An evidence gaps study has formally been launched in Ghana to help improve the understanding of infrastructure’s impact on nutritious diet and women’s economic empowerment in South Saharan Africa.
The outcome of the study is crucial for ensuring the judicious use of scarce resources in developing countries, where infrastructural development is seen as essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, especially, those relating to nutrition, improved diet, women’s empowerment and gender equality.
A policy think tank, the International Centre for Evaluation and Development, ICED, is leading the two-year project, with a grant of one-point five six million dollars, (US$1.56 million), from The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, BMGF, under its Nutritious Food Systems Portfolio. The ICED Project team includes a Gender and Women Empowerment Consultant, Professor Emerita Takyiwaa Manuh.
The launch of the project which was virtual and in-person, took place at the Ghana Office of ICED, at Sakumono in the Greater Accra Region, and was chaired by a Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Felix Asante.
Professor Asante who is also a Board Member of ICED, said in the project context, infrastructure refers to physical rural infrastructure that are relevant for agricultural production.
Professor Asante stated “the project aims at improving understanding on the impacts and pathways connecting infrastructure development to diet, markets, and women’s economic empowerment in the literature. The purpose is to study three policy relevant questions:
(1) what are the effects of different types of infrastructure on safe, affordable, accessible and nutritious diets among low-income consumers and women’s economic empowerment?
(2) Are certain types of infrastructure investments and/or design components within those investments more conducive to advancing low-income consumer choices on nutritious diet and also contribute to women’s economic empowerment?
(3) What can be done by policymakers and/or development organizations to strengthen the most impactful types of infrastructure investments and also ensure they are optimally gender-inclusive and nutrition-sensitive”
Professor Asante said ICED is excited to explore this area of research and looks forward to the strategic contributions of the team and ‘our partners in research and academia in advancing this project.’
He revealed that over the past five years, ICED has completed 12 project/programme evaluations for UNECA, International, and National public and private institutions in Africa. With partnership and collaboration with Government Ministries and Universities in Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, ICED has conducted professional development workshops and training for public and private sector professionals.
Approaches to study
The CEO of International Centre for Evaluation and Development, ICED, Dr. David Ameyaw, said published and unpublished literature in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, will play a key role in their studies. He outlined some approaches the study will use, which include, evidence gap maps, theory of change and methods used for the study of the causal linkages.
Evidence Gaps Maps
Dr. Ameyaw, said “Evidence gaps maps is a methodology, where we can demonstrate visually, evidence that has been generated linking different types of infrastructure to different outcomes on nutritious diet, and women empowerment. So, let’s take the road, and we say have people studied road and women employment. Maybe studies have not been done, but, if studies have been done, then we can show to policy makers, there is evidence, but if there is no evidence of studies done, then we show it to donors that studies have not been done, so we need to commission studies to establish such linkage.
Theory of Change
On the theory of change, Dr. Ameyaw noted that it will demonstrate the causal pathway that links an intervention to an outcome. “So, if let’s say we take water or irrigation, we say if you construct an irrigation facility, what are the sequence of activities that will lead to gender empowerment outcomes. You do irrigation and we ask ourselves, what is women’s right, land right, what type of commodities are women planting, what is their access to market, so you do the irrigation, you give access to women to have access to land, then you have access to market, then they are able to increase their income.
Methods used in earlier studies
Dr. Ameyaw said they will look at “What methods are researchers using to study these causal linkages. We are going to do all these studies to demonstrate for decision-makers, policy makers and donors to use anytime they are commissioning such investments.”
In a brief remark, a Program Officer on the Agricultural Development team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ms Chiara Kovarik, said the motivation behind providing the grant to ICED, is to promote inclusive country-led agricultural transformation in Africa and South Asia. That is, increasing women’s empowerment in agriculture as well as the affordability, accessibility, and diversity of diets for low-income consumers year-round.
According to her, while their Agriculture team does not invest in large-scale infrastructure, they acknowledge the vital role it plays in economic development and agricultural transformation. She expressed the hope that the grant therefore will be valuable to generate a theory of change and an evidence review of infrastructure as a driver of inclusion-oriented outcomes—and provide that as a global public good.
Ms Kovarik, commended ICED for assembling an impressive global multi-disciplinary team which include agricultural economists, nutrition specialists, and gender experts, to lead the project over the next two years.