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Evaluating a rural livelihoods programme in Jharkhand

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Anand Kothari

Jharkhand, in eastern India, is among India’s poorest states. More than half of its labour force is dependent on the agriculture and allied sectors, and a large portion of this farming community comprises small and marginal farmers who practice rain-fed single-crop subsistence farming. With very little irrigation and small landholdings, cultivator households experience difficulty in sustaining themselves.

The Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth (JOHAR) project is a holistic package of rural livelihoods interventions that work together to enhance and diversify the incomes of targeted rural households across 68 blocks in 17 districts of Jharkhand. It uses a collectivisation approach and builds on the community institutions platform established by another Government-World Bank initiative, the National Rural Livelihoods Mission to form producer groups and producer organisations. JOHAR uses this platform to deliver the interventions package that is designed to push rural producer households up the value chain.

Challenges

Stakeholders are invested in having high capacity monitoring and evaluation (M&E). However, being a large-scale government project with several complex impact pathways, building and implementing effective M&E systems requires numerous stakeholders including implementation staff to buy-in, adherence to experimental protocols, support data collection exercises, and for our team to continuously engage with implementers. The key challenge for us, as a team, now that we have built a robust M&E system for the project is to take on the responsibility along with other stakeholders to go beyond measurement and close the learning loop.

Our approach

We began working with the project in September 2017 to operate an embedded monitoring and evaluation cell within the project structure. A full-time team is stationed in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, and works out of the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society’s state project management unit. We are working with multiple stakeholders to carry out high-quality M&E and close the learning loop to inculcate a culture of evidence-based decision making. Over the past two years, our team has strived to be responsive, technically rigorous, keeping an ear on the ground, and balance rigour and complexity with speed and simplicity to cater the right MLE tool for different aspects and requirements. 

Outcomes 

So far, we have designed MLE framework for the project, worked with multiple stakeholders to achieve randomised project roll-out, completed a rigorous baseline survey, and submitted an extensive report with survey findings. We have also designed and carried out a few rounds of process monitoring for the project, provided analytical insights from programme data, built capacity on M&E for project staff, and undertaken rapid demand-based studies.