Washington DC, 7 March 2024 – An evidence-based body of win-win solutions is needed, along with adequate donor investments in piloting such solutions, to convince governments of the viability and need to pursue the sustainable food security that results from agricultural interventions that strengthen  climate, environmental and economic resilience together”, explained Dr Indran A. Naidoo, Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) during the 4th International Conference on Evaluating Environment and Development, organized by the Independent Evaluation Office of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) from the 5th to the 7th of March 2024.

Held in Washington DC, the conference focused on how evaluation practice has increasingly integrated the cross-pollination of environmental, socioeconomic, and policy domains. Leading practitioners and thinkers on environmental evaluation, as well as young and emerging evaluators, came together to share concrete experiences with environmental interventions and evaluations, and to inform future evaluation practice. Panellists brought  a wealth of knowledge on active efforts to develop evaluation approaches and methods that better reflect the varied and complex relationships of the natural world and the larger systems in which evaluands are measured.

We, evaluators, have not challenged the global development indicators. Our measurement bias keeps us outside reality, at times, not allowing us to see that many development issues are historically and politically caused. When we plug environment into gross domestic products, the rating of countries changes. This points to where the weaknesses are”, Dr Naidoo affirmed.

On the first day of the event, the IOE Director moderated a panel discussion on Evaluations for Sustainable Food Security that provided a better understanding of the conditions needed in development efforts and evaluations to facilitate sustainable food security in the context of accelerating climate change. The panel included Dr S. Nanthikesan, IOE Lead Evaluation Officer, who conceptualized the session, and was accompanied by Michael Quinn Patton, Founder and Director of Utilization-Focused Evaluation; Katherine Dawes, Evaluation Officer of the US Environmental Protection Agency; Jane Davidson, Founder and Principal Consultant at Real Evaluation; and Andy Rowe, Founding Member of Footprint Evaluation.

Accelerating climate change poses a serious threat to the sustainability of food security. At the same time, food production in the form of agricultural activities could also harm the ecosystem, and further accelerate the climate change effects. Thus, global actors need to collectively emphasize the urgency and need to understand, assess, and address the consequences to the ecosystem from human efforts to ensure food security for all.

To have sustainable food security in the era of accelerating climate change, we need more than do-no-harm solutions. We need transformative solutions - solutions that promote climate, environmental and development resilience together are key. Evaluations can provide the necessary evidence. To do so, they need to be able to assess how development efforts impact ecosystem–environmental quality, biodiversity, natural resources replenishment, to name a few. Stronger multi-agency international collaboration  is needed to provide the requisite initial investments, build necessary capacities and partnerships to advocate and strengthen climate friendly policies, and generate a user-friendly database of solutions”, Dr Nanthikesan explained.

Building on this premise, the panel discussions addressed first, the methods to assess the sustainability of food security in the context of a rapidly changing climate; second, the steps to scale-up and refine these methods; third, how operational managers are taking up this approach; and fourth,  how policy makers are taking up this approach at a national, regional and global level.

In this context, Dr Nanthikesan presented the pioneering method developed in the thematic evaluation of IFAD’s support to smallholder farmers’ adaptation to climate change to capture the environmental consequences of IFAD’s agricultural solutions to promote climate adaptation. The evaluation found that successful projects pursued integrated approaches with nature-based solutions, while failing to ‘do no harm’ is likely to lead to low sustainability of benefits of IFAD interventions.  The event furthered this contribution to elaborate a methodology that, for the first time, helps evaluations address environmental and social-equity impact of development interventions together.

On the second day of the conference, Dr Naidoo acted as a panellist in the session titled ‘Evaluating Sustainability in Environment Funds’. In his remarks, the IOE Director stressed the critical importance of systematically integrating environmental and social impacts into evaluative practice, which is something that IFAD has done since 2010.

Michael Quinn Patton spoke about interconnectivity over a decade ago, to no avail. Today, the post-COVID-19 reality and the climate have forced us to wake up and take note. Unfortunately, the horses have bolted in many cases. Being systemic and looking at big picture calls for a fundamental change to how we view ourselves as evaluators. It calls for advocacy, pushing the boundaries, rethinking and reconceptualizing. It calls for changing the way we think about values”, underscored the IOE Director.

On the final day of the event, Dr Naidoo delivered closing thoughts alongside Sabine Bernabè, Director General at the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group; Juha Ilari Uitto, Director of the GEF Independent Evaluation Office; Emmanuel Jimenez, Director General at the Independent Evaluation Department of the Asian Development Bank; and Rob D. van den Berg, Professor at King’s College, London. The session reflected on where we stand in mainstreaming environmental and ecosystem considerations in key development evaluations.

Evaluating the environment is very much a political question that has profound social ramifications. While at the country level results are more nuanced and differentiated, we can see that the global South is at the receiving end of excesses that were caused elsewhere, which it has little or no power to change. For this reason, the deeper question is if we have efficient feedback loops towards decision-makers in order to affect change. At IFAD, efforts to mainstream environmental aspects have ensured that these are on the agenda. We have a methodology which privileges the marginalised”, concluded the IOE Director.

Overall, the GEF conference themes addressed the urgency of tackling the environmental consequences of development, and focused on evaluation systems, evaluation practice, measuring sustainability, and thematic evaluations that looked at food production that is climate adaptative and provides mitigation while promoting social and economic equity  as the foundation of  food security. Conference outcomes will be disseminated through webinars and blogs via the Earth-Eval Community of Practice and a book will be published from key contributions to the Conference.


For further information, please contact Alexander Voccia [here]



  • To access the presentation delivered by Dr Naidoo, please click here.
  • For the video presentation of the conference by Dr Naidoo, please click here.
  • For more information about the session on food security, please click here.
  • For more information about the session on evaluating sustainability in environment funds, please click here.
  • For more information about the closing session, please click here.
  • To access the Earth-Eval Community of Practice, please click here.



  • To access the brochure ‘More than a journey | 20 years of independence, please click here.
  • To access Fabrizio Felloni’s interview on the evolution of independence of IOE, please click here.
  • To learn why independent evaluation makes IFAD a more credible institution, please click here.




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