Over the last 20 years, poor rural farmers in Nigeria have seen the benefits of community organization as a tool for local economic development under the National Fadama Development Project series. They have witnessed improvements in rural areas that have embraced a more inclusive and participatory model of local economic decision making. Many communities have come together under the umbrella of new institutional arrangements for addressing local issues. These arrangements have visibly improved economic conditions, boosted agricultural incomes, and helped reduce rural poverty. This transformation has taken place in challenging environments, where basic agriculture remains the principal source of livelihoods and where rural stakeholders have not traditionally participated in cooperative local economic arrangements. This case study aims to show how learning and adaptation have been important to the success of the Fadama project, and how lessons learned can help inform new operations in agricultural reform and rural development more broadly. The case study explores the following question: How did the Fadama project learn and adapt to changing circumstances, including the social and political context, as it evolved from a pilot program to a successful national project? The chronological review looks at how the program’s success can be attributed to its capacity to build on existing knowledge of local conditions, to pilot and learn before scaling up, to incorporate and test global practices, and to build important new institutional structures at the local level. This case study also examines how the evolving institutional structure ultimately led to a change in the social contract among farmers, other stakeholders, and different levels of government, resulting in a cultural shift in the process of local development. This shift was prompted in part by a transfer of global knowledge and adaptation of prevailing global practices.