Countries join initiative to improve their prospects for agricultural development
- Evaluations will compare outcomes associated with a program against those that would have occurred in program's absence
- AADAPT to bridge knowledge gaps in adoption of agricultural technology, irrigation and rural infrastructure, management of natural resources
Delegations from eight developing African countries arrived in Addis Ababa this spring with a common goal -they wanted better results for their investments in agriculture.
They left with a plan to measure the effectiveness of programs with the help of a new initiative that aims to find out what works on the ground, and what doesn't.
Agricultural Adaptations, or "AADAPT," supports rigorous assessments of agricultural development projects known as "impact evaluations." The program's major goals are to gather knowledge about agricultural best practices and to provide the evidence needed for more effective agricultural policies and programs.
The initiative has the potential to "radically shift the path of agricultural development," and improve the lives of millions of small farmers and others in rural areas who depend on agriculture for their incomes and very survival, says Arianna Legovini, head of Development Impact Evaluation at the World Bank.
"Doing this as part of our agricultural program is critically important today," says Legovini. "Countries were very vulnerable to the food crisis and vulnerability might increase with changes in climate. There is a new urgency to invest in knowledge for agricultural growth and food security."
The recent G8 meeting in Italy reiterated the importance of food security and expressed concern about the impact of financial crisis and high food prices in developing countries, as well as the longstanding underinvestment in agriculture.
11 Countries Join AADAPT
The AADAPT initiative-a collaboration of developing countries, the World Bank, and several partners-is part of the World Bank's renewed effort to place agriculture at the center of the development agenda, as recommended by World Development Report 2008.
Many countries suffered food shortages as well as high prices at the height of the food crisis last year, and many remain vulnerable. About 75 percent of the world's poor depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods. Between 2000 and 2025, the number of Africans living in water-scarce environments is expected to increase from 300 million to 600 million.
Facing some of these challenges, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, and Tanzania attended AADAPT's inaugural workshop in Addis Ababa in April. Brazil, India, and Peru have also joined the new initiative so far.
"We've been spending a lot of money on our programs and we are not sure whether our interventions have been effective and whether what we are doing is right or not," explains Tigist Redda, a workshop participant from Ethiopia.
Program Promotes Evidence-Based Policies
Under AADAPT, teams of experts will work hand-in-hand with government ministries and World Bank project teams to measure impact using data collection, surveys and control groups as necessary to obtain actual results, says Stephen Mink, World Bank lead economist working on Africa agriculture.
While World Bank projects commonly include monitoring and evaluation, AADAPT, with initial funding of about $1.2 million, provides extra resources, both financial and technical, to obtain a "deeper causality of what's working and what's not," says Mink.
The program's country-driven and high-quality impact evaluations compare the outcomes associated with a program against the outcomes that would have occurred had the program not been in place, says Legovini.
AADAPT to Bridge Knowledge Gaps
AADAPT particularly tries to bridge knowledge gaps on how to:
- Increase the adoption of agricultural technology
- Secure high returns on investment in irrigation and other rural infrastructure
- Reduce the vulnerability of rural populations
- Manage natural resources sustainably
Workshop facilitators helped each country delegation design a work plan to test agricultural policies and evaluate their impact.
The AADAPT workshop also created a community of practice, for countries to share evidence and experiences and to have ongoing discussions about what works.
"It's not just to find out whether the programs work," says Legovini, "but knowing what works within the programs, that will make the programs more effective in the long run."
AADAPT Seeks the Right Incentives
For example, a small fertilizer subsidy was seen in one case as being more effective if provided shortly after a harvest, when farmers have more money to purchase fertilizer, than a bigger subsidy provided later on, when farmers have less money.
Patrick Verissimo, a senior agriculture economist in Mozambique for the World Bank, says AADAPT will help evaluate whether establishing savings groups and promoting the adoption of new technologies will boost the incomes of small-scale farmers and female-headed households.
AADAPT is also helping to define what will be measured during an upcoming irrigation project, such as the extent to which improved water management leads to increased productivity on farms, he says.
"AADAPT is helping us build impact evaluation into the design of our project so that we don't just measure results at the end but learn as we go," says Verissimo.
Goal is to Provide 'Best Advice We Can'
For large rural infrastructure, countries need to find ways to secure high returns on investment by rapidly transforming agricultural production systems and ensuring the financial sustainability of operations and maintenance.
Knowing how to make it all work is a "fundamental ingredient in ensuring public sectors have an interest and incentive to invest in costly infrastructure to lower vulnerability and increase growth in their countries," says Legovini.
"The idea is to provide the best advice we can, in terms of content and quality of data that gets collected in each country, and also to have a way of comparing results across countries, by measuring them in the same way."
Similar programs are currently being implemented in education, malaria, HIV, and local government by the World Bank's Development Impact Evaluation Initiative and its partners.
The World Bank's partners in AADAPT are the International Food Policy Research Institute and several universities including Oxford, California at Berkeley, Maryland, Padova, and Yale, with support from the World Bank's Gender Action Plan and the Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development. The Gates Foundation supports the program through the Living Standards Measurement Survey for agriculture.