund is developing a comparative advantage, a track record and specialization. This, too, is fundamental, given that a significant number of poor rural women in developing countries work in agriculture and derive their livelihoods also from related activities.
The performance of IFAD operations is generally on a par with the agriculture-sector operations of the World Bank globally, similar to that of the African Development Bank in Africa and better than the Asian Development Bank in Asia and the Pacific. This is reassuring, given that the contexts in which IFAD works are often more challenging (i.e. remote and marginalized areas with a focus on poor rural people) and the nature of its operations is generally more demanding (i.e. with a focus on participatory approaches, targeting and empowerment).
There are areas, however, that deserve added attention moving forward. Notwithstanding the positive picture in general, a large number of projects continue to manifest moderately satisfactory performance and hardly any are highly satisfactory in the evaluation criteria assessed. Thus, there are opportunities for further improvement overall.
Moreover, two areas flagged in the past remain problematic: efficiency of operations and sustainability of benefits. These are the two weakest performing evaluation criteria. Government performance as a partner has also not shown much improvement over time. This is particularly important, as projects financed by IFAD are ultimately executed by governments, and their performance is thus critical to successful outcomes.
With regard to the performance of country strategies, the ARRI underlines that country programme evaluation ratings for relevance, effectiveness and overall performance, as well as for non-lending activities (partnership-building, policy dialogue and knowledge management), have improved overall since 2006-2008. Lack of resources – human and financial – remains the main limiting factor for non-lending activities.
The ARRI also notes that the grants programme is a very important instrument at IFAD's disposal, yet there are opportunities for a more strategic use of grants, including tighter synergies at the country level with investment projects financed by the Fund. There is also room for improvement in grant monitoring, supervision and reporting on outcomes.
This edition covers one learning theme: understanding exceptional projects. The review revealed a strong association between factors in all types of countries. Poor designs, poorly managed in difficult contexts, lead to exceptionally unsuccessful project outcomes. Good designs, well managed in supportive contexts, lead to exceptionally successful project outcomes. The few exceptionally successful projects in difficult contexts generally had good designs, high-quality project management, and good support from IFAD and government. IOE will deepen this initial analysis in 2014, when it undertakes the corporate-level evaluation of IFAD's engagement in fragile states and prepares an evaluation synthesis report of the organization's opportunities and challenges in working in middle-income countries.
IFAD has a unique role to play in the international aid architecture in reducing rural poverty, and its projects and programmes are making important contributions to government efforts to promote sustainable small-scale agriculture development. It is an organization on the move, concerned with making adjustments to its operating model, with the aim of achieving better results. There are, however, opportunities for improvement to achieve excellence, which will require continued focus on improving internal business processes, supporting governments in improving their capacity, including in the area of monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and greater customization to country contexts.
Three specific conclusions are worth highlighting:
- There is good evidence of improvement in some aspects of IFAD's performance. However, there are a number of persistent challenges, such as in efficiency, sustainability and M&E. These require a step-change in approach. Business as usual, and incremental improvement efforts, are as unlikely to lead to significant change in the next few years as they have in the past few years.
- Considerable progress has been made in improving project design and project supervision. A similar focus and effort is now required for project management. This is emerging as a very important, but underemphasized, determinant of project performance in all country contexts. A more consistent, more effective approach to ensuring and supporting high-quality project management is required, particularly in the early stages of project implementation.
- Fragile and/or conflict-affected states are an important focus for IFAD in both low- and middle-income countries. Fragility, conflict and poverty increasingly coincide. Thus, IFAD's relatively poorer performance in these situations represents an important challenge. The forthcoming corporate evaluation of performance in fragile situations will provide a critical opportunity for significant rethinking and change.
The 2013 ARRI makes the following four recommendations:
- the corporate-level evaluation on fragile states planned for 2014 should be expanded to cover fragile and conflict-affected situations in both low- and middle-income countries;
- the 2014 learning theme should examine the role of government, with a particular emphasis on strengthening the performance of project management teams;
- IOE should work with IFAD Management to design and implement a corporate-level evaluation on project management, including project-level M&E; and
- IFAD Management should pay special attention in next year's Report on IFAD's Development Effectiveness and the Annual Project Portfolio Review to the persistent challenges identified in this and previous ARRIs.