Amid rising challenges posed by climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic shocks, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) doubled down on its commitment to the world’s poorest rural communities in 2021, increasing support to reach 128 million small-scale farmers and vulnerable people, according to its annual report recently released.
The IFAD Annual Report 2021 detailed how its efforts successfully targeted those who needed it most: data released during 2021 revealed that 49 per cent of direct beneficiaries were women, while 22 per cent were youth.
“We know that economic empowerment of women is the key to greater empowerment for all, while more than 600 million youth in rural areas globally need our help,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD.
“These investments will ultimately help deliver greater food security, poverty reduction and economic resilience to their broader communities – that is, the people who produce a third of the world’s food but are too often left behind,” he said.
The annual report recaps the activities of the UN specialized agency and international finance institution, which mobilizes funds, technical expertise and other resources to combat poverty and hunger among the 3.4 billion people who live in rural areas of the developing world.
With global hunger on the rise and climate change impacting agricultural output, IFAD’s role in ensuring global food security has never been more crucial. IFAD’s 177 member states have recognised this by committing a record US$1.55 billion to the agency’s 2022-2024 core resources with the aim of doubling its impact by 2030.
Some of those funds went in 2021 to expanding IFAD’s COVID-19 response initiative – called the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) – to help people survive pandemic-caused financial losses while also protecting the global food supply.
As traditional markets were upended due to COVID-19-related supply chain and transportation disruption, the RPSF stepped in to provide small-scale farmers with seeds, fertilizer, access to liquidity and information. Support for digital services like e-marketing and e-money were also increased. Twenty million people have received support in 59 hard-hit countries through the RPSF so far in the past two years.
The Annual Report 2021 also highlights IFAD’s efforts to expand its resource mobilisation by enlisting the participation of private sector partners. This builds on IFAD’s A++ credit rating, attained in 2020, which has allowed the agency to pursue co-financing through partnerships and thereby complement its core three-year “replenishment” resources. In June 2021, IFAD also launched a Sustainable Development Finance Framework to guide engagement with institutional impact investors who focus on sustainable finance.
Other milestones in 2021 for IFAD included continuing advocacy for rural people and for a transformation of food systems at major international events including the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and the UN Food Systems Summit.
The initiatives laid out in 2021 are now serving as building blocks for IFAD’s stepped-up response to the crisis in 2022 prompted by war in Ukraine and the ensuing hike in food, fertilizer, energy and transport costs. IFAD’s dedicated response to the impacts of the war, called the Crisis Response Initiative, focuses on 22 priority countries in urgent need, and work is now underway in six of the most critical state – Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mozambique, Somalia and Yemen.
“Our mission is unwavering in the face of conflict, COVID-19 and climate shock: to transform rural economies and food systems, and to drive more sustainable and inclusive development for the most vulnerable small-scale farmers and their communities,” Houngbo said.