A growing consensus in agriculture development is the idea that, in the coming decades, an overall increase in global food production is needed from existing agricultural land, without further degradation of natural resources and ecosystem services. Or, in simpler terms, current agriculture needs to be sustainably intensified (Garnett et al., 2013). Sustainable intensification (SI) is defined as “producing more output from the same area of land while reducing the negative environmental impacts and at the same time increasing contributions to natural capital and the flow of environmental services” (Pretty et al., 2011).
As part of the US government’s Feed the Future initiative to address hunger and food security issues in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting multi-stakeholder research projects in SI which form the program, ‘Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation’ (Africa RISING).
The overall aim of Africa RISING is to sustainably intensify key African farming systems in three regions of Africa:
- Cereal-based farming systems in the Guinea-Savannah of West Africa covering some districts in Northern Ghana and the Sikasso Region in Southern Mali
- Crop-livestock systems in the Ethiopian Highlands
- Maize-legume-livestock integrated farming systems in East and Southern Africa covering some districts in Malawi, Tanzania, and the Eastern Province in Zambia.
Africa RISING’s monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of project activities and outcomes are coordinated by the HarvestChoice team at IFPRI. The team’s approach to M&E includes integrated and systemic components including research site stratification and selection, open-access M&E data management platform, and spatial analytic tools to complement traditional micro-econometric impact evaluation methods. HarvestChoice will also generate ex-ante evaluations for a range of farming systems and livelihood outcome indicators; report at multiple scales and levels of aggregation including customized aggregations (e.g., by farming system, development domain); and explore the productivity and sustainability consequences of a range of adoption scenarios and geographic/system spillover pathways across broader landscapes and regions. To aid with its monitoring activities, the M&E has developed a web-based project monitoring and mapping tool (PMMT). More information about the PMMT can be found here.
As part of its M&E efforts, HarvestChoice has completed five baseline evaluation household and community surveys in Malawi (in 2013) and Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, and Tanzania (in 2014). Overall, these surveys covered about 4,500 households from 76 Program and 81 control communities and were conducted through Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) using tablets (Malawi, Tanzania and Ghana) and notebooks (Ethiopia and Mali). Using an extensive survey instrument covering a variety of topics, the team collected detailed production and consumption data at the household-level, to aid with targeting and design of the research activities as well as to generate data for both ex ante and ex post evaluation (quasi randomized controlled trials) of the Program.
In November 2013, the annual HarvestChoice Africa RISING M&E meeting was organized jointly with the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). This event brought together researchers from two major projects on sustainable intensification of agricultural production, where participants discussed how the sister programs are innovating in technology development and promotion, data and information management, impact assessment methods, how they are promoting field- and project-level learning, and other M&E-related challenges (in particular how to efficiently capture and summarize M&E indicators across sites, teams, and activities through a shared web-based application). The 2014 annual M&E meeting will be held in Arusha (Tanzania) on November 13-14, where preliminary results from baseline surveys will be shared with Program implementers as well as USAID. Learn more about this and other Africa RISING events on the project website.