Sector Results and Learning:
Agriculture and Irrigation

This Agriculture and Irrigation Sector Results and Learning page is a repository of evidence generated by all MCC-funded agriculture and irrigation interventions. To promote learning and inform future program design, this page captures monitoring data from key common indicators, showcases recent and relevant evaluations, includes all agency lessons from completed agriculture and irrigation evaluations to-date, and links to learning that has been aggregated across completed evaluations in the sector.

What Do We Invest In?

MCC has funded $1.7 billion in agriculture and irrigation interventions as of March 2022. These interventions fall into the following categories: agriculture infrastructure; producer organizational development; policy and regulatory reform and systems strengthening; market development; climate resilience resource management, and research; and agriculture finance and investment.

Agriculture Infrastructure

These programs address constraints in the agricultural economy through infrastructure investments such as irrigation, rural roads, and warehouses.

Producer Organizational Development

These programs address constraints in agriculture-related organizations such as water user associations and farmer cooperatives.

Policy and Regulatory Reform and Systems Strengthening

These programs address reforms and supporting institutions in the policy and regulatory environment of the agricultural economy.

Market Development

These programs address constraints in agriculture and food market systems such as market linkages and value chain development while crowding in the private sector.

Climate Resilience, Resource Management, and Research

These programs address constraints to mitigation and adaptation for climate change throughout the agricultural economy.

Agriculture Finance and Investment

These programs address constraints to access to finance and investment in the agricultural economy.

What Have We Completed So Far?

MCC and its country partners develop and tailor Monitoring and Evaluation Plans for each program and country context. Within these country-specific plans, MCC uses common indicators to standardize measurement and reporting within certain sectors. See below for a subset of common indicators that summarize implementation achievements across all MCC agriculture and irrigation investments as of March 2022.

407,139

farmers trained

126,837

farmers who have applied improved practices as a result of training

1,016

enterprises that have applied improved techniques

203,963

hectares under improved irrigation

What Have We Achieved?

MCC commissions independent evaluations, conducted by third-party evaluators, for every project it funds. These evaluations hold MCC and country partners accountable for the achievement of intended results and also produce evidence and learning to inform future programming. They investigate the quality of project implementation, the achievement of the project objective and other targeted outcomes, and the cost-effectiveness of the project. The graphs below summarize the composition and status of MCC’s independent evaluations in the agriculture and irrigation sector as of April 2022. Read on to see highlights of published interim and final evaluations. Follow the evaluation links to see the status of all planned, ongoing, and completed evaluations in the sector and to access the reports, summaries, survey materials, and data sets.

Go to our List of Evaluations to see the status of MCC’s agriculture and irrigation sector evaluations

Highlighted Evaluations

September 1, 2021 | Senegal Compact

Improving Irrigation and Land Rights in Senegal

Land under cultivation and horticulture have grown but not to expected levels

  • Evaluation Type: Multiple
  • Evaluation Status: Final

MCC’s $540 million Senegal Compact (2010-2015) funded the $170 million Irrigation and Water Resources Management (IWRM) Project to improve the productivity of the agricultural sector in certain agricultural-dependent areas of northern Senegal. The project rehabilitated or built 266 km of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, constructed a 450-hectare perimeter, mapped irrigated land, and trained officials to better administer land. The project was based on the theory that improved irrigation and land rights increase agricultural investment, productivity and ultimately household income.

Read Evaluation Details or the Evaluation Brief

Woman harvesting onions on the Di Perimeter

April 7, 2021 | Burkina Faso Compact

Improving irrigation and land tenure in Burkina Faso

Agricultural incomes improved, but economic benefits fell short of expectations

  • Evaluation Type: Multiple
  • Evaluation Status: Final

MCC’s $480 million Burkina Faso Compact (2009-2014) included the $142 million Agricultural Development Project (ADP) to support increased agriculture production, incomes, and land tenure. The ADP financed the construction of a 2,246 hectare irrigated perimeter in the Di Department, supported improved water resource management, and provided farmers with training, irrigable land, and land titles. The activities were based on the theory that reliable access to irrigation, productive land, and secure land use rights would allow farmers to farm year-round, diversify into higher-value crops, and obtain higher profits and incomes.

