RE: How are development projects affecting the environment and how do we evaluate this impact? | Eval Forward

My contribution to the ongoing discussion:

Thank you Yosi for raising this important and contemporary discussion topic.

In my experience in development project evaluation and project preparation works (projects related to agriculture/animal farming and natural resource management), indicators are inbuilt in the development projects. The indicators can be direct indicators or proxy indicators.  During development project evaluation, evaluators are provided with “TOR” to evaluate the success of the project.  In doing the evaluation works, indicators inbuilt in the project document and their respective means of verification are core base for the evaluation work. The type/nature of the development project (say is the project climate smart/environment friendly) determines the level of contribution of the project to climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

Thus at the stage of development project evaluation, I believe evaluators mainly depend on the indicators inbuilt in the project. So the question would be: was due attention given to  prepare and implement  climate smart projects,  in the face of the alarming  climate change?; and what indicators are used/can be used to measure  the  level of the projects’ contribution to climate change  mitigation and adaptation?   

Since the last 10-15 years or so, development partners including financial institutions at all levels (national, regional and at international levels) are better aware and have better understanding of the alarming climate change. They understand climate change is real, although, it is true that the level of awareness/understanding varies. 

To this end, I believe substantial efforts have been made by relevant development parties including FAO, among others, to identify, make available and promote/scale up climate smart agricultural/animal farming/fishing practices to mitigate and adapt climate change. These days it is becoming mandatory in most cases (when situation allows) to design and implement climate smart development projects. That is projects, which contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Having said so:  how can then the climate change mitigation and adaptation contribution levels of climate smart development projects be measured?   What type of indicators can be/have been used? Direct indicators or proxy indicators?

My experience: I will mention one of the development project evaluation works I was involved in, in the evaluation of the “National Livestock Development Project implanted in Ethiopia, which was thoughtfully designed to be climate smart/environment friendly”.  Among others, this project has employed different climate smart practices with the aim to overcome/decrease animal feed shortage. The understanding during the preparation of the project was to reduce the emission of the major Greenhouse Gases (Carbon dioxide, Nitrous oxide and Methane), by employing climate smart practices, while also meeting the objective of the project. Under the animal feed improvement component of the project, the activates carried-out include:

  • Back yard forage development (perennial grass and legumes);

Indicator(s): number of farmers growing forage in their back yard; rate (%) of adoption; yield of forage  produced;

  • Establishment  of pasture including perennial grasses and legumes: and planting fodder trees;

Indicator(s): Size of the established pasture; yield of forage produced; and number of communities, which established pasture; rate (%) of adoption; 

  • Pasture rehabilitation by over sowing with legume plants;

Indicator(s): area /size of pasture rehabilitated; yield of pasture produced; 

  • Under sowing crop lands with legume plants for forage use;

Indicator (s): area/size of crop land under sowed; number of farmers that under sow their cropland; yield of forage produced from the land; rate (%) of adoption;

  • Alley cropping that is planting fodder trees within crop lands.

Indicator(s): No of fodder trees planted; number of farmers who planted fodder trees in their crop land; rate (%) of adoption; and yield of forage produced.

The above indicators are proxy indicators (indirect indicators), which are assumed to be related to direct impacts, in this case to the climate change mitigation and adaptation contribution levels of the animal feed improvement practices. All the animal feed improvement practices employed by the project are believed to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaption. To mentions some, they:

  • reduce emission of carbon dioxide from soils because of soil plant cover;
  • remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of plant photosynthesis;
  • enrich soil organic matter and are reservoir of carbon in the soil; 
  • Improve the year-round availability/ production of animal feed/forage and as such minimizes overgrazing (which fuels carbon emission). 
  • Improve soil fertility of crop lands, and hence improve crop production due to the inclusion of legume plants to the crop land. This in turn contributes to enhance food security and reduces natural resource degradation caused due to scarcity of food.