Technical Innovations for Rural Poverty Reduction
The Independent Office of Evaluation has prepared an evaluation synthesis report on Technical Innovations for Rural Poverty Reduction, drawing information from evaluations undertaken between 2010 and 2018. The report serves as a building block for the upcoming corporate-level evaluation on Innovation and Productivity Growth for Inclusive and Sustainable Agriculture, which will provide a wider assessment of IFAD’s work on innovation.
The evaluation synthesis report found technical innovations to be mainstreamed in IFAD. In fact, the majority of IFAD projects feature a variety of innovations, especially in the categories of crop diversification, livestock and crop management. The innovations have brought about principally two types of change: productivity enhancing and, to a lesser extent, transformative change. Productivity enhancing innovations improve returns to land, labour and capital through incremental changes to the farm business. Transformative innovations, on the other hand, significantly alter farming system structures and functions by introducing new enterprises or radically different ways of agricultural technologies.
While transformative innovations are considered higher-risk and usually require broader packages of support to be successful, they have the potential for higher rewards. IFAD should enhance its focus on transformative processes, including by leveraging its strengths in providing the necessary support and facilitating relevant partnerships, while ensuring that the risks associated with innovations are carefully managed.
Inclusive financial services for the rural poor
Access to financial services is essential to lift people out of poverty as it allows them to seize economic opportunities and increase their welfare. It is seen as an important component of the inclusive rural transformation agenda of IFAD, which, since 1981, has financed over 1,000 projects, worth US$3.4 billion.
The Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) has prepared an evaluation synthesis report on IFAD’s Inclusive Financial Services for the Rural Poor. The evaluation synthesis draws information from evaluations undertaken between 2008 and 2017.
In 2007, IOE conducted a corporate-level evaluation of rural finance in IFAD, which paved the way for a new Rural Finance Policy that was introduced in 2009. The synthesis found that the mix of financial instruments in the portfolio has not changed since 2009. Loan guarantee funds, lines of credit and matching grants are overly represented in the mix. Projects still tend to use traditional financial services, mainly savings and borrowing. New types of services promoted by IFAD, such as leasing, insurance, warehouse receipts and value-chain financing, were rarely used or, when included at the design stage, they were found less feasible during implementation. The transition to new types of financial services requires significant investments in technical assistance, market studies and capacity, for which governments were often hesitant to use loan funds. The availability of qualified financial services, their capacity and their presence in rural areas were the main factors determining IFAD's approach on the ground.
The principles of the revised Rural Finance Policy emphasize the need to move towards market-led and demand-oriented approaches, offering a diverse set of services and products. While the diversity of instruments, services and products has increased, they have been offered within traditional supply-led approaches, leading to a lack of demand orientation on the part of country interventions. A key related issue is in the weak implementation capacity on the ground. These issues must be addressed for IFAD to remain relevant and be in demand as an Inclusive Financial Services player.
IFAD’s support to livelihoods involving aquatic resources from small-scale fisheries, small-scale aquaculture and coastal zones
The Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) has prepared an evaluation synthesis report on IFAD’s support to livelihoods involving aquatic resources from small-scale fisheries, small-scale aquaculture and coastal zones. The report provides a review of the evaluations of all aquatic-resources-relevant projects supported by IFAD from 2009 to 2018. In addition, it provides an analysis of the evolution of the portfolio since 1979, when the first project that addressed aquaculture was approved.
IFAD achieved notable success in some countries where it engaged in aquaculture or fisheries over several years. In the aquaculture subsector in Bangladesh, it supported a number of projects introducing innovative approaches to aquatic resources management. In the marine fisheries subsector in Mozambique, IFAD’s interventions tended to be more effective partly because the focus was exclusively on fishing communities.
In-house expertise also increased the capacity of the Fund to collaborate effectively and build partnerships with organizations that have greater technical resources in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
The report emphasizes the need for IFAD to enhance the quality of its interventions in these subsectors through more technical depth, improved analysis of countries' socio-economic context and better integration of environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation measures.
Building partnerships for enhanced development effectiveness – a review of country-level experiences and results
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has conducted an evaluation synthesis on building partnerships for enhanced development effectiveness – a review of country-level experiences and results. The review of country-level experiences and results covered 36 country programme evaluations conducted between 2006 and 2016.
The synthesis on country-level on experiences and results, because this is where partnerships matter most and where they are expected to produce concrete rural poverty reduction results. As the report explains, effective partnerships are built on the principle of complementarity.
The report noted an insufficient focus on results and the absence of a coherent framework to capture comprehensive results from partnerships.
Global and regional partnerships have received a lot of attention at corporate level, but as highlighted by this synthesis, most of these initiatives have been insufficiently linked to country programmes and have produced limited results in terms of innovation and scaling up within countries.
The report also highlights that rural transformation activities will require IFAD to work with a broader range of partners and to adjust its operational model by improving resource mobilization, allocation and utilization from diverse sources.
IFAD’s Country-level Policy Dialogue
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD has just released the evaluation synthesis “IFAD’s Country-level Policy Dialogue”. The synthesis examines IFAD's engagement with partner governments and other country-level stakeholders.
The evaluation synthesis confirms that policy dialogue is an essential dimension of IFAD's mission as it serves two critical purposes: (i) helping to create an enabling environment for project implementation and for achieving project impact; and (ii) contributing to creating the conditions for large numbers of rural people to move out of poverty. From a global perspective, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for the empowerment of vulnerable people by removing the barriers and obstacles they face. This means rooting poverty eradication in the principle of inclusion and the recognition of poor and other excluded groups as agents of their own development.
