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International Aid Projects Come Under the Microscope (Nature)

January 23, 2013
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Senior Fellow Bill Savedoff is quoted in an article in Nature on aid effectiveness.

From the article:

Not long ago, ‘research’ was a dirty word in international-development circles. The prevailing view was that the time and money available should be spent implementing aid projects rather than analysing their effects in detail. For most projects, assessment was limited to tracking how much they spent and whether they reached their end points.

That is now beginning to change. In recent months, studies have rigorously assessed aid projects such as farmer-training efforts and intestinal-worm-treatment programmes. These studies reflect a more analytical mindset that has emerged in the development community over the past decade, spurred by the need to assure weary donors that their investments are paying off.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US foreign-aid agency, has taken the lead in self assessment, committing to using scientific methods to analyse the success of 40% of its projects. Its first assessments — of farmer-training activities in five countries including Armenia, El Salvador and Ghana — delivered a mixed verdict.

Published in October 2012, the evaluations showed that in three of the countries, efforts to train farmers in business and agricultural skills helped them to sell more produce, boosting farm incomes. But, contrary to the assumption that greater agricultural production reduces poverty, there was no evidence that the extra cash flowed to the farmers’ households — an effect that the MCC cannot readily explain. “We are pushing back the boundaries of ignorance by doing these studies,” says William Savedoff, an economic and social-development researcher at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, who was not involved in the evaluation. “They are forcing us to grapple with what we do and don’t know about the links between agricultural extension and poverty.”

Read it here.

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