Methodological evaluation of public policies in Oaxaca

When we talk about public government programs, we only think about what the government will give to the needy population. This may be cash, fertilizers, plants or many other things. However, what few people think about is that every social program of government policies must be evaluated rigorously and with scientific methodologies to know its results. This is done through various mechanisms that detect whether the established policies become good government practices or if they are harmful. The evaluation, therefore, will allow in the first instance to establish to what extent the proposed goals have been met.

Cynthia Cruz Carrasco, a teacher and doctor in Sciences and Regional and Technological Development, is an academic who chose to leave the comfort of urban offices to go to small and almost forgotten communities in the interior of the state to carry out the important work of evaluating the impact of social programs on people’s lives. It is not about going for a walk, it is about returning again and again, staying among them, organizing them and giving them workshops, training them and gaining their trust in order to correctly evaluate the way in which their lives have changed with the implementation of current public policies.

Cynthia is a post-doctoral researcher and her research project is the evaluation of the government program “Sembrando Vida” in two small communities in the municipality of Tehuantepec. One of them is called “Cajón de piedra”. Her training as an administrator allowed her to have the necessary tools to complete a master’s degree in Regional Development in which she evaluated the impact that the Magdalena Apasco Industrial Park has had on the surrounding communities. She completed her high school studies at COBAO and her bachelor’s degree at the local Technological Institute, all public institutions.

The “Sembrando vida” program must influence the communities where it is applied. She wanted to give it a special focus and was interested in the way it affects women. She applied the methodology that consisted of measuring indicators such as the basic food basket, the basket of capabilities and the basket of assets and, specifically, she evaluated the government program through dimensions such as relevance, effectiveness, impact and sustainability in the place where it is applied.

This requires a great deal of work in gathering and analysing information in the study area and with the population, which does not always wish to cooperate. He carried out a pre-diagnosis and a theoretical framework that allowed him to complete his study. According to his results, in these small towns a positive impact had been achieved due to two things. On the one hand, the fact that the inhabitants receive cash support and, on the other, their diet had improved due to monitoring the planting of corn, beans and fruit or timber trees, although the inhabitants also complain about the lack or poor quality of public services, such as water, the supply of fertilizers or the existence of pests and diseases in their crops.

Her research was of a mixed type, with a descriptive approach, with the aim of explaining the indicators and variables that contribute to social well-being. The information techniques consisted of: participant observation, semi-structured interviews and surveys.

As an initiative of Cynthia’s own, in order to establish a better relationship and communication with the inhabitants of the communities she studied, she decided to support them by organizing some practical workshops aimed mainly at women so that they could learn how to dehydrate fruits and vegetables with very simple solar dehydrators, the technology for which had been developed by her colleagues at CIIDIR-IPN. Not only did they have to learn how to dehydrate the products, but they were also trained to make their own dehydrators out of wood and build solar stoves with very simple and accessible materials.

According to the results, the “Sembrando Vida” program had indeed had a positive impact in these small towns.

In these communities of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, they often have the problem of not being able to market their products due to the distance and lack of resources, so dehydrating vegetables is a tool that can help them in two ways. On the one hand, dehydration is a method of preserving food, so during harvest time they can do it and store the vegetables to consume them later. They are healthy and completely natural products. On the other hand, as they are producers, the dehydration technique could help them market their already processed products, that is, dehydrated and packaged in a very simple way, which would mean additional income for the women of the community.

The application of studies such as those carried out by Cynthia is essential to improve national planning, to gather information elements that allow for the evaluation and improvement of the performance of public policies and to carry out budget planning based on the results of the evaluations because it is information obtained in a methodical manner with scientific support.

Normally, this type of information on evaluations is used by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, CONEVAL, which is the institution responsible for evaluating public policies and development programs.

Evaluation work is not easy because there are different theoretical and practical approaches and the best methodology must be chosen to verify compliance with the objectives of social programs. Any of the theoretical approaches to be used must include the participation of social actors, as is the case with Cynthia’s post-doctoral research work.

For Dr. Cynthia Cruz Carrasco, her greatest emotion was the words of farewell: “We are the forgotten ones. If you had not come, no one would have noticed us.”

Contact: [email protected]

Nestor Yuri / Dr. Javier Flores Toledo

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