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Evaluation of UNICEF Cotton Corridors child rights project in rural India

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Ian MacAuslan

Udit Ranjan, Ian MacAuslan, Mehjabeen Jagmag, Shruti Viswanathan

The Cotton Corridors project ran between June 2008 and December 2014, funded by the IKEA Foundation, and implemented by UNICEF India and the Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The objective was to create improved systems and structures for preventing exploitation and protecting children in Kurnool and Raichur districts.

Alongside local partner Glocal Research Services (Hyderabad), we were contracted by UNICEF to conduct a summative evaluation of the project. The purpose of the evaluation was to provide an independent assessment of whether the project had contributed to the achievement of its objectives, and to identify lessons learnt for future attempts to improve child protection. The evaluation answered five key questions organised around the DAC evaluation criteria of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and replicability, and equity and gender.

Challenges

Hybrid cottonseed production is labour-intensive and the industry is dominated by child labour, particularly girls. Cottonseed production has adverse effects on children’s schooling and health. They are made to work long hours, are paid less than official minimum wages, and are also exposed to the poisonous pesticides. The Cotton Corridors programme was therefore established to reduce the number of children involved in the industry in Kurnool and Raichur.

The objective of the Cotton Corridors project was to create improved systems and structures for preventing exploitation and protecting children. This was done by engaging with different state, district and community level stakeholders, thereby creating an enabling environment through engagement, technical assistance, and information, education and communication (IEC).

The methodology used for the evaluation was limited by its timing and scope: the evaluation was commissioned nine months after the project ended and there was no possibility of a counterfactual. This introduced limitations to the rigour of the assessment, in particular further down the ‘results chain’ to child protection outcomes, compelling us to rely more heavily on triangulation, induction and judgement. However, despite these limitations, the timeline of the evaluation provided an opportunity to assess the sustainability of the project.

Our approach

The overall approach to the evaluation was theory-based through contribution analysis, to assess the contribution that the project had made to changes in key child protection outcomes.

A detailed evaluation matrix set out disaggregated indicators for each DAC criterion and the data sources and data collection methods used to gauge each indicator. Data sources included project and other documents, secondary data and the views of different stakeholders. Data collection methods comprised of focus group discussions, in-depth interviews with community stakeholders, key informant interviews with UNICEF and government officials and scale response questionnaires administered to community groups. Fieldwork took place in 48 villages across the two project districts of Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh and Raichur, Karnataka.

The findings of the study were structured around the evaluation criteria and broadly followed the evaluation matrix structure to assess:

  • Relevance: To what extent were the outputs of Cotton Corridors project consistent with recipients’ requirements, country needs, global priorities and UNICEF’s policies?
  • Effectiveness: To what extent were outcomes of the various strands of the Cotton Corridors project successfully achieved?
  • Efficiency: How economically were resources/inputs converted into results?
  • Sustainability and replicability: To what extent have benefits from Cotton Corridors project continued after UNICEF support has been completed and why, and to what extent are the successes of the project replicable elsewhere?
  • Equity and gender: To what extent have activities affected marginalised communities, addressed differences in gender, and empowered both girls and boys?

Outcomes

The evaluation has thoroughly assessed the extent to which the project’s key strategies and activities contributed to results achieved, and whether they were replicable and sustainable.

Via these findings, the evaluation will also have a wider impact on the ability of NGOs, governments and other stakeholders to improve child labour and child protection outcomes.

UNICEF's cotton corridors page can be viewed here.