IFAD-funded initiative in India shows positive impact on target populations, but found to be overly complex in programme design

12 Juni 2015

New Delhi, 11 June 2015 - A development programme funded by the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in neighboring Indian states Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand has had an overall positive impact on 490,000 poor rural people by increasing incomes, improving agricultural production, mobilizing communities and developing micro-finance groups, according to an evaluation report presented today. Areas in need of improvement were also identified, including simplifying project design in the future.

The impact evaluation conducted by IFAD's Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) in 2014, was presented at a learning event in New Delhi. Attendees included government representatives, project staff, development partners, delegates from research institutions and IFAD staff.

The Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh Tribal Development Programme (JCTDP), initiated in 2001 and concluded in 2012, targeted several districts in the two states where tribal communities, scheduled castes and vulnerable groups live below the $1.25/day poverty line. The programme's objectives were to empower tribal grass-roots associations and enhance livelihoods through developing income-generating activities, increasing agricultural productivity and maximizing existing land and water resources.

The outcome of the independent evaluation indicates how appropriate and timely IFAD's decision to finance the programme was, taking into account the high proportion of tribal people living in the two states.

"The programme indeed met some of its objectives, in particular in terms of women's empowerment and increase in incomes, but its design – covering two states and several sub-sector activities – was too complex, hindering the expected impact on linking producers to local markets and food security," said Ashwani Muthoo, IOE Deputy Director. "The programme's objectives were relevant, but its design was overly ambitious in projecting institutional capacity at the state level."

The evaluation highlights interesting innovations both at the institutional and field level, for instance the establishment of two dedicated tribal development societies, an autonomous body linked to relevant government departments in both states which was entrusted with responsibilities for programme management. It was noted, however, that increased effort by IFAD to scale up such innovations could have improved impact.

"Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have the highest proportion of tribal people in India, who are also among the poorest people in the country. These states are also affected by conflict, often making it difficult to work in the interior areas. To tackle this challenge, the programme adopted an innovative people-centric approach, whereby community-level institutions took a central role in both planning and implementing natural resource management and livelihood improvement activities. This ensured very strong local ownership of the programme," said Nigel Brett, IFAD's country programme manager for India and lead portfolio advisor for the region.

With no usable baseline data available, the evaluation conducted an impact survey using a "with or without" instead of a "before and after" approach - to collect primary data and evaluate the impact of the operation on communities targeted by the programme and those that were not. The impact survey covered nearly 9,000 households, and was complemented by a number of data collection techniques to put together qualitative data, such as focus group discussions, key informant interviews and site observations.

One of the main recommendations that can be applied to future projects in the country and to IFAD's programme design process in general, is to recognize and act on the need to adjust programmes in accordance with a changing context. Another recommendation is to design interventions with sustainability in mind - for instance by formulating a clear exit strategy. Moreover, the evaluation team highlighted the need to improve monitoring and evaluation activities and the importance of designing explicit theories of change at the outset of the intervention.

The impact evaluation report will be one of the inputs to the independent country programme evaluation, which was also discussed today at an inception workshop held back-to-back with the learning event. This will evaluate the performance of IFAD-funded projects in India during the period 2010 – 2015, the performance of non-lending activities (knowledge management, policy dialogue and partnership-building) and the cooperation strategy between the Government and IFAD.

Note to editors:
Ashwani Muthoo, Deputy Director, IOE, will be available for interviews in person or by phone.

Press release No.: IFAD/45/2015

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided nearly US$16.6 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 445 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN's food and agriculture hub.

The Independent Office of Evaluation (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.

Impact evaluation of the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh Tribal Development Programme (Issue #106 - 2015)
Republic of India Country Programme Evaluation

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