IFAD Partners    
  International Fund for Agricultural Development


Over the past 29 years, IFAD has committed approximately half a billion US dollars in grants to support research-for-development programmes. Many of these programmes have had an impact on small-scale agriculture throughout the developing world. Through its support to the global agricultural research system, IFAD has succeeded in drawing attention to the priority concerns of the rural poor. It has also furthered understanding of the difficulties they face, living in resource-poor areas and producing traditional crops and commodities under difficult rainfall conditions.


Rapid changes triggered by globalization, the development imperatives following the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) pledge; as well as the new challenges and opportunities posed by emergent technologies and associated products (and policies which influence their markets), call for further and deeper exploration of fresh, innovative options for addressing rural poverty. The development and dissemination of sustainable agricultural technologies of direct relevance to IFAD's target groups is a major objective of the grant programme. Improved farming systems require that technology focus on conservation and, where feasible, upgrading of the natural resources that the poor use. One challenge that Fund-financed research is addressing is to develop technologies and institutional arrangements that provide income opportunities and better nutrition for the rural poor, without mining their natural resource base.

Core principles

Drawing on the success of past investments in multi-location, international agricultural research, IFAD’s strategy is to support initiatives in the adaptive research and related capacity-building context. This global/regional research strategy is based, on three related core principles

  • the local institutional and technological problems faced by rural poor people in marginal, resource-poor areas are similar even if local specificities are distinct. They can best be addressed through multi-location research with a community participatory approach and, through sharing knowledge across the sites
  • many poverty-relevant Research and Development (R&D) issues require human and capital resource mobilization beyond the capacity of local and national organizations – for example networks of national research systems linked to international agricultural research Centres have proved to be better equipped and generally more effective in addressing a common set of problems
  • cross-country/cross-regional learning is essential in order to reap the benefits of replicable practical innovations, building on the rich diversity of local knowledge/practises in rural communities

In strong recognition of this potential, IFAD's  grant portfolio, has continued to support the development of innovative R&D approaches to issues affecting the rural poor.  Such approaches are increasingly relevant in the context of national poverty reduction strategies and in efforts to harness science and technology towards their realisation.


IFAD’s role in supporting the Global Agricultural Research System

IFAD has supplemented its grant support with a strong advocacy role at the policy level in forums such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which has contributed to orienting the CGIAR system and its research agenda towards issues of direct concern to IFAD. As the international research system undergoes an institutional change to become more relevant to development, IFAD works as a catalyst connecting different parts of the Global Agricultural Research System. IFAD is a co-sponsor with the World Bank, FAO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and was vice-chair of its Finance Committee (2002-5) until the committee’s role was subsumed with the CGIAR Executive Council, of which IFAD is a member.

  • Within the context of IFAD's leadership in promoting pro-poor research, in 1996 IFAD helped establish the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR). GFAR is an initiative that facilitates cost-effective partnerships and strategic alliances aiming to reduce poverty, achieve food security, and conserve and manage biodiversity and natural resources. GFAR brings together the key stakeholders in global agricultural research from seven constituencies:

  • developing-country national agricultural research systems (NARS)
  • advanced research institutions (ARIs)/universities
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • farmers' organizations
  • the private sector
  • international agricultural research centers (IARCs) (including the CGIAR Centres)
  • the donor community  IFAD
IFAD chairs the GFAR Support Group. In this role IFAD helps mobilize support from the international donor community for the GFAR agenda. However, the IFAD's engagement with the GFAR initiative goes far beyond a resource-mobilizing role. IFAD continues to foster a progressive paradigm shift in agricultural research for development (ARD) towards a holistic "knowledge-intensive agriculture" accessible to small and poor farmers. Among the elements that IFAD has introduced in GFAR operations are the principles of:
  • bottom-up decision making complementarity
  • demand-driven research implemented through equal partnerships among stakeholders
  • setting research agenda priorities with a focus on farmers'/rural community perspectives
  • taking into account the multi-functionality and regional heterogeneity of farming/livelihood systems
  • participatory research design and technology diffusion

Knowledge management and learning

IFAD continues to strengthen the research agenda by promoting higher performance in pro-poor impact achievement and measurement. Using the outcome of these programmes, IFAD supports knowledge sharing through the development of technical advisory notes (TANs). TANs are designed to introduce new, pro-poor technologies to a wider development community in the form of "good-practice" advice. TANs provide development workers with validated and verified technical and institutional options developed through community participatory research.  

IFAD grant policy

In December 2003, IFAD's Executive Board approved a Policy on Grant Financing which was updated in September 2005.  The Policy included new strategic objectives, allocation modalities and implementation procedures. Grant proposals are country-specific, regional or international, depending on the nature of the innovation and impact envisaged.
The grant programme has two strategic objectives, representing priority areas for IFAD’s regular grant resources:

  • promoting pro-poor research on innovative community-based approaches and technological options to enhance field-level impact
  • building pro-poor capacities of partner institutions, including community-based organizations and NGOs

Agricultural research that benefits poor people remains a significant component, building on the success of IFAD’s past investments in this area.

Greater devolution and decentralization of research is supported. This is to enable poor communities to form partnerships with researchers from the formal science institutions, thereby building on farmer innovation, local knowledge systems and informal science within participatory research programmes.

The grant programme seeks to broaden the impact of IFAD’s activities by promoting the replication and scaling up of successful approaches in rural poverty reduction. This is achieved by:

  • supporting participatory monitoring and evaluation of successful approaches to capture insights and lessons learned
  • disseminating lessons learned to development practitioners
  • using evaluation exercises as institutional learning methodology and fostering professional exchange between IFAD and its partner institutions
  • enhancing partnership-building processes to strengthen the participatory design, implementation and impact assessment of the results from IFAD’s loan and grant programmes

In order to increase IFAD’s influence on the poverty-reduction efforts of the international development community, specific emphasis is being placed on:

  • strengthening partnerships with country-level institutions at the field-investment and policy levels, especially those providing direct assistance to the rural poor
  • providing support to communication and learning among stakeholders, people working in rural development, and relevant networks
  • supporting advocacy for rural poor people, both nationally and internationally


As stipulated under the Grant policy, the grant programme represents 10% of the proposed IFAD Programme of Work. Grant resources are allocated on a 50/50 basis between

  • country-specific window
  • a regional/global window
  • and two instruments – one representing grants of a magnitude of more than USD 200,000 and a second which carries an amount of or less, with a shorter processing period and not requiring approval of the Executive board

Activities eligible for country-specific grants are directly aligned with country strategies, as articulated in Results-based Country Strategic Opportunities Papers, and support and complement IFAD’s loan portfolio, while responding to issues deriving from country assessments under the Performance Based Allocation System (PBAS). The focus of these is the development of innovative approaches to technical and institutional issues confronting the rural poor - increasingly, in the area of organizational and institutional development in non-agricultural areas (for example rural finance, market linkages and pro-poor policy development). They involve mobilization and strengthening of institutional capacities of both national as well as civil-society organizations to address national/local issues and support partnership formation, establishment of policy-dialogue platforms and pro-poor institutional transformation.

Grant financing

Since its inception IFAD has financed over 250 research grants for a total of USD approximately200 million; and around 400 grants for training and capacity building for a total of more than USD 160 million.