Strengthen and Scale Agroecology and Sustainable Local Food Systems

Lead Organization:

Groundswell International

Partner Organizations:

Smallholder farmer households and their local organizations at village, inter-village, and territorial levels, along with: West Africa: Agrecol Afrique in Senegal, Association Nourrir Sans Détruire (ANSD) in Burkina Faso, Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) in Ghana, and Sahel Eco in Mali; Latin America: EkoRural in Ecuador, La Asociación Qachuu Aloom “Madre Tierra” in Guatemala, Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL) in Haiti, Vecinos Honduras in Honduras, and Centro de Desarrollo Integral Campesino de la Mixteca (CEDICAM) in Mexico ; South Asia: Boudha Bahanupati Project – Pariwar




The global, industrialized food and agricultural system is fraught with contradictions that prevent it from ensuring human well-being or sustainable management of planet resources. A growing body of research and abundant farmer testimonials point to agroecology as the most productive, sustainable, and just path forward. (Fertile Ground: Scaling Agroecology from the Ground Up, Food First Books, 2017)

More than 15 years ago, the UN and World Bank laid out options for using knowledge, science, and technology to reduce hunger, prepare for and mitigate the climate crisis, provide rural livelihoods, and protect the environment. More than 400 scientists carried out international research across 110 countries and concluded the need to transition from conventional agriculture to agroecological systems that prioritize productivity as well as sustainability.

In 2016, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food) reinforced IAASTD’s findings, reporting that “Industrial food systems have in fact taken shape around industrial agriculture, creating a set of feedback loops [“lock-ins”] that reinforce this mode of farming.” It identified eight lock-ins and opportunities to overcome them. IPES Food’s 2021 report challenged civil society to counter corporate concentration of power and industrialized agriculture by collaborating across multiple scales, broadening alliances and restructuring relationships, connecting long-range commitment to wide range “horizon scanning,” and readying for change and disruption.

Correspondingly, the Global Alliance on the Future of Food (GAFF) developed its Principles for Food System Transformation: A Framework for Action (2021), stating that “What is needed instead is transformational change to disrupt the status quo” and identifying seven bold calls to action.

The challenge is how to collaborate effectively across organizations and sectors to catalyze the transition to farming and food systems that are healthier for people and the planet.

Grant Aims:

1. Strengthen Groundswell’s capacity for planning, monitoring, and evaluation of agroecology programs across 10 countries in three regions.

2. Leverage the grounded results and information generated to synthesize, document, and disseminate methodologies, results, and recommendations for actors interested in the transition to agroecological farming and sustainable local food systems.

3. Facilitate mutual learning, exchange, dialogue, and strategic collaboration between the McKnight Foundation and Groundswell International on issues of common concern, including:

  • Planning, monitoring, and evaluation systems in support of agroecological transition and scaling
  • Connecting science, practice, and movement as core elements of agroecology
  • Participating in each other’s convenings and meetings as strategically and mutually beneficial

Outputs and Outcomes:

Groundswell worked with its partner network the past several years to develop a common theory of change and results framework, which consists of an overarching goal and five strategic objectives, and a related system for planning, budgeting, monitoring, and evaluation (PBM&E) that partners can use to adapt programs to local contexts.


  • Online reporting platform with partners implemented, validated, and revised
  • Staff oriented and trained to ensure baseline survey data collected meets data collection standards
  • Random sample and control groups selected for baseline survey
  • Local enumerator teams selected and trained
  • Baseline data collection completed
  • Baseline data transmitted to central database and systemized
  • Baseline report prepared
  • Draft baseline report presented and reviewed with staff, partners, board, and allies
  • Baseline report designed and published
  • PBM&E guide documented for wider dissemination
  • PBM&E process providing information for ongoing documentation and dissemination of process, results, and recommendations on strategic themes for wider audiences
  • Progress and lessons learned shared with the McKnight Foundation through regular reporting cycles as well as complementary meetings when desired
  • Mutually beneficial and strategic opportunities identified for the McKnight Foundation and Groundswell to participate in each other’s convenings/meetings as strategically advised
  • Groundswell’s strategic planning process enriched for its 2023–28 strategic framework, culminating in its 2022 global conference


  • Improved organizational capacity to plan, monitor, and evaluate agroecology programs with partners across regions/countries
  • Improved platform to facilitate learning across partners and programs for effective program development and implementation
  • Streamlined management systems, allowing Groundswell to manage increased resources with multiple partners
  • PBM&E guide and baseline report contributing to internal and external learning on planning, monitoring, and evaluation of agroecology and sustainable local food system programs
  • Learning and documentation contributing to efforts to deepen and scale transition to agroecology and sustainable local food systems at local, national, regional, and global levels
  • Deeper understanding catalyzing synergies between practice, science, and movement to promote agroecological transition
  • Program effectiveness and strategic framework for Groundswell International improved through ongoing learning
  • Information and mutual learning exchanged between Groundswell International and the McKnight Foundation to deepen effectiveness
  • Emerging opportunities identified for collaboration and contributions to wider movements for agroecology and sustainable local food systems