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Rethinking environmental monitoring and assessment in agricultural research and development

posted on 2023-06-08, 17:05 authored by Fiona MarshallFiona Marshall, Erik Millstone, Timothy Karpouzoglou, Sally Brooks
This paper focuses on identifying conditions under which environmental impacts are recognised, and where an appreciation of their relationship with poverty reduction goals can be integrated into relevant project monitoring and evaluation. In this context, emergent features of monitoring and evaluation strategies and frameworks are discussed, and opportunities for refinement proposed. An increasing body of evidence suggests that interventions aimed at increasing the productivity of agricultural systems may have important unforeseen implications for the environment. These may affect the sustainability of the agricultural system itself and the livelihoods that depend upon them. There may also be significant impacts for ecosystems and the services they provide across a range of temporal and spatial scales. The need to recognise interactions between agricultural interventions and environmental impacts has also been incorporated into the design of some development and innovation trajectories. However, this has rarely contributed to plans for monitoring and evaluation of those projects and programmes. Only since 2003 have several influential research and development funding agencies stipulated that environmental considerations need to be addressed in the design of agricultural development projects, and incorporated into plans for monitoring and evaluation. This paper provides a thematic chronology of several ways in which understanding of the intended and unintended environmental consequences of agricultural development initiatives have evolved. The paper then provides examples of key challenges in assessing the environmental impacts of agricultural development interventions. Initiatives led by three international funding agencies are discussed in this context, and suggestions are made for enhancements. This paper also includes insights from pilot studies of two regionally based agricultural development projects in Ethiopia and Kenya. These support a discussion regarding institutional arrangements that deter or support the successful integration of environmental assessments into project planning and implementation. The case studies illustrate many of the issues raised in the literature review analysis – including core challenges for environmental monitoring evaluation and learning (MEL) initiatives, the implications of widespread oversights in MEL frameworks and opportunities for intervention.


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