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 June 2022.

409,443

farmers trained

127,112

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.

  • 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.

  • Align the promotion of sustainable land management practices with the economic incentives of beneficiaries.

    Align the promotion of sustainable land management practices with the economic incentives of beneficiaries. While participants in several of the grant programs expressed support for conservation measures that can slow land degradation and reduce soil erosion, those who made changes in their own agricultural practices also pointed to the tangible benefits they directly experienced from adopting improved techniques. Interim evaluation findings suggest that many beneficiaries felt that engaging in sustainable land management activities was valuable for them, as it resulted in higher crop yields, while others found opportunities in alternative income-generating activities. Therefore, the visible benefits of the practices helped motivate adoption, in some cases even leading to positive spillover effects wherein non-participants in villages outside of the intervention areas adopted similar practices, after seeing the benefits in neighboring villages.

  • Interventions attempting to change long-standing norms and practices must be supported with the in-depth strategies, expertise, and tools needed to effect such changes.

    Interventions attempting to change long-standing norms and practices must be supported with the in-depth strategies, expertise, and tools needed to effect such changes. The ENRM and SGEF activities sought to significantly alter deeply rooted behaviors related to gender dynamics and agricultural practices within households and communities, an effort that generally involves sustained engagement over an extended time period, beyond what was afforded under the grant facility. Such interventions generally require intensive focus and effective methodologies for conducting detailed assessments, community mobilization, and application of both innovative and proven techniques for promoting behavior change and introducing alternative income-generating activities. This project could have benefited from technical capacity and appropriate tools to enable monitoring of short-term indicators of behavior change. Besides the land use maps done by four grantees, there were no specific indicators to report project achievements in relation to this area. To have lasting impact, additional work would also be needed across the value chain of productive activities so that farmers see the tangible benefit of better land-use practices.

  • Evaluations of grant facilities pose unique challenges for evaluations and may require a different approach for evaluation design.

    Evaluations of grant facilities pose unique challenges for evaluations and may require a different approach for evaluation design. Grant facilities typically fund multiple disparate and geographically dispersed interventions that link only indirectly to a broader set of project objectives, and often include designs that were proposed or decided upon only after a compact has begun implementation. This may leave evaluators with a limited amount of time between grant signing and the start of implementation for designing a prospective evaluation and conducting baseline studies. In addition, data quality often varies between grantees, and can complicate an evaluator’s ability to verify details on implementation milestones and outputs achieved based on MCA’s monitoring data or documentation.

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.