There is a new and widespread commitment within the development community to invest in agriculture as a way of reducing poverty and hunger. Three quarters of the one billion people surviving on less than $1 a day live and work in rural areas, and most rely on agriculture for their food and income. Investing in agriculture is key to lifting the world's poor out of hunger and poverty. It is imperative that these new investments are as successful as possible. In order to meet the desired outcomes of hunger reduction and poverty alleviation, success has to be defined, planned for, navigated towards and demonstrated when present. Currently efforts to learn about and plan for impacts of agricultural projects are fractured and of variable quality - tools are available but not widely used, new tools are needed but not being developed, institutional incentives to use assessment data are weak, capacity is thinly spread and investments in this area continue to be an afterthought.
The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and its partner, Keystone Accountability, are working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a broad community of stakeholders to explore options for changing this dynamic. In the context of a one-year grant to IDS from the foundation, the organisations are exploring the potential design of an Agriculture Learning and Impacts Network (ALINe). If the case for support and participation remains strong and if circumstances permit, the network could be launched in 2010. The goal of ALINe is to connect, build up, analyse, influence, and ultimately transform how we assess agricultural development investments. Over the coming year we will be working with key stakeholders to identify needs, map capacities, and locate interest in co-developing the content and infrastructure of the network.