Photo credit: Testing rice varieties, Vietnam / GeorginaSmith / CIAT
By Karen Camilo, Francisco Armenta and Byron Reyes
CGIAR is committed to seeing the results of research by its scientists achieve results. As such, each of its research initiatives has a monitoring, evaluation, learning and impact assessment, or MELIA, component. Below, we discuss the MELIA strategy for Mitigate+, the CGIAR Initiative on Low-Emission Food Systems.
Why do we need a MELIA component for Mitigate+?
Mitigate+ is one of the 33 research Initiatives of CGIAR. This initiative seeks to contribute to the reduction of food system emissions in up to seven countries that are top-tier regional emitters. Mitigate+ will generate evidence, knowledge and tools for stakeholders to make decisions that promote sustainable development and social equity, and, as a result, low- and middle-income countries might increase their economic conditions without deepening the climate crisis.
To maintain the quality of its research activities and generate evidence of the impact of its efforts, Mitigate+, similar to other CGIAR research initiatives, is committed to monitoring the progress of its work and assessing its impact through MELIA and tailored impact evaluations. CGIAR researchers use and adapt established frameworks and commonly formulate research questions to respond to using appropriate methodologies, hereby contributing to important discussion topics at the global, regional and local levels.
The MELIA component has several objectives: first is to inform learning and adaptive management, allowing making course corrections over the implementation phase of projects and programs, to achieve its goals and maximize its impact; second is to meet accountability requirements of the initiative to ensure that tools and knowledge have been applied to achieve outcomes; third is to evaluate the theory of change assumptions using sound methods and suggests adjustments; and fourth is to generate robust evidence to learn or assess impacts over time.
Specifically under Mitigate+, the MELIA strategy has two goals. The first goal is to monitor and evaluate the progress of the Initiative activities to propose adjustments to achieve the end-of-initiative goals. The second goal is to enable learning and assess the impact of key research activities on targeted stakeholders and focus regions through the implementation of tailored learning and impact studies using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. These are important because the results will feed back into the initiative’s implementation activities to make adjustments to reach its end-of-initiative goals and will allow us to determine the contribution of our efforts towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
How does MELIA work under Mitigate+?
Within Mitigate+, MELIA operates under a flexible framework to ensure the quality of research-for-development activities.
The MELIA team has three main functions: First, it operationalizes the theories of change and intended results, that is, the outcomes and impacts. Second, it monitors and guides the initiative’s activities to ensure their timely accomplishment. Third, it evaluates the impact or contribution of the initiative toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
MELIA comprises two components that have different but related goals:
The first component is monitoring, evaluation and learning. Under this component, the MELIA team builds indicators according to the theory of change established under Mitigate+ and stakeholder priorities, using existing methodologies, adapted to specific needs. Together with Mitigate+ members, we construct achievable and measurable indicators and monitor their progress toward meeting the annual and end-of-initiative targets, to determine if inputs are timely generating outputs necessary to achieve outcomes and impact. We develop formats to facilitate country-level reporting by implementing partners, according to their work plans, as well as collect information continuously and consolidate data for inclusion in the technical annual report that CGIAR requires. For example, we worked with members of the work package 2 team under Mitigate+ to define the indicator, the “number of databases created and/or improved,” that will allow us to monitor the progress of one of the results of the initiative’s activities, which is “improved baselines of national greenhouse gas inventories.”
The second component is impact assessment. Under this component, the MELIA team implements learning studies and impact assessment studies using qualitative and quantitative methods. We identify research questions to study and then design specific studies to implement. Leaders of work packages and country collaborators of Mitigate+ will participate in the implementation of such studies, when feasible. We implement rigorous studies to learn and evaluate the Initiative’s outcomes and impacts on reducing food systems emissions.
For the learning studies, the MELIA team is using the initiative’s theory of change to, together with work package leaders, identify research questions we can test, following established methods. For impact assessment studies, we will similarly identify which outcomes and impacts grant an assessment, and design such study. Once we identify research questions of interest, we will design evaluation studies, including baselines, as appropriate. While we expect to complete learning studies within this phase of the Initiative, we expect to complete the impact assessment studies beyond 2024, as outcomes and impacts will be achieved in the long term.
One example of a learning study relates to Mitigate+ work package 2. This work package aims to increase the capacity of actors to develop robust and accurate greenhouse gas inventories, improve food system greenhouse gas emission monitoring and mitigation planning, as well as improve the ability to implement monitoring, reporting and verification systems. For this, Mitigate+ will provide these actors with technical assistance, information, and methodologies through workshops, training sessions, and other activities. Our theory of change states that once actors improve their capacities, they will use that knowledge to make decisions and implement activities. This, in turn, will have an impact on the outputs they generate, such as more accurate reporting of information and better measurement of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a research question we plan to test using quantitative and qualitative methodologies to evaluate the impact of training sessions on capacities. The quantitative part will include surveys of trainees which we will collect over three periods to estimate the short- and medium-term impacts. The qualitative part will include interviews with key actors to identify challenges and opportunities in the knowledge process, considering the environment and political context. This type of study will also be implemented with other work packages that involve building capacity.
Who makes up the MELIA team of Mitigate+?
The MELIA team comprises a coordinator and two research associates. We work with the leaders of the initiative to achieve its goals. The implementation of MELIA activities may also involve country partners for some of the activities because it is an effort that requires the participation of all stakeholders.
The members of the team are:
See more information on Mitigate+ here.
Photo credit: Testing rice varieties, Vietnam / GeorginaSmith / CIAT
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