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Setting Targets for Poverty Reduction

The “It’s All About M&E” blog series gives you a peek intoFeed the Future M&E. This post was written by Charlee Doom, Agricultural Development Officer in USAID’s Bureau for Food Security.

Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government is committed to enabling and empowering individuals to rise out of poverty. However, we also recognize that it is not enough to provide the tools for development; we must translate field successes into both quantitative and qualitative validation of U.S. investment in developing nations. The USAID Bureau for Food Security’s (BFS) Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team endeavors to draft a clear picture of the complex impact of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative.

A particularly important element of tracking our progress is measuring the reduction of the prevalence of poverty, one of two top-level goals of Feed the Future in the areas where Feed the Future programs are working. Through a recent webinar, Feed the Future Missions were provided guidance on establishing aspirational targets for reducing poverty in their zones of influence (ZOI). Feed the Future M&E will track how well we work toward those targets in the coming years. 

Setting Targets for Poverty Reduction

In the webinar, members of the M&E team talked through the purpose and methodology behind poverty reduction target setting and worked through an example of how to use an internally developed Microsoft Excel tool to estimate 5-year country targets (with a 2012 baseline, 2015 mid-term, and 2017 5-year conclusion timeline). 

For the initiative as a whole, an aspirational target of reducing poverty by an average of 20 percent across all Feed the Future focus countries was established based on recent data and analysis. This is an aggressive, yet achievable, target. To inform country-specific targets (which may be higher or lower than 20 percent), two factors—a poverty reduction trend and a GDP growth trend—were evaluated. Based on the confidence level indicated by these country-specific factors, recommendations were made for each Feed the Future country’s level of poverty reduction (i.e. higher targets were recommended for countries with recent reductions in poverty and expected GDP growth in the coming years).

The BFS team recognizes these aspirational targets are outside the direct manageable interest of the Feed the Future programs alone and represent an ambitious goal to be achieved through the collective efforts of partner countries, development partners, and other key stakeholders. 

The methodology for poverty reduction target setting is based on recent, quantitative data or projections of future trends using information from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It was designed to provide a standardized, evidence-based way of informing target setting using the best available data. However, in the Q&A session of the webinar, the nuances of this method were explored. It is worth noting that the method does not adjust targets for Feed the Future funding levels or country-specific political and social factors.

Additionally, participants in the webinar commented on the fact that the method uses the World Bank’s global standard for poverty measurement (living on less than $1.25 per day) instead of a national poverty line, which varies from country to country. The method applies total GDP data instead of agriculture sector GDP, whereas Feed the Future investments predominately target agriculturally-based populations. Notably, the agriculture sector is a strong driver of overall GDP growth and poverty reductions in all Feed the Future countries and therefore the overall GDP is a good indicator of growth trends in each country.

The M&E team talked through the challenges of developing a standardized method that would measure the Feed the Future top-level goal of sustainably reducing poverty and hunger (the full response to participant questions can be found in the webinar). While a desire to create a method sensitive to all factors existed, the constraints of rolling out a standardized method limited the dexterity of the guidance. In order to help address the various circumstances in each country, Missions were given the flexibility to adjust their recommended target by 5 percentage points in either direction. 

Questions regarding the Target Setting for Reducing the Prevalence of Poverty can be sent to Amit MistryAnne SwindaleCharlee Doom, or Don Sillers

Forthcoming Guidance – Stunting Indicator 

The M&E team will conduct another webinar on Target Setting for Nutrition Indicators in February (TBC).

This blog post originally appeared on the Agrilinks website. Visit for more information and resources. 

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