Friday, September 28, 2012

Building expertise for handling impact assessments in sub-Saharan Africa

“Impact assessment is now an indispensable component of programs because stakeholders are demanding demonstrable and measurable impacts,” says Dr Aliou Diagne, AfricaRice Program Leader for Policy, Innovation Systems and Impact Assessment. “Donors are increasingly requesting more evidence of net return from their investments.”

Resource scarcity combined with questions relating to the social, economic and environmental impact of publicly funded development projects increase the need for well-documented impact-assessment studies. As a decision-making tool, such studies improve the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of programs and policies.

There is a shortage of expertise for handling impact assessments in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Diagne, the use of trained local experts has several advantages: they are familiar with the local environment and are more likely to take local institutional issues into account; they have a sense of ownership of the data collected and the analysis; and they are in a better position to disseminate the results and provide follow-up advice on their studies.

With the emphasis placed on poverty reduction, impact assessment requires going beyond the usual adoption studies and estimation of internal rates of return to research. Consequently, the emphasis is on providing information on the ex-ante and ex-post impact of the AfricaRice- and national agricultural research systems (NARS)-generated rice technologies on various household, community welfare and environmental outcomes, including poverty, food security, nutrition, health and biodiversity.  

Overall capacity is built through the development of individual and institutional capacity of NARS in the region through training and joint implementation of impact studies. AfricaRice has been organizing impact-assessment methodology courses for the NARS partners regularly since 2002. More than 250 national agricultural research scientists, university researchers, and students from 22 African countries have participated in these annual training workshops.

AfricaRice scientists have also backstopped NARS collaborators in the design and implementation of their impact studies – in particular, questionnaires and programs for statistical analysis were developed for studies in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. The impact assessment unit of AfricaRice and its NARS collaborators have been conducting baseline surveys on the adoption, impact and targeting of NERICA rice varieties in 17 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda.

AfricaRice also continues to host NARS scientists from project countries for 2- to 3-week training programs. The trained scientists have successfully applied their new knowledge to their own country data.