Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Measuring impacts: looking at livelihoods

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results” Milton Friedman.

publication cover, IAS 78 http://aciar.gov.au/publication/IAS078
When attempting to evaluate whether ACIAR policies or programs 'achieve results' we're looking at more than whether the innovation has made an impact on a smallholder farmer's income.

The latest publication in our Impact Assessment Series has introduced a livelihoods-oriented methodology that can be used to assess the multidimensional poverty-reducing impacts of investments. The report outlines a mixed-method approach using a suite of quantitative and qualitative tools.

ACIAR CEO, Dr Nick Austin, introduces the report: A methodology for assessing the poverty-reducing impacts of Australia's international research.

Foreword: A methodology for assessing the poverty-reducing impacts of Australia's international research.

Around the globe, new quantitative, qualitative and mixed-method research approaches are emerging that can better highlight the contribution of agricultural research to poverty reduction. Recent support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is also helping to develop innovations for the more effective analysis of issues such as multidimensional poverty, food security, gender equality and environmental sustainability.

There is now a considerable body of evidence to support the assertion that improving agricultural productivity can reduce extreme poverty among rural populations in the developing world. This was evident in a recent report commissioned by ACIAR into the role of agriculture in poverty reduction (ACIAR Impact Assessment Series Report No. 76; Grewal et al. 2012). However, while that study highlighted poverty experiences in five long-term research partner countries of ACIAR—China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam—it did not investigate a direct link between ACIAR research and household-level changes in poverty.

To help guide investment in detailed poverty analysis, this report examines some recent advances in methods for assessing the impact of agricultural research on the wellbeing of the poor. Using the livelihoods approach as a starting point, the authors have proposed a methodological process suitable for assessing the poverty-reducing impact of ACIAR research of any scale or scope. The methodology emphasises the importance of focusing on the tractable impacts of agricultural research on target groups; of understanding the vulnerability context and the rate, pattern and determinants of technology adoption by poor farmers; and of determining the impact of research on the wellbeing of socially differentiated groups. Elements of the process will guide ACIAR in decisions about which research projects to target for impact assessment.

In addition, the authors have laid out an integrated mixed-method approach to impact assessment, and have also introduced a number of qualitative and quantitative data collection and research methods. This work will provide ACIAR with new tools to guide procedures for assessing the impact of its research.

Nick Austin, Chief Executive Officer

Alexandra Bagnara, ACIAR Science Communicator

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