Coastal Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Project
This learning note provides details on IOE’s experience in conducting evaluations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Project Performance Evaluation (PPE) of the Coastal Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Project in Bangladesh began in February 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. In light of the travel bans and social distancing requirements introduced to fight the pandemic, IOE decided to change its approach in conducting the PPE to perform its first fully remote evaluation. Various adaptations were made to address the associated methodological, practical and ethical concerns; among these adaptations were the leveraging of national consultants and of the opportunities provided by modern technologies, especially GIS and satellite images.
The remote evaluation yielded a number of lessons that can be useful for evaluation during the pandemic and beyond. Traditional evaluation approaches with an in-person field mission remain the first-best option to evaluate rural development projects, in terms of methodological rigour. Depending on the secondary evidence available, traditional approaches may not be more costly than remote modalities. Notwithstanding this, a remote approach was the only way for this evaluation to be conducted, and the team was able to obtain a comprehensive and relatively nuanced set of findings. Wholly remote evaluations can be successful if a significant set of project data and other secondary information is available.
The project performance evaluation report will be published in due course.
Ardahan-Kars-Artvin Development Project
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Ardahan-Kars-Artvin Development Project (AKADP), in Turkey.
The project was implemented between 2010 and 2017 as a response to some of the country’s key rural agricultural development priorities, particularly the need to shift local practices from subsistence agriculture to more market-oriented ones. Targeting almost 60,000 households, AKADP sought to increase the incomes of poor smallholders and of small rural entrepreneurs and to improve rural infrastructure.
The evaluation found that the rural infrastructure improvements, particularly those related to rangeland roads, contributed to promoting the well-being and market access of smallholder farmers. Also, the modernization of livestock markets resulted in a noticeable increase in trade volume and contributed to the Government’s efforts to improve regulation of the livestock trade.
However, the project was less successful in addressing gender inequalities, partly because of the absence of a gender strategy and the lack of capacity to engage with women to identify and implement activities that responded to their needs and promoted their empowerment.
Moving forward, the evaluation recommends that IFAD should clarify guidance on the targeting approach and gender strategy, engaging in policy dialogue to ensure that laws and regulations do not pose barriers to women accessing public finances to farming activities.
Hunan Agricultural and Rural Infrastructure Improvement Project
The Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Hunan Agricultural and Rural Infrastructure Improvement Project (HARIIP) implemented in the People’s Republic of China from 2012 to 2017.
The evaluation found that the project contributed to rural development and poverty reduction for the 182,000 households in the remote areas targeted. This was achieved mainly through adoption of a strategy combining development of rural infrastructure, pursuit of diversified market-oriented agriculture and building villagers’ capacities in agriculture and infrastructure operations and maintenance.
However, the project’s results in terms of reaching the rural poor and the women among them were less successful, partly due to the absence of a tailored approach. Any benefit derived by lower-income families tended to be the form of low-paid, unskilled work; as this is less likely to foster economic and self-development capacities, questions arise as to the sustainability of the project’s impact on income generation for the poor.
Moving forward, the evaluation recommends continuing support to diversified agricultural production through the IFAD-supported follow-up project, developing tools to increase households’ access to project activities, redefining the approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and orienting innovations towards project implementation processes.
Tejaswini Women’s Empowerment Programme
The Independent Evaluation Office of IFAD (IOE) has prepared a project performance evaluation (PPE) report on the Tejaswini Rural Women’s Empowerment Programme. The project was implemented in India, in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, between 2007 and 2018.
The evaluation found that the project demonstrated a promising model for women’s empowerment. The development of successful self-financing SHG apex organizations provided valued economic and social services to the target populations, while the effective system to manage the performance of SHGs facilitated access to further sources of financial support.
The evaluation noted some areas for improvement. For example, value chain activities were incorporated at a late stage and were mostly supply-driven: this limited the improvement in household income that the project could bring about. In addition, sustainable and climate-resilient practices could have been integrated further into project activities.
Moving forward, the evaluation makes a number of recommendations, including continued application of the SHG models developed, adopting a market-aware approach to economic empowerment that is responsive to the needs of different groups of women and including an explicit focus on climate change resilience and sustainable natural resource management.
Agriculture Services Support Project
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Agriculture Services Support Project (ASSP) in Botswana.
The project was implemented between 2012 and 2018 to help the target groups adapt to potential cuts to government agricultural subsidies. Targeting about 20,000 smallholder farmers in rural areas throughout the country, ASSP sought to (1) promote conservation agriculture practices; (2) pilot a wastewater irrigation scheme; and (3) build agricultural service centres (ASCs) for promoting market-driven extension services.
Thanks to the wastewater irrigation scheme, horticultural production no longer depended on the country’s erratic rainfall; however, the operation was costly and was undertaken on a pilot scale. Conservation agriculture was not taken up among target groups due to a lack of adequate equipment for the timely preparation of farms. The evaluation found that only two of the ASCs had been completed, against a target of 15 at design, and only one of the ASCs demonstrated delivery of market-led extension services.
Going forward, the evaluation recommends that IFAD focus on engaging in a technical support role, in line with the policy priorities and capacities established by the Government of Botswana.
