As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world pushing millions of more people into hunger and poverty, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) increased its support for the most vulnerable and marginalized people, according to the IFAD Annual Report 2020 released today.
With 203 ongoing projects and total financing of US$7.5 billion, IFAD was able to reach 123 million people in 2020.
“Despite the challenges of 2020, we remain convinced that our vision of a world free of poverty and hunger is attainable and should remain in focus,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD.
“Doing more to build the resilience of rural people does not only mean scaling up investments. It also means going further to reach the people most likely to be left behind, to ensure the rural women and men IFAD serves are better prepared to overcome the challenges they face.”
In April 2020, IFAD launched the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) with support its Executive Board and member states such as Canada and Germany that made contributions. The Facility has helped rural people hang on to their livelihoods in this difficult period while also maintaining the supply of food.
With supply chains and transportation disrupted, small-scale farmers have received seeds, fertilizer and other support to continue planting and production. Support for digital services like e-marketing and e-money was increased.
In 2020 IFAD stepped up its work with particularly marginalized groups including women, youth, disabled persons and indigenous peoples. New grass-roots activities were started, and 10 times as many people participated in the Fifth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum as ever before.
In East and Southern Africa, 2020 was a challenging year with multiple shocks – climate change, locust invasions and the COVID-19 pandemic – posing a serious threat to the livelihoods of rural people. Economic activity also suffered from disruptions from the movement of people and goods and the declining global commodity prices. For the first time in 20 years, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region declined.
“IFAD in the region is working with partners to help strengthen the resilience of small-scale farmers. In 2020 alone, we invested US$ 167.4 million in three new projects (in Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania) bringing our operations to 42 ongoing projects with a total investment of US$1.6 billion. Our commitment to rural transformation is much stronger, now that the world has realised that for a sustainable food system we need resilient farmers,” said Sara Mbago-Bhunu, IFAD Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
As part of IFAD’s contribution to help address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of farmers in East and Southern Africa, IFAD repurposed US$ 47.6 million from its existing activities. In addition, through the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, IFAD allocated US$26.4 million as emergency grants to assist rural people in accessing inputs for crop production and rural financial services, and to sell their products in the local markets.
“Before the project, I was just sitting at home, because my husband did not have any money. Then I started making money. Now people admire us,” said Mariamo, a young woman artisanal Fisher in Mozambique. IFAD has supported the Artisanal Fisheries Promotion Project to help coastal communities like Mariamo’s become resilient and increase incomes despite the devastating effects of climate change.
“We have realised the value of digital platforms and we will maintain our digital engagement post-COVID19,” Charles Wachira Mwangi, Chairperson of G-Start Youth Group. The youth group was able to continue selling their banana flour during the COVID-19 pandemic, using digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. In Kenya, the G-Star Youth group is one of the groups benefiting from IFAD supported Upper Tana Catchment Natural Resource Management Project.
The report outlines how IFAD is revamping its financial infrastructure to be able to invest more and reach more rural people while managing risks. In 2020 IFAD obtained AA+ credit ratings from Fitch and Standard and Poor’s, creating opportunities to mobilize more resources. Ongoing decentralization, with a third of IFAD staff now in the field, means that IFAD can increase partnerships and policy engagement and improve results by being closer to its clients.
IFAD received record commitments of funding from the Member States following the launch of the Twelfth Replenishment of its resources (IFAD12) in February 2020, with the goal of doubling the Fund’s impact by 2030. With a target programme of work of at least $11 billion for 2022-2024, IFAD expects to raise the incomes of 83 million people by at least 20 per cent. New programmes will increase attention to climate change impacts and resilience (ASAP+), and leverage new investment by the private sector (the Private Sector Financing Programme, or PSFP).