Emergency Agriculture Projects: Do They Work and How Do We Know?
The USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) has been strengthening its monitoring and evaluation capabilities over the past few years in order to better document the impact of its efforts on at-risk and disaster-affected humanitarian populations and to strengthen program planning and design. We have also been working to address the gap in documenting standards and best practices in emergency agriculture programming through efforts such as the SEADS project. While we are confident that our implementers' efforts are having a positive impact on agricultural livelihoods and food security, a recent study by SEADS demonstrates the evidence gap to document and inform how and to what extent our agricultural programming is meeting client needs in emergencies and protracted humanitarian support conditions. The study found that only 28 of 168 relevant documents identified during extensive literature reviews contained moderate to strong evidence of the livelihoods impact of emergency agriculture interventions
During a May 20, 2021 webinar on this report attended by over 200 people, a lively discussion unfolded over the significance of these findings and various ways to remedy the situation. Among the 50 comments and questions generated during the webinar, suggestions ranged from redefining the criteria for moderate-to-strong evidence to admit more studies into the standards manual formation, to aggressive investments made by donors and implementers into impact studies on agricultural interventions.
Other comments addressed the most appropriate methodology (randomized controlled trials, participatory impact assessments) for evaluating impact in emergency conditions and the appropriate boundaries or definitions of emergency (vs. development) agricultural interventions. The need for donors to allocate additional funds for evaluating emergency agriculture programs that often recur for multiple years was a common theme, as was the importance of including local nongovernmental organization partners in the dialogue about additional evaluations. Several participants also advocated for a modification of the scope for the SEADS manual to focus less on evidence of impact and more on documenting the common and accepted best practices/standards for emergency agriculture investments and putting more push on process compliance (focusing on implementing partners and donors).