Small Irrigation Development Project – Phase II
The Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Small Irrigation Development Project - phase II in the Republic of Haiti, implemented from 2008 to 2016. The aim of the project was to increase the incomes and improve the living conditions of poor and vulnerable rural households by targeting landless smallholders and farmers (especially women and young people) working on small plots of irrigable land.
The evaluation found that the project contributed to better organization and empowerment of the target groups, and to building their capacity to maintain the irrigation infrastructure. The project also helped build the capacities of decentralized bodies providing technical support to producers, and introduced drip irrigation technology in the country.
However, the project’s achievements in terms of income generation and watershed management were limited. Due to Haiti’s exposure to natural disasters, key recommendations are related to implementation of an integrated watershed management approach, coupled with the protection of natural resources, as well to promotion of a value chain approach in interventions.
Rural Livelihoods Economic Enhancement Programme
The Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Rural Livelihoods and Economic Empowerment Programme (RLEEP) in the Republic of Malawi. The programme took place from 2009 until 2018, with a total project cost of US$26.1 million. Of this sum, IFAD contributed US$8.9 million as loan and US$6 million as grant.
The PPE concludes that the programme took an innovative approach, which was largely effective. The programme increased overall productivity and provided a good foundation for pro-poor value chain development by establishing useful partnerships and initiatives that facilitated farmers’ access to markets. The grant facility was an appropriate mechanism for collaboration with NGOs, which greatly enhanced outreach and group formation activities. Some farmer groups managed to grow into cooperatives and strengthen market linkages.
However, the targets of the programme proved to be overly ambitious and would have required stronger technical capacities to be achieved. The programme implemented a large number of activities in parallel and there was little time for adjustments when challenges arose. Participation of the private sector was still insufficient. Lastly, the programme did not have sufficient time to address the structural issues undermining value chain development.
IFAD is preparing for the second phase of the programme in Malawi, called Transforming Agriculture through Diversification and Entrepreneurship (TRADE). The report offers several recommendations for this follow-up programme, including: greater participation by government partners, enhanced partnerships and complementarities among development partners, promotion of innovative approaches to service provision, and greater attention to farmers’ empowerment in the development of value chains.
Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Support Project
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Support project (STCRSP) in the Republic of Liberia, the first evaluation it has conducted in the country.
The project was implemented between 2011 and 2017 with the objective to reduce post-conflict poverty and food insecurity, and to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of rural communities. The target population of 15,000 smallholder cocoa/coffee farmers was extremely poor, with very low levels of literacy, and their contact with the wider economy and society was limited by lack of roads and services.
The project successfully rehabilitated 85 per cent of the targeted 15,000 hectares of cocoa and coffee farms, which enabled cocoa farmers to increase production and improve quality, and to obtain a higher price for their produce. The project has also been able to rehabilitate 133.1 km of roads and increase famers’ access to markets. STCRSP thus successfully contributed to improved livelihoods and enabled farmers to make the transition from survival mode to recovered livelihoods. In addition, the project was effective in reinforcing the extension services offered by public and private providers, and in strengthening farmers’ organizations.
However, the evaluation also concluded that the project design could have better supported food security, as there was no significant difference in food security indicators between STCRSP beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries.
The report recommends that future IFAD value chain development projects focus on addressing constraints upstream and pay increased attention to nodes downstream of the value chain, for instance, focusing on interventions that support farmers and their organizations to add value to their produce, and that promote an equitable share of benefits.
Rehabilitation and Community-based Poverty Reduction Project
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has prepared a project performance evaluation (PPE) of the Rehabilitation and Community-based Poverty Reduction Project (RCPRP) in the Republic of Sierra Leone, implemented in the country from 2006 to 2017.
The project was to be an integrated response to rehabilitating and sustaining essential services in the country, and restoring basic production capacity to pre-conflict levels by providing support to the short-term recovery of rural communities and their farming systems, while laying the basis for long-term rehabilitation and participatory development.
The report highlights that the project achieved its objectives related to increasing production of rice and cocoa – the main commodities at the basis of agriculture and rural development in Sierra Leone – and met its targets in terms of rehabilitating roads.
However, the project was less successful, for example, in creating effective links between primary producers and the market. Also, the effectiveness of the project’s climate- and environment-related interventions was mixed.
As a result, the evaluation noted, among its recommendations, the need to promote effective and efficient market participation by smallholder farmers, and to strengthen institutional expertise and the financial capacity of marketing organizations. In addition, where adaptation to climate change is specifically pursued, it should be treated as an intrinsic part of project design, not merely an accessory.
Western Uplands Poverty Alleviation Project
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD has prepared a performance evaluation report on the Western Uplands Poverty Alleviation Project (WUPAP), implemented in Nepal between 2003 and 2016.
The project was designed to strengthen the capacity of 115,000 households to mobilize their own resources, gain access to external resource and “live their lives in dignity”.
The report highlights that one of the main achievements of the project was the implementation of effective targeting approaches appropriate to various contexts. Through the community investment plan, virtually all IFAD investments reached the poorest beneficiaries and were spent according to their choice and needs.
The performance was, however, weakened by the fact that the original integrated rural development project design was too complex for the fragile political context and remote districts. Poor road networks and infrastructures further hampered WUPAP’s achievements.
As a result, the evaluation highlighted, among other recommendations, the need for Government stakeholders at all levels to provide strong and continued engagement in IFAD projects in the mid-and uplands.