Read Evaluation Details or the Evaluation Brief

A herd of cattle grazing

July 30, 2020 | Namibia Compact

Improving Rangeland and Livestock Management in Namibia

Better management did not improve livestock, rangeland, or economic outcomes

  • Evaluation Type: Impact
  • Evaluation Status: Final

MCC’s $304.5 million Namibia Compact ((2009–2014) supported rural development in Namibia’s Northern Communal Areas through the $12 million Community-Based Rangeland and Livestock Management Sub-Activity. The sub-activity was built on the theory that supporting land and livestock management strategies in communal areas would reduce rangeland degradation, improve livestock productivity, and ultimately raise farmer incomes.

Read Evaluation Details or the Evaluation Brief

Area for loading olives into the crushing machine at an olive oil processing unit supported by the Catalyst Fund.

July 6, 2020 | Morocco Compact

Improving Production of Irrigated Crops in Morocco

Irrigation infrastructure was greatly improved, but income changes were limited

  • Evaluation Type: Impact
  • Evaluation Status: Final

MCC’s $650 million Morocco Compact (2008-2013) funded the $324 million Fruit Tree Productivity Project (FTPP), which included the Olive and Date Tree Irrigation and Intensification activities. These activities upgraded irrigation infrastructure, supported water user associations, established date processing units, and provided technical assistance to value chain actors. They aimed to improve the efficiency of water use and other crop practices in order to enhance the yield and profitability of olive and date production.

Read Evaluation Details or the Evaluation Brief

Go to our Evaluation Brief page to see all completed agriculture and irrigation sector evaluations

What Have We Learned from Our Results?

To link the evidence from the independent evaluations with MCC practice, project staff produce an MCC Learning document at the close of each interim and final evaluation to capture practical lessons for programming and evaluation. Use the filters below to find lessons relevant to your evidence needs.

  • Program implementers should be identified and selected based on the expertise and experience needed to translate complex programmatic details and due diligence analyses into well-targeted and effective activities.

    Program implementers should be identified and selected based on the expertise and experience needed to translate complex programmatic details and due diligence analyses into well-targeted and effective activities. During early phases of implementation, MCC and MCA-Malawi sought to distill an extensive set of recommendations from due diligence assessments into succinct objectives. For the ENRM Activity, this due diligence used extensive modeling and land-use change projections to highlight the erosion hotspots as well as to craft several priority interventions tailored to local needs to reverse land-use trends. For the Social and Gender Enhancement Fund Activity, this entailed a robust social and gender assessment of relevant communities to inform project design. In addition, the grant selection process emphasized that proposals would be evaluated against the appropriateness of the intervention relative to the grant facility objectives, while also rating the capacity of applicants to implement their programs. Although the proposed interventions and locations aligned well with MCC’s due diligence recommendations, grantees had varying levels of experience in implementing key activities, and the high level of effort required for MCA-Malawi to conduct oversight and capacity building ultimately limited its ability to support effective implementation. MCC is addressing this lesson by convening discussions across the agency to undertake a holistic review of experiences with administering grant facilities within its compacts, taking the challenges noted above into consideration.

  • Project teams within MCC and the MCA should be sufficiently staffed to draw on expertise from key sectors such as gender and social inclusion and environmental performance, while not overburdening team members who have broader responsibilities for cross-cutting work.

    Project teams within MCC and the MCA should be sufficiently staffed to draw on expertise from key sectors such as gender and social inclusion and environmental performance, while not overburdening team members who have broader responsibilities for cross-cutting work. ENRM was one of three projects under the Compact. However, it was not staffed separately within the MCC Country Team or by MCA like the other Compact projects. Instead, it was co-managed by the environmental and social and gender teams, which both have oversight responsibilities across the whole compact. As such, ENRM was implemented in addition to the cross-cutting duties undertaken for other compact activities. As a result, ENRM did not get dedicated focus, especially when problems arose such as a difficult resettlement that threatened the completion of the largest activity. Small dollar value projects could require high levels of effort for administration and oversight from MCA and MCC staff; therefore, it is important to adequately staff each project to provide administrative oversight and technical support.

    MCC is addressing this lesson by organizing internal working groups tasked with reviewing staffing strategies and practices, and identifying models to ensure right-sizing of project staff within both the MCC Country Team and for MCAs.

