This article aims to contribute to the discussion about how to make development interventions more effective by analysing the factors contributing to the success or failure of rural development projects. An aggregate level analysis was made of 46 projects in the field of agricultural research (AR), water management (WM), natural resource management (NRM), and integrated rural development (IRD), financed by the Netherlands' Directorate-Genera l for International Cooperation (DGIS) and carried out between 1975-2005 in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Making a distinction between the successful projects and failures, we show the possibilities and limitations of evaluating projects on the basis of the official criteria (relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability and impact and/or using criteria such as poverty, gender, institutional development, governance and environment). We argue that project performance very much depends on whether interventions ‘keep track’ with local priorities and trends. This is much more important than ‘measuring output’ (are results in line with the project goal?) which is wrongly presented as a priority in monitoring and evaluation practices. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
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