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Scaling Up Efforts to End Hunger and Poverty

By Bureau for Food Security

Last month we gathered with USAID Missions and other partners for the first-ever Global Learning and Evidence Exchange (GLEE) on scaling up the use and adoption of agricultural technologies.

The event was well timed, as we mark a decade of global progress on food security. This year, the African Union will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program and has declared 2014 the year of agriculture and food security.

Over the past decade, the world has followed the lead of African countries after they committed to advancing food security through the Maputo Declaration in 2003. The United States helped lead donor countries in reinvesting and increasing commitments in agricultural development to support these countries and others to grow their economies, provide jobs, and lift people out of poverty—through both the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

At last month’s GLEE in Ethiopia, we reviewed lessons learned after a decade of renewed effort by USAID and partners on food security.

In just a few short years, we’re already beginning to see real results from our work to reduce global poverty, hunger and undernutrition. Our latest progress report documents how we’re helping farmers and households improve their food security.

But there are still 842 million people who go to bed hungry every night. Changing diets and changing climates will require us to grow more nutritious food in the future using less land, water and energy. If we are to end extreme poverty and reduce the number of chronically hungry and undernourished people in the world, we must move from project-level efforts to population-level impacts.

Of course, impact like this will take a few years. But it will also takea deliberate effort on our part and by our partners to scale up what’s working for smallholder farmers.

Scaling is not a new initiative—it’s harvesting what we’ve been doing and figuring out how to move from project-level results to population-level scale to achieve lasting, broad-based impact. It’s about getting our programs right on the ground so they support scaling up of what’s working. And it’s not just about us, but about engaging with multiple partners and building momentum that will outlast our projects.

The GLEE was a forum to share best practices on scaling in preparation for moving from project-level to population-level impacts.

At the GLEE, we were challenged to think of scaling in a systems context, not just as increasing adoption of one particular technology or another. We learned that scaling takes time. And we need to be thinking “what’s next?” from the beginning, when we design projects, to ensure we are working together to build systems that will outlast our projects and sustain and grow impacts.

We discussed a variety of areas related to scaling, including:

  • What is scaling? Johannes Linn of the Brookings Institution provided us with an excellent overview of what scaling is—and what it is not.
  • How do we decide what to scale? We learned about tools and resources for assessing options and tradeoffs, such as cost-benefit analysis.
  • How do we take innovations to scale? We discussed the role of extension, public-private partnerships and the policy environment in helping or hindering scaling.
  • How do we track our scaling efforts and understand how effective and successful they are? We reviewed the Feed the Future monitoring and evaluation framework and learning agenda.
  • How do we incorporate a scaling perspective into our programs? Presenters highlighted case studies of value chain projects and the challenges and opportunities they faced with scaling.

For more on these discussions, visit the resources section of the scaling technologies hub on We’ve added presentations from the GLEE and additional resources on scaling to help you answer these questions too and join in our learning as we pursue our collective goal of sustainably reducing global poverty, hunger and undernutrition.

What do you know about what works or what doesn’t in scaling technologies? What advice or ideas do you have for us in the areas listed above? Let us know. Tweet your ideas using the hashtag #scalingGLEE.

Read a guest post from a GLEE participant on the Agrilinks blog.

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