Many studies over the years have sought to document the impacts of agricultural research although the vast majority of these have focused on crop germplasm improvement, i.e., adoption and impact of improved crop varieties. As such there remain serious gaps in the extent to which impact assessment of other components of the CGIAR portfolio have been conducted. To fill this gap, one of the major activities of SPIA’s new program on Strengthening Impact Assessment in the CGIAR (SIAC) targets what we consider to be under-evaluated areas of CGIAR research, such as livestock management, irrigation management, agroforestry, policy and social sciences, biodiversity and natural research management.

Evaluation of IAs on Irrigation and Water Management Research in the CGIAR

One broad area of CGIAR research and related activities that is considered to be under-evaluated is irrigation and water management. This is a large area of CGIAR activity and although precise numbers are difficult to come by, it is estimated (roughly, needs validation) that over US$ 800 million has been invested by donors in this area of research since 1984 [when IIMI was established]. In spite of this sizeable investment, there have been relatively few studies that have attempted to assess the impact of this investment or to quantify the benefits derived.

As a first step in this process, SPIA commissioned a critical review of the impact assessment work to-date on irrigation and water management research, broadly conceived (i.e., embracing much of IWMI’s research, IRRI’s research on rice wetting and drying management, IFPRI’s water policy research, etc. ). This desk study included IA work done within and outside the CGIAR, with the goal of evaluating how comprehensively and effectively these assessments cover the fields.

In addition to identifying the strengths and limitations of the existing impact assessments in irrigation and water management research, the desk study sought to identify the major constraints and limitations (e.g., methodological, data-related, resource-related, etc.) which would in turn highlight potential for new work. This background review will lay the groundwork for a subsequent scoping study report which would assess the potential for utilizing state of the art approaches and possibly new data for launching a series of impact assessments of specific improved irrigation management interventions or policy actions deriving from CGIAR irrigation management research. Ultimately, this and other critical reviews of past studies and scoping study reports will form the basis for the SIAC PSC recommending to the Fund Council Committee on Evaluation and Impact Assessment some specific areas for further IA work under the SIAC program that has good potential for generating large scale, long term economic, social and environmental impacts from under-evaluated CGIAR research.

Please refer Annex 1 (page 56) of the report below for a detailed terms of reference.


  • An Evaluation of CGIAR Centers' Impact Assessment Work on Irrigation and Water Management Research by Douglas Merrey, October 2014 (PDF).
  • Impact Brief No. 49 summarising key findings from the Merrey review (PDF).

Evaluation of IAs on Livestock Research in the CGIAR

Similar to the review of epIAs of CGIAR irrigation and water management research, two consultants were commissioned in March 2015 to complete evaluate the extent and quality of ex-post impact assessment activity on livestock related research in the CGIAR to-date. Please refer the terms of references for more information.

Terms of reference for the livestock review (PDF).

Documenting the Impact of Under-Evaluated Areas of CGIAR Research

A two-stage call for proposals for ex post impact assessments (epIAs) of 'under-evaluated areas of CGIAR research' that includes irrigation & water management, livestock, agroforestry, biodiversity, policy and social science, and natural resource management was issued in June 2015. Of the 26 EOIs received, 10 were invited to submit full proposals by October 25, 2015. After external/internal reviews, a decision on which proposals to fund was made by the SIAC Project Steering Committee (PSC) in early December 2015, with funded studies targeted to begin in early 2016. These are as below:

  • Forest Co-management in Guinea: a Multi-scale, Multi-output ex-post Impact Analysis, Virginia Tech and CIFOR
  • Adoption and Impact of Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) Water Management for Irrigated Rice in the Philippines, North Carolina State University, IRRI and NIA (PDF, inception workshop presentation)
  • Assessing the Adoption and Economic and Environmental Impacts of Brachiaria Grass Forage Cultivars in Latin America Focusing on the Experience in Colombia, CIAT, Michigan State University, Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), and CORPOICA (PDF, inception workshop presentation)
  • Assessing the Downstream Socioeconomic and Land Health Impacts of Agroforestry in Kenya, ICRAF, Vi Agroforestry, and University of Illinois (PDF, inception workshop presentation)

Following the funding decision, an inception workshop was held on March 10, 2016 at IFPRI (Washington D.C.) to provide feedback on the proposed research and inputs from SPIA. You can find the agenda, participant list as well as presentations from the workshop on the Events page here.

Relevant documents

  • Two-stage call for proposals: Documenting the impact of under-evaluated areas of CGIAR research, issued 11 June 2015 (PDF).
  • Agenda, participant list, and presentations from inception workshop on March 10, 2016 at IFPRI, Washington D.C. can be found on this page.