As expected, the first set of impact evaluation reports released Oct. 23 by the Millennium Challenge Corp. presents mixed results on the impact the agency’s programs have had on farm and household incomes in five countries.
The impact evaluations analyzed MCC-backed farmer training activities in Armenia, El Salvador, Ghana, Honduras and Nicaragua. In each country, independent evaluators used statistical methods to determine whether the activities resulted in increased farm and household incomes for participating farmers.
The evaluation did not detect increases in the household incomes of farmers who participated in the training activities in any of the five countries. Results, meanwhile, were more encouraging in terms of impact on farm incomes.
Dairy farmers in El Salvador, for instance, doubled their farm incomes. Farm incomes of participants from northern Ghana also increased. Participants of training activities in Nicaragua, meanwhile, saw their farm incomes grow by 15 to 30 percent.
The evaluations, however, did not find any increases in Armenia and southern and central Ghana. In Honduras, as well as for the training program for horticulture farmers in El Salvador, independent evaluators were not able to effectively measure the activities’ impact on farm incomes.
The programs covered by these evaluations represent less than 13 percent of the budget for the five compacts and only 2 percent of MCC’s global portfolio.
The results do provide a number of lessons MCC said it will apply to ongoing and future activities and programs. For instance, MCC said the evaluations suggest some of the traditional methods used to boost incomes — such as starter kits — may not be working as expected. Based on this, MCC said it will re-assess training curriculum and approach in its compacts with Burkina Faso and Moldova, as well as find ways to identify conditions where starter kits are most effective.
Further, MCC is looking to improve the flexibility of the sequencing of activities under a particular program to make sure each component is properly and effectively carried out. MCC said it is also revising the timing of evaluation surveys in several compacts to provide adequate time to observe and analyze changes.
Further, MCC identified lessons learned in conducting evaluation surveys and reports, including the need to create incentives to ensure implementers and evaluators coordinate closely and to design future impact evaluation for learning and not just accountability. MCC also emphasized the importance of selecting the right methodology in future evaluations.
Members of the international development community largely welcomed the publication of the impact evaluation, which, as MCC itself noted, is rarely used for development projects.
The co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, among others, said the evaluations are an important step toward improving the transparency and effectiveness of U.S. development agencies and a confirmation of MCC’s commitment to transparency. It’s a sentiment echoed by heads of ONE, the Center for Global Development, Oxfam America and Interaction. Ritu Sharma, president of Women Thrive Worldwide, also lauded MCC for “walking the walk” on transparency.
Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.