Evaluations: Key to Mitigating Climate Change Effects on USAID Programming

Nov 05 2018

Global climate change is blurring the lines between development sectors and raising the stakes for ensuring minimization of poverty and food insecurity. Shrinking resources plus increasing populations is a recipe for discord and civil unrest and threatens the stabilizing influence of democracy. It is increasingly critical for the United States to assist developing and transitioning nations to build resiliency so that the effects of climate change don’t create circumstances that threaten U.S. interests.

By designing evaluations and population-based surveys that utilize both qualitative and quantitative methods, and which are implemented by experts with the technical knowledge to offer tailored, apropos recommendations, ME&A helps ensure populations can count on secure futures—despite tumultuous environmental changes. A population that trusts its most basic needs will be met is a population that can turn its attention to building democracies, engaging in civil discourse, and stabilizing its place in a peaceful, secure world.

A recent University of Hawaii study shows that countries closer to the equator will see the most drastic temperature swings as a result of climate change. In an unfortunate coincidence, most countries along the equator are categorized as “developing” and, therefore, least prepared to mitigate and adapt to the results of these temperature shifts. These variations may lead to longer droughts and when rainfall does occur, it could be too extreme to benefit struggling crops.

Further, low-lying lands and coastal regions will see flooding devastate communities. The effects of climate change disproportionately impact the poor and underserved in transitioning nations and, with droughts on one hand and flooding on the other, food, potable water, and shelter may
become scarce. When a population is hungry, without reliable sources of drinking water, or living without appropriate shelter, they are prone to disenfranchisement, which can flare into civil unrest and stop positive economic and political transition in its tracks.

This is neither a secret nor a new phenomenon, but climate change threatens to increase that burden on resources and speed the slide into poverty—and conflict—for millions. Governments in affected countries will face pressure to spend money and time on relief rather than on efforts to bolster civil society, govern, or build national capacity for resilience—all of which directly threatens both U.S. security and democratic ideals.

U.S. Government agencies like USAID are working to address development issues around the world on every level—including defeating violent extremist organizations, strengthening democratic governance, bolstering capacity for clean water and sanitation, and encouraging economic growth. Multiple USAID bureaus and missions design and implement different projects, which often have separate programmatic or regional foci.

However, because climate change has the power to affect every aspect of life — from hunger to political instability to increased extremism brought about by disenfranchisement—it pulls multiple sectors into the shared space of the Venn Diagram. This overlap, coupled with the fact that most projects have multiple moving parts, means that periodic evaluations are critical and that they require evaluators to have eyes firmly on both the trees of the project itself and on the forest of the wider implications—including the impact climate change will have on resiliency and countries in transition.

For more than 30 years, ME&A has supported USAID efforts in multiple sectors in over 60 countries. ME&A designs and implements project evaluations that guide programs along the best, most appropriate paths to helping vulnerable nations transition to democracy and increase resilience in the face of climate change and volatile economies.

Currently, ME&A implements monitoring, evaluation and learning activities funded by USAID El Salvador, USAID Central Asia, USAID Tanzania, and the U.S. Government-wide Feed the Future Program Evaluation for Effectiveness and Learning (PEEL). In El Salvador, ME&A evaluated the Regional Climate Change Program (RCCP), a three-component project that included sustainable landscapes, emission reduction, and climate-smart economic growth.

Under PEEL, ME&A recently completed an evaluation of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collective Research on Fisheries and Aquaculture. Both evaluations provided recommendations for sustainability, local capacity-building, and for linking other projects as a means of exchanging ideas and information.

Another PEEL evaluation ME&A conducted used a results chain analysis (RCA) to assess the Feed the Future Program in Ethiopia, with resulting recommendations in favor of using RCA to create clearer linkages between interventions and end goals. These and other evaluation activities conducted for USAID and the U.S. Department of State help these agencies to better understand and respond to the challenges of climate change.