Meta-evidence Review on the Impacts of Investments in Agricultural and Rural Development on Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2

The interconnected nature of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) forces the development community to look broadly at solutions and outcomes. By drawing on evidence from systematic and comprehensive reviews, this report provides an overview of the evidence on 10 different intervention types related to agriculture and rural development, and how these intervention types have impacted seven different outcomes associated with SDG 1 (“End poverty in all its forms everywhere”) and SDG 2 (“End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”). The seven outcomes of interest are poverty, income, food security (measured by diet quantity), nutrition security (measured by diet quality and/or nutrition), child stunting, child wasting and agricultural productivity. There is a total of 79 systematic reviews included in this meta-review, including 18 reviews that look at poverty, 33 reviews that look at food security, 36 reviews on nutrition security, 24 reviews on stunting, 18 reviews on child wasting and/or overweight, 31 reviews on productivity and 48 reviews on income. For each intervention/outcome combination, a summary of the evidence is provided, including a designation of the direction of impact and the quality of evidence.

We found that cash transfers and agriculture programmes are among the most widely covered intervention types by systematic reviews, but other intervention types showed promising results. The costs and benefits of interventions were rarely studied in a rigorous way, hence the systematic reviews included here repeatedly note the need for more research to support decision-making for policies and programmes aimed at achieving SDGs 1 and 2. Another common message across intervention types is the importance of context in terms of determining the effectiveness of interventions.

Given the number and diversity of interventions, outcomes and indicators, the goal is not to synthesize all the findings to say “what we know” about “what has worked”. Rather, by pulling together evidence that is customarily examined by intervention type or by outcome, we hope to encourage reflection on what it means to use evidence to inform agricultural and rural development programming to SDGs 1 and 2 and to identify implications for future impact evaluations and systematic reviews that are conducted with this goal in mind.

Bernstein, J., Johnson, N. and Arslan, A. 2019. Meta-evidence review on the Impacts of investments in agricultural and rural development on Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2. IFAD Research Series 38, IFAD, Rome.