Moving the Dial on Poverty and Hunger: What are Feed the Future’s High-Level Outcome Targets?

July 23, 2013

The second Feed the Future progress report is out and is generating a lot of buzz about the initiative’s successes last year. 

People are talking about big numbers like:

  • 9 million households benefiting directly from Feed the Future investments
  • More than 7 million farmers applying new technologies or management practices
  • More than 12 million children under five reached by nutrition programs
  • Over $115 million in new private sector investment in the agricultural sector as a result of Feed the Future interventions

With more projects coming online and more USAID Missions and agencies like the Peace Corps and the U.S. African Development Foundation reporting into the Feed the Future Monitoring System in fiscal year 2012, results like these are expected to continue.

These numbers are more than just impressive statistics. They are also critical checkpoints on the road toward achieving Feed the Future’s goal of sustainably reducing poverty and undernutrition. Their placement on this road or “causal pathway” can be seen in the Feed the Future Results Framework, the conceptual and analytic structure that outlines the initiative’s goals and objectives.

Targets and Targeting

In order to track progress toward our goal, Feed the Future, as a whole, has set aspirational targets of reducing the prevalence of extreme poverty (those that live on less than $1.25 per day) and the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 years of age by 20 percent across all Feed the Future focus countries in the areas in which the initiative works. Individual country-level targets are set against these goals, based on the conditions and context on the ground, and range between 15 to 30 percent in each country, averaging approximately 20 percent overall. 

From the beginning, we knew that Feed the Future could not do everything, do it everywhere, and do it well. That’s why Feed the Future prioritizes and concentrates efforts and resources in 19 focus countries where the Rome Principles can be best realized. We’ve further focused our resources within these countries in zones of influence: geographic areas strategically chosen based on need and strong potential for agriculture-led economic growth. Feed the Future tracks reductions in extreme poverty and stunting in these zones through baseline, midterm and final population-based surveys conducted in these areas.

Using Data to Understand

We’re currently tabulating the results of the baseline population-based surveys. The raw survey datasets for Bangladesh and Ghana are already available, with more to come. We’ll conduct midterm population-based surveys in 2015 and final population-based surveys in 2017. Results will be available in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

While real changes in poverty and stunting (the result of chronic undernutrition over time) take time to occur and are, therefore, difficult to measure on a year-to-year basis, independent data does show that poverty rates fell by an average of 5.6 percent across Feed the Future focus countries from 2005 to 2011, and stunting decreased by an average of six percent from 2009 to 2012*. Feed the Future has helped contribute to these trends in the past few years and works to accelerate them in the future. Through population-based household surveys, Feed the Future will be able to show progress in its development hypothesis that agriculture-led growth and a commitment to nutrition can help reduce poverty and hunger. 

These surveys also track other data critical to understanding Feed the Future’s impact such as women’s empowerment, which we measure through the recently-developed Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index; women's dietary diversity; breastfeeding; minimum acceptable diet; expenditures; and comprehensive household demographic information.

How We Got There

Of course, this is not the only way Feed the Future is looking at high-level, outcome data on reducing poverty and hunger. Feed the Future also seeks to understand what interventions are successful, in what contexts, and why. Those questions are at the front and center of Feed the Future’s robust Learning Agenda.

Through the Learning Agenda, Feed the Future is conducting more than 40 impact evaluations to look at key questions related to the Feed the Future Results Framework. An evaluation currently underway in Uganda is looking at how different approaches to integrate gender work to improve nutritional status and dietary diversity. Another in Cambodia is assessing the impact of extension services on increasing farm productivity, household food availability, and income, as well as how interventions that promote the diversification of the food system impact dietary diversity and nutrition among women and children.

These impact evaluations, paired with annual monitoring results like in our latest progress report, will also help us keep a pulse on our progress toward meeting our “20-20 goals” and help us demonstrate how we are getting there.  

The road to food security is a long one, but we are committed to stick to it, learning and sharing as we go.

Learn more about Feed the Future’s progress this Thursday. Check out our event page and tune in on social media via the hashtag #feedthefuture.


 *Poverty data based on a $1.25/day threshold and obtained from PovCal. Data are either based on recent population-based surveys or World Bank data aggregations for the years 2005 or 2008. Data on stunting is from Demographic and Health Surveys reports or other comparable sources compiled by UNICEF.