  • Planning for long-term sustainability of interventions should be a focus from the start of program design and implementation, with particular efforts directed towards establishing or capacitating institutions that will exist beyond the compact.

    Planning for long-term sustainability of interventions should be a focus from the start of program design and implementation, with particular efforts directed towards establishing or capacitating institutions that will exist beyond the compact. The ENRM Project sought to establish an environmental trust overseen by a mix of public and private sector stakeholders, and to institute a sustainable financing mechanism through the electricity tariff that could support continued interventions in sustainable land management beyond the life of the compact. The process of operationalizing sustainability mechanisms requires significant investments in time and appropriate expertise, and should begin in the early stages of implementation. Setting up a new institution operationalizing a novel funding approach (in this case, a payment for ecosystem services model) took considerable effort to get support and buy-in, even from the MCA. Critical time for setting up the institution was lost by carrying out a feasibility study after the compact had entered into force. This should have been done before entry into force to ensure MCA and stakeholder buy-in; instead, one year of implementation was lost in the process. In addition, the project set out to test the viability of the trust model but encountered challenges in fully capacitating the trust due to early delays in agreeing on the optimal vision to support sustainability.

    MCC will incorporate this lesson by endeavoring to complete critical studies and analyses related to sustainability planning during compact development, and before implementation begins. In addition, MCC will work with its partner countries to identify key sustainability issues during early stages of project definition, achieve consensus on core strategies, and document agreed-upon approaches at the time of compact approval.

  • Carefully consider whether to use a grant facility as opposed to other implementation modalities in order to achieve project objectives.

    Carefully consider whether to use a grant facility as opposed to other implementation modalities in order to achieve project objectives. Given the limited time and resources available during the five-year period of the compact, both the up-front and recurring costs of implementing a grant facility diverted vital staff time and attention away from other priorities of the ENRM Project, including the effort to establish a permanent environmental trust. In addition, the time required for establishing a grant facility, operations manual, and selection of grant awardees cut into the amount of time available for implementation, leaving only 3 years to support interventions intended to promote long-term behavior changes among beneficiaries. Moreover, implementation was constrained by a reliance on relatively smaller grants awarded to multiple organizations over a wide geographic area, which led to a higher resource burden on MCC and MCA-Malawi in terms of conducting programmatic oversight and capacity building. As MCA-managed grant facilities must cease operations at the close of a compact, the time investments and resources put into building up capacity are unable to be preserved beyond the life of the compact, leaving local partners with an uncertain source of continued support.
    MCC is addressing this lesson by convening discussions across the agency to undertake a holistic review of experiences with administering grant facilities within its compacts, as described for lessons noted above.

  • Integrate social and gender-focused activities within the context of overall ENRM interventions.

    Integrate social and gender-focused activities within the context of overall ENRM interventions. The interim evaluation findings suggest that within the case study grantees, the inclusion of targeted social and gender-related activities, such as supporting village savings & loan groups, and leadership trainings for women, helped to augment the results of broader outcomes relating to adoption and support for improved land management techniques, at both the household and community levels. In addition, the interim evaluation underscores changes in perception of gender roles at the household and community level in the targeted areas. According to findings from the case studies, participants perceived that the SGEF interventions generated greater joint household decision-making regarding household finances, more egalitarian division of labor, more leadership opportunities for women, and greater participation in community decision-making by female heads of households. While a longer-term transition to sustainable land management practices will be assessed in a future analysis, the experience of several grants demonstrates the benefits of incorporating social and gender-related dynamics within communities and households in any efforts to improve natural resource management, since both women and men are involved in using, caring for, and benefiting from natural resources. Such activities have also been shown to improve gender equality in the communities involved, including increased women’s participation in intra-household decisions about resource allocation, and greater opportunities to take on leadership roles in their communities.

How Have We Aggregated Learning Across the Sector?

MCC has developed a Principles into Practice paper using evidence from completed independent evaluations in the agriculture and irrigation sector – Principles into Practice: Impact Evaluations of Agriculture Projects. The Principles into Practice series offers a frank look at what it takes to make the principles MCC considers essential for development operational in the projects in which MCC invests. The learning captured in this paper informs MCC’s ongoing efforts to refine and strengthen its own model and development practice in the agriculture and irrigation sector. MCC hopes this paper will also allow others to benefit from, and build upon, MCC’s lessons.