Due to the Millennium Development Goals and the OECD Paris Declaration to increase aid effectiveness, the demand for impact assessments has become immanent. In order to assess a project and its contribution to overarching programme goals, it is necessary to evaluate the desired vs. the actual results that can be observed in the beneficiary communities.
Impact evaluations face a number of challenges, however. Impact is defined as a long term effect. But during that period of time, other activities and changes have taken place in the community, which makes it difficult to attribute an observed change to either one of the activities. Since the output of an intervention has a number of repercussions that might affect and counter-affect each other, it can be taxing to assess the extent to which a project contributed to a desired impact.
It is a question of methodology to make sense of this complexity. As time and resource constraints do not allow an extensive, lengthy study of all aspects of project impact, it is necessary to select the most significant and relevant factors for which reliable information can be obtained. In order to select these based on empirical evidence I conducted a preparatory field study in collaboration with the BORDA project partner at the Zhejiang University of Technology. As the interviewers occupy the central position in this qualitative stage of the study, the success of the research study depends highly on the quality of each interviewer’s work. For this reason training was held at ZJUT for students subsequently participating in the field survey. At the end of the workshop, students were awarded a certificate.
Our field visit took us to eight selected villages within three counties. Our discussions with farmers, shop owners, mothers, both young and old villagers have shown that income had improved in all villages. Results from the interviews also suggest that the HydRam influences production methods by one third of all activities mentioned and affects the switch to economic crops by over 6%, aside of road construction, communication and market access. In those villages, where the HydRam is applied for irrigation only, cash crops seemed to play a more important role in village development compared to those villages that also benefited from domestic water supply. The latter, in contrast, more often reported a link between the HydRam and living conditions.
The results from the survey imply that utilizing the HydRam to supply tap water to village households has an effect on living conditions and protective security. However, in order to estimate, how much these results have been affected by educational levels, the local conditions and the sample size, it is necessary to conduct a more detailed, questionnaire based survey in a larger sample of villages. Based on empirical evidence from this survey, the second stage field study will focus on the relation between HydRam, cash crops and income, as well as HydRam, domestic water supply and living conditions.
More information about the pre-assessment here.