I am an evaluator with over 20 years of evaluation practice, mainly as part of the central evaluation offices of two United Nations agencies: FAO and UNDP. Prior to that, I have worked for 10 years for NGOs and for the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) as a rural development expert and programme manager in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Mauritania. An agronomist by training and a generalist by inclination, I have evaluated programmes a wide array of domains and sectors beyond rural development and natural resource management, such as in the “humanitarian-development nexus” and resilience building, or assistance to democratic governance, rule of law and elections. I have also evaluated development approaches and strategies, such as participatory approaches, programme approach, and global development goals and agendas (MDGs, SDGs).
In their thought provoking, data-packed keynote address to the 14th EES conference in Copenhagen last month, Peter Dahler-Larsen and Estelle Raimondo asked participants to recognize that sometimes, evaluation is more of a problem than a solution. Taking stock of the growth of evaluation as a practice and as a discipline, they argued for a better balance between benefits and costs of evaluation systems.
What happens when evaluators turn their gaze onto themselves? Sometimes this may lead to navel gazing and auto-congratulation, but this is not what Peter Dahler-Larser and Estelle Raimondo had in store for participants of the
Neutrality-impartiality-independence. At which stage of the evaluation is each concept important?Discussion
I thought I might share some of the lessons we learned from our Evaluation of FAO’s contribution to SDG 2 – Zero Hunger.
I was recently discussing the challenges of evaluating SDG support with Ian Goldman from CLEAR and Dirk Troskie from the Western Cape Government Department of Agriculture, South Africa. They seemed somewhat surprised that we had embarked on such an endeavour, as the causal links between the 2030 Agenda and action at country level are tenuous and hard to pinpoint.
Nations assess their progress against SDG targets through Voluntary National Reviews presented to the High-level Political
The theme of this year's report is "Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets". The SOFI 2020 report examines the cost of healthy diets around the world, by region and in different development contexts. Food quality is an important factor in food security.
The report uses a number of indicators, and I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the political and cultural dimensions of development indicators, by briefly analyzing two indicators related to the SDG target 2.1 which aims to eradicate hunger, and which (among others) are used in the SOFI report.
Olivier CosséeSenior Evaluation Manager FAO
Thank you Seda for highlighting the TAPE tool. I had heard about it from the SDG 2 review we did in 2019/20, which you kindly referenced.
The TAPE guidelines provide very good sample questionnaires in annex, which could be adapted locally and used by evaluators (and others) to build their own tool or questionnaire. The questions included in there also help not just measure but also define agro-ecology by expliciting a number of key variables.
So the TAPE guidelines help answer the remark of Laurent on the need to define what success looks like in the transition to agroecology. I think this is an important issue.
There has been very little progress on the transition to more sustainable agriculture, and one of the reasons may be that we don't necessarily agree on what success looks like. While it has produced interesting experiences by civil society and farmer organizations since the 1980s, agroecology has so far failed to convince decision makers in ministries of agriculture -- except in a handful of countries such as Senegal, thanks to the relentless efforts of ENDA Pronat, its secretary Mariam Sow and many others.
Agroecology is even perceived as ideological or militant by certain governments, due to its historical roots as an alternative to the Green Revolution. So defining the approach more objectively would help firmly anchor it in science, and TAPE can contribute there as well.
Evidently, what success looks like will depend on the agro-ecological context. It would make no sense to apply exactly the same criteria all over the globe. It would also contradict a basic principle of agro-ecology which is that it's supposed to be bottom up.
So it seems to me that the right way to define most precisely an agroecological product or system is to do so locally, based on minimum standards agreed with local food producers, traders and consumer organizations. This is for instance what Nicaragua has done with its Law for the Promotion of Agroecological and Organic Production (2011) followed by Mandatory Technical Standards approved and passed in 2013 to characterize, regulate and certify agroecological production units. Many countries have done the same, in an effort to promote agroecology through consumer education and food labelling.