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Evaluating a rural livelihoods programme in Jharkhand

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The JOHAR project aims to enhance the income of 200,000 households

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Vinit Pattnaik

More than half of the labour force in Jharkhand, in eastern India, is dependent on the agriculture and allied sectors. A large portion of the farming community comprises small and marginal farmers who practice rain fed single-crop subsistence farming. With very little irrigation and small land holdings, cultivator households experience difficulty in sustaining themselves. The Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth (JOHAR) project is a rural livelihoods programme that addresses these issues by providing means for better sustainable livelihoods based on diversified and resilient production systems.

The project seeks to enhance and diversify household income of about 200,000 rural producer households in 17 districts of Jharkhand, using collectivisation to push them up the value chain. JOHAR is a six-year project implemented by the Jharkhand Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS), funded by the World Bank and the state government of Jharkhand.

We operate an embedded monitoring and evaluation cell within the JSLPS’s State Project Management Unit for the JOHAR project to work with their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) team to develop and implement monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) activities that include an impact evaluation, process monitoring, thematic studies, analytics, and capacity building on M&E methods. Together these will help build a feedback mechanism within the programme and inculcate data-driven decision making.

Challenges

Stakeholders are invested in having high-capacity M&E for the project. However, being a large-scale project with several complex impact pathways, building effective M&E systems requires numerous stakeholders including implementation staff and other line departments of the government to buy-in as well as adhere to experimental protocols.

Further, arriving at agreements and nudging for a consensus on programme indicators and annual targets is a crucial challenge to tackle, as well as seeking support in the form of high-quality data collection exercises that feed in to the impact evaluation as well as management information systems.

Our approach

We have deployed a full-time team stationed in Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand, to work and engage with the JOHAR project team. In an initial inception phase, the team reviewed project design and documentation, orienting themselves with the administrative set up and rural livelihoods environment in Jharkhand. Post this, we designed a MEL framework for the JOHAR project, which details every implementation activity, its assumption, indicator, and verification mechanism. The framework incorporates feedback received from stakeholder consultations, which includes a workshop that was conducted to present the framework and impact evaluation design to the JOHAR project’s management team.

The developed framework forms the basis for the MEL systems and activities that will be designed and implemented.

A rigorous impact evaluation, based on experimental as well as quasi-experimental methods, has been designed. It involved partners and stakeholders in multiple rounds of consultation to explain options and methodology, as well as receive opinions and preferences for methods that should be employed, based on operational feasibility. Comments from peer reviewers have also been received and we have categorically responded to comments from the review team and modified evaluation design based on recommendations from the World Bank team.

Outcomes 

Our engagement as a technical support agency to the JSLPS for M&E of the JOHAR project has enabled randomised roll out of the programme, with Jharkhand being the only state in India that has managed randomised roll out for a World Bank supported agriculture project. A detailed MEL framework developed in the first year of the project will help with systematic development of MEL tools through the project’s life cycle, which is usually lacking in large-scale government programmes. Building on this framework, a rigorous impact evaluation has been designed and we have supported the project with procurement and supervision of a survey agency to conduct a baseline survey. Lastly, being embedded allows us to be adaptive and respond quickly to stakeholder requirements, as well as help set norms and best practices for embedded technical assistance for M&E with government projects in India.