RE: Youth in agriculture: what lessons can we draw from evaluations? | Eval Forward

Dear Ines,

Many thanks foryour comments, and my apologies for my delayed reply.

Perhaps, I might mention that I am very reluctant to use the term 'theory' on what is obviously an approach used to achieve some concrete result, which in this case is to get youth to engage in agricultural pursuits to a greater extent than now. I prefer to use 'theory' to describe in generic terms fundamentals that govern gnomic phenomena, i.e., interactions among non-thinking entities like planets, atoms, molecules, etc.

Having said that, I think the approach we are interested in makes one crucial distinction, viz., the difference between the 'desired result' and the 'actual result'. In a previous discussion on this forum, a contributor mentioned a very expensive modern highway built in a developing country. The desired result included its regular use by the locals to transport goods, which in turn would improve the 'local economy'. But the actual result was that it was a success as far as the road itself went, but was hardly used by the poor target group who did not has sufficient access to the required wheeled transport, nor yet enough local produce to send away!

This is where the pre-evaluation of any endeavour should come in, i.e., a project, programme, etc. And it should be holistic. Had it been done in the case of that road, first thing that would have come to mind is the annual surplus to be transported, the need for it, availability of appropriate transport vehicles, etc. If those did not obtain in certain minimal amounts, the road project would have been either reduced to a more realistic level or scrapped altogether.

As you will notice, this approach entails that there are so many variables one has to take into account for a meaningful pre-evaluation. Hence, it is logically impossible  to draw universally applicable evaluation guidelines that are pragmatically justifiable. After all, what we want is a pragmatic result that benefits a target group, and not an academic activity. In the present case, the acid test is, has the project or the programme  resulted in a significant increase in the numbers of young people taking up agricultural pursuits in a given area, and will they continue to do so? If the answer to these questions is a no, the endeavour has been a failure. We shall always have to keep this in mind.

I'm not familiar with the situation in India, and you point out that most young people in developing countries lack appropriate skills in agriculture.

I am not at all certain that cultivation of Himalayan foot hills would be such a good idea in the long term, for the geology of the sub-continent makes it totally dependent on monsoon rain as its principal source of water.

Snow and ice on the mountain ranges in the area from Hindookush range via the Himalayas and to the Chinese ranges depend on the monsoon moisture.

Unless sufficient water goes into the soil through seasonal rainfall and snow and ice melts, rivers in the area would dry up and this would lead to a catastophe. I am told that the major rivers in the area from Kablll river eastwards have shrunk considerably during the past century. Thus, deforestation of the Himalayan foot hills would retard soil uptake of monsoon rains even though the 'organic farming' would enable some people to earn large profits for a short time. According to the Imperial Gazeteer of India the soil in that area is not particularly fertile. Incidentally, no geological and climatological project of greater comprehensiveness and complexity other than that undertaken by the British in India has been carried out anywhere else in the world. I know it is not fashionable to say this, but it remains a fact. (Ref. Determination of the geode of the Indian sub-continent in order to ascertain the height of Mt. Everest.)

Best wishes!