Evaluation of agricultural projects and programs

Like other sectors such as health, education or public security for example, the agricultural sector and the activities carried out in its delivery, has its own characteristics and peculiarities. From its infancy around ten thousand years ago, agriculture has been about people – how they respond to their changing environment in ways that allow them to survive, organize, develop technologies, evolve socially, and prosper. Since its modest beginnings, the agricultural sector has become increasingly complex and multi-faceted. The challenge agriculture faces today is how to feed the world population in an equitable manner while protecting the environment from irreversible negative changes.

In its attempt to address this multidisciplinary challenge, agriculture must span the biological and earth sciences, engineering, the social sciences, and include anthropology and economics. This means that any given agricultural development project may include planning, target group inclusion, research, management, soil enhancement, agronomic practices, field operations, storage, processing, and distribution, as well as policy and regulatory demands, food security, the reduction of hunger, enhanced nutrition, incomes and living standards, the status and role of women, fair access to suitable agricultural land and the food harvested from it, and the protection of that land, water sources, and the broader environment.

Any single agricultural project or program is necessarily part of a highly complex, interrelated system. To deliver utility and value, evaluation in the agricultural sector must take into account contextually sensitive issues. This means that in addition to the adoption of the more generic evaluation approaches of the social sciences (including anthropology and economics), evaluation practice applied to agricultural research and development has also required the adaptation and development of more closely-tailored options and tools to meet its peculiar needs.

Within this complex background, evaluation in the agricultural sector may attempt to:

  • Re-examine, in the light of project developments, the adequacy of the project logic laid out in planning and appraisal documents
  • Determine the adequacy of the project to address and overcome the situational constraints and thereby promote the desired results
  • Determine deficiencies in results - and the reasons for them - by comparing actual achievements with those expected
  • Assess the efficiency and effectiveness of project activities and how these were managed
  • Determine the impacts of the project - both intended and unintended
  • Examine the results of the project by comparing winners and losers
  • Determine production increases and the reasons for these
  • Examine the economic efficiency of the project
  • Present the lessons learned from project implementation and the recommendations that follow from them.

References

Casley D.J. and Kumar, K. (1987) Project Monitoring and Evaluation in Agriculture. World Bank. John Hopkins University Press; Baltimore and London.

Casley D.J. and Kumar, K. (1988) The Collection, Analysis, and Use of Monitoring and Evaluation Data. World Bank.

Horton, D. Et al. (1993) Monitoring and Evaluating Agricultural Research. ISNAR/CAB International, Wallingford, UK.

Horton, D. Et al. (1994) Seguimiento y Evaluación de la Investigación Agropecuaria. ISNAR/CAB International. Tercer Mundo Editores, Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia.

Mackay, R. And Horton, D. (2010) Evaluating Agricultural Systems. Chapter 6, pp 159-204 in Anderson, G. Shaping International Evaluation: A 30-year Journey. UNIVERSALIA: Montreal and Ottawa.

A special thanks to this page's contributors
Author
Dr..
Keene.
Author
Operations & MEAL Manager, Oxfam International.
Oxford, United Kingdom.

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