Looking ahead, the growing number of IFAD country offices offers new opportunities for IFAD to be more involved in country-level policy dialogue processes. This will require that more incentives, resources and information be provided to country-level staff with more explicit links to monitoring policy dialogue activities.
IFAD’s Support to Scaling Up of Results
IFAD defines scaling up as "expanding, adapting and supporting successful policies, programmes and knowledge, so that they can leverage resources and partners to deliver larger results for a greater number of rural poor in a sustainable way”. This synthesis reviews how IFAD’s business model and project cycle match scaling-up aspirations. It provides a review of past evaluations and other IFAD documents, drawing lessons and identifying factors of success and risk in IFAD’s support to scaling up of results.
In the IFAD project cycle, scaling up requires attention at design (the need to keep the project scope focused) and during implementation (the need for better analysis of progress, results, and scalability prospects and constraints). Continued engagement beyond project completion is needed as well, to fine-tune promising interventions and to preserve the quality of their design and implementation from risks associated with pressures for high disbursement and outreach.
As recommended by this synthesis, in order to enhance scaling-up opportunities, it will be important for IFAD to sharpen country strategies as well as the project development and implementation cycle, build stronger consensus among operational staff, and refine the definition of its corporate scaling-up targets and methods for verification.
What works for gender equality and women’s empowerment – a review of practices and results
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has just released the evaluation synthesis report “What works for gender equality and women’s empowerment – a review of practices and results”. The report intends to support learning on what practices work for gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE) and under what conditions in the context of rural development and the agricultural sector. The report identifies transformative GEWE practices that should be further promoted and scaled up under the Agenda 2030.
The evaluation synthesis provides a conceptual framework for gender-transformative practices and changes in IFAD. It presents a systematic review of gender practices and results documented in IOE evaluations since 2010, drawing from a sample of 57 IOE reports. The review identified 121 GEWE practices, classified into four main areas: access to resources and opportunities, reducing time poverty, creating an enabling environment, and enhancing women’s and men’s awareness, consciousness and confidence.
The review identifies practices that have made an effective contribution to transformative change. They addressed root causes of gender inequality and women’s powerlessness, in particular illiteracy, exclusion from access to resources and limited social capital. Participatory approaches and capacity-building had a clear impact on women’s self-esteem, status and recognition, and in a number of cases challenged gender roles and power relations. But the report also highlights that policy engagement on gender is a critical element to support transformative change but has not yet received sufficient attention.
Smallholder Access to Markets: Evaluation Synthesis
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) undertook an evaluation synthesis on smallholder farmers' access to markets. The exercise was based on a desk review, mainly IOE evaluations conducted between 2005 and 2015, complemented by interviews and a review of external literature.
The evaluation synthesis confirms that IFAD's approach and interventions in this area have diversified and improved. IFAD has indeed accumulated experience and institutional knowledge to continue and further enhance its support. Among other factors for effective interventions, the report pointed out the importance of sound and timely market analysis and a market-oriented approach, as well as capacity development of smallholders to interact with markets on better terms. Interventions should be sufficiently flexible to respond to local contexts and specific needs, with attention to risks smallholder farmers might face by altering their economic strategies. Future support deserves more careful reflection on impact pathways from better market access to a common objective of “improved household food security”, and effective and timely monitoring of project performance that takes into consideration changing market contexts.
Environment and Natural Resource Management: Evaluation Synthesis
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD has reviewed the Fund's support of Environment and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) through an examination of 72 evaluations conducted between 2010 and 2015. IFAD has taken a number of steps to strengthen its integration of ENRM issues into its operations - relating to both avoiding harm and doing good: the Environment and Climate Division has been established, the environmental and social safeguards have been upgraded and the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme has been launched. From the analysis of the evaluation reports, it is clear that these measures are responding to evidence from the projects in the Evaluation Synthesis sample. However, the analysis shows that alignment with ENRM policies in IFAD country strategies is mixed during the period covered. A small number of country strategic opportunities programmes show a clear progression to a stronger focus on ENRM; others reveal a shift in the direction to other priority strategic areas, such as value chain investments, without necessarily paying attention to ENRM. Moreover, spending on ENRM, measured by conventional sub-component categories excluding ASAP, has not increased greatly as a proportion of IFAD's overall budget during the period 2005-2015. Although data on ENRM content in loans are incomplete and probably understate the actual amount, they suggest some challenges in integrating environmental stewardship effectively into country programmes.
Non-lending Activities in the Context of South-South Cooperation: Evaluation Synthesis
Support to South-South cooperation (SSC) has been a high priority for IFAD and its Member States since the consultation process of the Eighth Replenishment of IFAD's Resources.
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) conducted a review and analysis of IFAD's support to South-South cooperation between 2009 and 2015. SSC support by IFAD has mainly taken the form of knowledge-sharing, with the more programmatic initiatives often financed through grants.
The majority of these initiatives have supported mutual and horizontal SSC embedded in regional and subregional processes with regional/global grants, and occasionally country grants to support emerging economies in capturing and sharing knowledge. One of IFAD's advantages clearly lies in its focus on reducing poverty by investing in rural people, and its accumulated on-the-ground experience. At the same time, results orientation tends to be weak, with outputs often being the main focus of planning and reporting on activities.
There is also diverse understanding at IFAD and among Member States about what South-South cooperation is and implies for IFAD. There are opportunities for IFAD to support South-South cooperation in a more strategic, innovative and effective manner.