These positive trends are not, however, shared among all developing countries, nor even among all the population of the industrialized nations. At the global level, a significant number of the inhabitants of our planet continue to be chronically poor; nearly 35% of the adult population are still illiterate, two thirds of whom are women; 30% of school age children do not complete primary school; over 40% in the developing countries are without basic services. In most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, per capita income has dropped to the level of the 1970s. Despite the billions of dollars spent on development assistance in Africa, the success stories are limited. The failures of many development efforts to take root in countries across the globe have led to calls and actions to reassess past development activities in order to learn from their mistakes and weaknesses and correct for them accordingly in future projects.
At the same time there is a growing sense of crisis with respect to development strategies that has provoked many traditional donors to question the concept of "resource transfers". It is reflected in reduced commitment to providing international assistance to developing countries and a call for measurable evidence of development impact from programmes.
In the climate of doubt and lack of confidence about the role and results of international assistance, the value and effectiveness of traditional development programmes is seriously questioned. These doubts become more critical as donor countries face mounting domestic demands for economic support from their own disadvantaged. Development organizations, bilateral as well as multilateral, face a major challenge to demonstrate that official development assistance (ODA) to support projects and programmes in developing countries can be an effective instrument to eliminate poverty and promote self-sustaining development. This in turn directly challenges the function of evaluation to contribute to the formulation of responses to fundamental questions about the impact of technical cooperation activities and their contribution to sustainable development.
The shortcomings of numerous development activities in Africa has led the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to conduct projects aimed at reassessing and reorienting the strategies that have been applied. Case studies have been carried out to learn from specific project strategies applied. One of these projects, focused on drought-prone southern Africa, will review previous approaches to rural development, proposing alternatives based on participatory, sustainable methods tailored to the region.