The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research approach to evaluation of climate change, environment, and natural resource management

Roberto La Rovere


The aims of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are to reduce global poverty and hunger, to improve human health and nutrition, and to enhance ecosystem resilience and the environment through international agricultural research and partnership. CGIAR claims that, had it not existed, world food production would be 4%-5% lower, developing countries would produce 7%-8% less food, world grain prices would be 18%—21 % higher (adversely affecting poor consumers in particular), cultivated area in the developing countries would be 11-13 million hectares larger (having expanded into fragile forests that harbour a high biodiversity), and per capita food consumption in developing countries would be 5%-7% lower on the average. In a time of global food and ecological crises and of rapid economic, technolog)'; and climate changes, the role of CGIAR is critical.

These crises impose particularly harsh consequences on the approximately 2.1 billion people who live on less than two US dollars a day - three fourths of whom live in rural areas and depend on agriculture. Although investments in agricultural research had seen a declining trend, the 2008 global food crisis brought agriculture back to the fore of the development agenda, which prompted a global revival of funding for agricultural research. Within this context, the role of impact assessment and evaluation to validate the efficiency of funding and the effectiveness of investment has also been growing. This trend has also been driven by the arrival on the global development stage of new and large donors and foundations demanding clear accountability for returns on their investments.

Agricultural research poses particular challenges for evaluation, distinct from evaluation of technical cooperation, investment, and emergency assistance. Research is often very specialized, so its evaluation also demands specialist skills. Impact assessment in CGIAR is either associated with impact evaluation or serves as an important input to overall evaluation. Furthermore, the impacts of interventions in agriculture and sustainable development cannot generally be assessed until many years after an intervention ends. The time horizon of impact assessment and evaluation in CGIAR means that it cannot usually be utilized for immediate decisionmaking on current or new programmes.

This chapter outlines the approach to the evaluation of climate change, environment, and natural resource management in the context of the CGIAR. Evaluating the impact of research activities poses specific challenges that differ from evaluating development programmes or normative work. Given the nature of the work of the CGIAR system, it is important to take a systematic and common approach to evaluation that covers the network’s various dimensions - including its environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Over the last decade the relative importance, the urgency, and share of CGIAR investments in climate change research in relation to agriculture have also grown dramatically, together with the gearing up of the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) since 2011, and the evaluation of the CCAFS by the CGIAR- IEA (2016), which forms the basis of the discussion of climate change research and evaluation over the last decade, as well as in this chapter.

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