Evaluation of Impact of Rural Environmental Rehabilitation projects in Northern Shewa, Ethiopia

Client Organization: 
ADHENO Integrated Rural Development Association
Project Location : 
Northern Shewa Zone, Ethiopia
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & Objectives

For the last 12 years ADHENO has been implementing community based Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Project in some of the poorest rural areas in Ethiopia. This project will evaluate the impact and effectiveness of these projects.  The objective is to use the results of the impact evaluation to modify the Environmental Rehabilitation project when it is rolled out to additional villages so that the effectiveness of the project and the benefit to rural communities and the natural environment can be maximized.

The proposal is for this evaluation project to be designed and implemented as a partnership between the University of Michigan and the local Debre Birhan University.

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance

The communities that ADHENO operates in are located in the central highlands and are some of the poorest rural communities even by Ethiopian standards.  The Ethiopian highlands are part of the Eastern Afromontane which has been designated as a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International. It is an area where human impact has degraded the ecosystem for millennia and the result has been falling agricultural yields and chronic food insecurity. The impact of climate change has only exacerbated the problem.  Often the ADHENO projects are the only interventions that address the needs of the community.  ADHENO implements Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Projects as a way to help the poorest rural communities adapt to the impacts of climate change while also rehabilitating their natural environment. Some of the impacts of climate change in the project area have been: springs drying up and access to water being more limited, erratic rains resulting in failing crops. Key project activities include:

  • Rehabilitating the environment by planting trees (including indigenous and medicinal trees), soil protection measures such as terracing
  • Improving the resilience of the agricultural system through irrigation, water conservation, crop diversification etc
  • Developing the economic strength of the community especially that of women by developing alternative revenue generating micro-enterprises such as bee-keeping, poultry and small animal rearing, basket weaving, processing traditional spices etc
  • Expanding and Enhancing rural education by building additional school rooms, providing books, and sponsoring girls to go to school
  • Improved health of the community by implementing de-worming projects as well as building clean water springs

A comprehensive evaluation project is much needed to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of these projects.  Such an evaluation is a critical pre-requisite  to scaling out these projects to additional rural sub-districts per ADHENO’s 2nd Five Year Strategic Plan,  in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of the project.  It is expected that key gaps and potential solutions will be identified and these will be integrated into subsequent projects in additional villages leading to improved results such as better survival of planted trees, increased revenue from micro-enterprises, expanded access to clean water etc. In addition such an evaluation will be key to securing additional funding from donor organizations.

The project will require a lot of creative thinking and innovative methodologies to effectively evaluate the effectiveness of all the above project activities over a wide and rugged rural area.  Currently there is a dearth of effective methodologies (and implementation of such methodologies) in evaluating the real on-the-ground impact of grass-roots community projects.  Thus though hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on various developmental community projects worldwide, the long-term impact of such projects remains questionable.  An effective evaluation methodology and project which includes identifying key gaps and recommended solutions, can be a critical tool in improving the effectiveness and impact of such projects.  The end result of this can be giant leaps forward in improving the lives of millions of rural poor as well as in rehabilitating the environment.

Specific Activities & Duration

The scale of the proposed research is such that it can be very reasonably completed as a part-time 16-month project for 3-4 students.  This is especially true since the project will be designed and implemented by University of Michigan students in partnership with counterparts from the local Debre Birhan University.  Research methodologies required include:

  • Surveying the project area and summarizing the key project activities and achievements in ADHENO’s Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Project
  • Designing a comprehensive evaluation program which includes:
    • Defining key metrics
    • Defining benchmarks to compare project achievements against
    • Designing process to gather data on the key metrics including strategies to  interact with the local community and survey the area to acquire the required data
    • Designing process to interpret and evaluate the data against the metrics
    • Define the partnership with Debre Birhan University including outlining the roles and responsibilities of each team member and the timeline
    • Identification of key gaps in project implementation of ADHENO’s Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Project
    • Defining recommendations of potential solutions to key gaps based on feedback from the rural community, discussions with experts both locally and in the US, and research on the implementation of similar projects in Ethiopia or other countries.
SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Informatics
Sustainable Systems
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Dan Brown
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Hsiao-Chin Liu
  • Matt Chambers
  • Nathan Chesterman
  • Julia Entwistle
Project Status: 
Past Project