Friday, November 26, 2010

Challenges of evaluating impact of IITA’s R4D work

There are many challenges IITA’s socio-economists face when monitoring and evaluating the impact of IITA’s research for development (R4D) work according to Arlene Arega, IITA socio-economist, during the IITA planning week at a session on impact evaluation.

He said the time taken to realise all the benefits of an intervention takes a long time with some taking up to 16 years and many donor organizations do not have the patience to wait that long.

He suggested possible strategies the institute can use to meet donor demands and at the same time have quality assessment on the outcome and impact of its innovations on yields and income as extrapolating the future economic outcomes or setting funds aside for future evaluation.

Secondly, he said, program level evaluation gives a truer picture of the outcomes as opposed to project level. “Projects are at different stages on the R4D continuum and their impact cannot be assessed independently. It is very difficult to isolate the effects of one project when the reality is that many projects contribute to an outcome.”

He added that project evaluation was prone to ‘cherry picking’ highlighting only the successes and ignoring failures but when looking at a program assessment, one looked at both successful and failed projects.

He also said the evaluation methodologies become more complex as the products increased ranging from genetic improvement, which is the easiest to evaluate, to capacity building, post harvest and value addition to genebank. The accompanying indicators also get more complex from yield - the easiest- to income, health, food security, and environment.

He identified information and data gap as another challenge where the interventions and results along the impact pathway are not always well documented. This starts with investments, both human and financial to the outputs – the landraces, planting material, germplasm. For example when it comes to new improved varieties, usually many will have escaped long before the official release therefore keeping track of their movement and adoption impact is difficult.

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