Three years ago, the Government of Peru embarked on a school feeding impact evaluation of its Qali Warma programme. This journey presents a good practice example of how national evaluation capacity can be built through technical advice to a country-led evaluation.
Peru’s flagship social protection programme, Qali Warma, which means ‘vigorous child’ from the indigenous languages Quechua, provides nutritious food to more than 4-million children each year.
Building on a need for better evidence, the M&E unit of Peru’s Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion led an impact evaluation of the programme to assess the extent to which the programme improved the cognitive processes, nutritional status, calorie intake, and school attendance of primary school students.
UNDP commissioned the evaluation to Pacific University in 2018/2019, while WFP provided technical advice, playing the role of an enabler, knowledge broker and facilitator of joint work between an international pool of experts and the Peruvian Government. This included collaboration across three layers within WFP: the Peru Country Office, the Regional Bureau Panama, and the Office of Evaluation.
Strengthened capacity and new evidence for school feeding in Latin America
According to feedback received from the M&E unit in the Ministry, the evaluation contributed to new evidence that increased the understanding about school feeding programmes in Latin American contexts. The results of the study are also feeding into a redesign of the Qali Warma Programme.
Enrique Velásquez, the director of monitoring and evaluation at the ministry (MIDIS) says country-led evaluations in Peru are relevant in the design and implementation of public policies: “Evaluations of programmes and projects led by the Peru government, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, have been used to close the knowledge gaps and generate evidence about the best effective and scalable interventions and its impact. Additionally, they contribute to better efficiency, better use of the resources available, increase fund allocation and strengthen the efforts of the government to reach country development targets in the framework of the SDGs.”
According to Mr Velásquez, the process strengthened their staff’s evaluation management capacity by working together with international experts who contributed expertise from other evaluations and contexts. “Impact evaluation must guarantee impartiality and objectivity. The support and technical assistance of international agencies like WFP in nutrition has been a key element to achieve a high-quality impact evaluation on national school feeding in Peru”.
The success of the evaluation resulted in a stronger partnership between WFP and the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion that could be replicated in other contexts and by other international agencies, permitted that the below lessons are considered.
1. Government leadership – the golden rule
Firstly, the evaluation should be truly country-led in the sense that it is part of government policy and the government itself is the main driving force behind the evaluation as well as its main user. If a government has full ownership over the process, it increases the influence of evaluation evidence on policy-making.
2. Time is of the essence
The case of Qali Warma has demonstrated that timing is crucial for engaging in a country-led evaluation. Agencies that provide technical advice must be involved very early on in the process when the evaluation is in its planning stage and its scope, approach and methodology are still being defined.
This is even more relevant in the case of an impact evaluation, which requires planning ideally at the time when the intervention is being designed to allow for an experimental or at least quasi-experimental design.
3. Role clarification ironed out
An effective evaluation requires that all stakeholders fully understand their respective roles in the process.
WFP’s experience in Peru has demonstrated the importance of clearly specifying the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders in the Terms of Reference for the evaluation. This can help ensure continuity throughout the entire process even if government representatives change over time.
4. Sharing the ingredients to bake the cake
To be of good quality, an evaluation requires an appropriate budget. If resources are insufficient, the initiative is likely to fail.
Consider the resources required to complete an evaluation, by using the analogy of baking a cake. All stakeholders should contribute some ingredients to the baking process – whether this is skills, local context and understanding, or financial resources.
Ideally, the government should make a contribution to the evaluation budget to guarantee the necessary ownership.
5. A focus on local evaluation expertise & knowledge
When providing advice to a country-led evaluation, agencies must have relevant technical expertise at Country Office level. This then has to be further backed up by the Regional Bureau and headquarters. At the same time, the government on its part should have sufficient capacity to commission the evaluation and to implement the recommendations.