Impact on Poverty Reduction of Selected Projects: Perceptions of the Beneficiaries

Evaluation Document | 31 August 2002

This evaluation assesses the impact of ADB's poverty reduction measures, and how effectively poverty reduction objectives were incorporated into project design.

In 1999, ADB's Operations Evaluation Department conducted a special evaluation study covering five developing member countries (DMCs) to assess the impact of ADB's poverty reduction measures, and how effectively poverty reduction objectives were incorporated into project design.

This present study is a follow-up assessment and examines through the eyes of beneficiaries how well selected ADB projects reduced poverty.

The study covers two sectors (agriculture and social infrastructure) in six DMCs (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and Samoa) and seeks to determine the socio-demographic profile of the beneficiaries, beneficiaries' perceptions of the projects' poverty reduction impact, the projects' relevance and the beneficiaries' current needs and lessons to be drawn from the experiences of the selected projects, among others.

Summary of findings

Proportion of target beneficiaries who effectively benefited

  • The proportion of beneficiaries who effectively benefited ranged from 24% to 50%, depending on the type of benefit. Proportions were higher for benefits related to increased income and enhanced general well-being than for benefits related to women and the environment.
  • Among the six DMCs, the proportions of beneficiaries effectively benefited were generally higher in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines than in Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa.

Improved household situation due to projects

  • The selected projects helped improve the household situation of 27% of beneficiaries, a proportion lower than that of those who effectively benefited.
  • The highest proportion of target beneficiaries whose household situation improved due to projects was in Bangladesh, followed by Nepal and the Philippines, with Indonesia having the lowest proportion.
  • Economic growth projects had a slightly lower proportion of such beneficiaries than poverty reduction projects. Projects to promote human development and improve the status of women had a significantly higher proportion of beneficiaries attributing improvement to the projects.
  • Projects approved in the 1990s had a significantly higher proportion of beneficiaries attributing improvement in household situation to the projects than those approved in the 1980s, indicating greater poverty reduction impact in recent years.

Lessons identified

  • A balanced program of poverty intervention projects should be ensured at the macro level, and multiple components even at the project level.
  • Beneficiaries should be consulted, participate in decision making, and the results shared with the community. Leadership should be developed among the poor.
  • More time and resources should be invested in social capital for every poverty intervention project. Social capital, relational and institutional, is crucial in enabling beneficiaries, especially those facing social exclusion, to participate in decision making that affects them, and in sustaining the project benefits.
  • If called for in the project design, projects should be turned over to the beneficiaries only if they are sufficiently prepared to handle the responsibilities.
  • The usual design and implementation variables continue to be of crucial importance. Projects should be demand driven. Other needs are thorough initial social assessment, coherent project framework, macroeconomic stability, conducive policy environment and sound governance, adequate institutional capacity of executing agencies, high-quality project staff, participatory approaches, and monitoring and evaluation.

Key recommendations

  • A sound social survey covering the key indicators should be made mandatory for all poverty-focused projects.
  • Project preparatory work needs to include the collection of adequate baseline data. A description of the methodologies adopted in measuring the base conditions should also be indicated.
  • A substantial proportion of project beneficiaries were nonpoor, at least in their own view, despite the fact that the projects were expected to have the most impact on the poor.
  • Develop a sense of ownership through real participation to ensure long-term project sustainability.
  • Where the markets are undeveloped and the governments weak or indifferent, social capital assumes particular importance.
  • Choose the right development partner, which must not only be trusted but also have the necessary managerial, technical, and administrative skills and qualifications.
  • Invest in selecting the project manager.
  • After project completion, if no immediate follow-up project is implemented, full responsibility over the project rests with the executing agencies and/or the beneficiaries. A thorough sustainability assessment should be conducted to identify critical factors and recommend follow-up actions.


  • Executive Summary
  • I. Introduction
  • II. ADB Assistance to Project Countries and Profile of the Selected Projects
  • III. The Beneficiaries and their Perceptions of Poverty
  • IV. Impacts on Poverty Reduction
  • V. Factors Affecting Poverty Reduction Impact
  • VI. The Beneficiaries Today
  • VII. Findings and Recommendations
  • Appendixes
  • Supplementary Appendixes