UN agency examines approach to decentralized operations in Africa

Nairobi, 13 June 2016 – Government representatives and agricultural development specialists will gather in Nairobi 13-14 June to discuss the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) approach to decentralizing its operations in Africa.The workshop will focus on IFAD-funded operations in eastern, southern, western and central Africa and will inform an independent evaluation of IFAD's decentralization approach that is scheduled to be released in December 2016. The Nairobi event is one of the four regional workshops being organized by IFAD’s Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) to capture feedback and insights from stakeholders of IFAD-funded.

With headquarters in Rome, Italy, IFAD began its decentralization process in 2003 and now has 40 country offices worldwide. The process echoes a trend in several multilateral development institutions, such as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which have strengthened their presence in countries where they run operations. IFAD currently has 20 country offices in Africa, including a special regional service centre for Eastern and South Africa including the Indian Ocean island states, based in Kenya.

Previous independent evaluations of IFAD's operations found that IFAD’s country presence has allowed the organization to be closer to projects and programmes, has given it more visibility and has enabled it to draw on local expertise and talent. Investing in country offices has paid off in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness. For instance, benefits have been realized in country programme development and implementation support, partnership-building, policy dialogue, knowledge management, and innovation.

“On the basis of the emerging findings of the evaluation, IFAD will be able to strengthen its development effectiveness on the ground and play a more effective role in the countries where it works, strengthening results and impact for project beneficiaries, and building local capacities for conducting its operations,” said Oscar A. Garcia, Director of IOE.

The evaluation will aim to answer key questions such as:  What is the relevance of decentralization to national ownership and direction of development assistance? To what extent has decentralization contributed to achieving development results? What contribution did the decentralization of administrative and financial business processes make to efficiency?

“The importance of this corporate-level evaluation cannot be overstated,” said Périn Saint Ange, IFAD’s Associate Vice-President. “By understanding what has and has not  worked in our decentralization process, we will be able to improve our individual country operations and, ultimately, be more effective in improving the lives of the rural people with whom we work.”

IFAD has financed 188 agriculture projects and development programmes in East and Southern Africa since the Fund was established in 1979, for a total investment of US$3.4 billion. In West and Central Africa, IFAD has supported 221 projects in the region with some $3.1 billion in financing.

Press release No.: IFAD/38/2016

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided US$17.7 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 459 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.

About the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE): IOE conducts evaluations of IFAD-financed policies, strategies and operations to promote accountability and learning. The main purpose is to contribute to improving IFAD's and its partners' performance in reducing rural poverty in recipient countries. IOE's independent evaluations assess the impact of IFAD-funded activities and give an analysis of successes and shortcomings – to tell it the way it is – as well as identify factors affecting performance. Based on the key insights and recommendations drawn from evaluation findings, IOE also communicates and shares IFAD’s knowledge and experience in agriculture and rural development with a wider audience.