How can we improve agricultural development projects?

Too many agricultural development projects produce undesirable consequences or fail to maintain positive outcomes after funding is withdrawn. BMGF saw potential in the principles of sustainability to improve the outcomes of grant-funded projects and extend outcomes beyond the duration of the grant. The agricultural development group asked for help in creating a methodology for integrating sustainability considerations into the grant-making process, testing the process, and teaching it to program managers.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Through grant-making, the Foundation works with partners around the world to alleviate poverty, advance science and technology to improve health outcomes, and build strategic relationships to advance this work. In the U.S., the Foundation focuses on high school and post-secondary education improvements and helping vulnerable children and families in Washington State. Visit BMGF.


  • Review grant-funded agricultural development projects for sustainability performance; identify gaps and opportunities for improvement
  • Develop a sustainability assessment tool and the process for integrating it into the grant funding process, from initial application to final approval
  • Test the assessment tool on existing grants at various stages in the grant process
  • Train program managers in application of the sustainability assessment tool


  • A simplified process for considering sustainability implications of agricultural development projects (such as surface or groundwater contamination, erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, habitat loss); and implementable by those with access to technology or not
  • Proof of concept through the pilot tests
  • Training module for teaching program managers the methodology and the underlying principles