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Financial inclusion for the world’s rural poor

The vast majority of rural people do not have reliable, secure ways to save money, protect and build assets, or transfer funds. This is particularly true for vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, and displaced people.

Basic formal financial services still reach only 10 per cent of rural communities. Weak infrastructure, the limited capacity of financial service providers, and low levels of client education all contribute to this complex problem.

An engine of rural transformation

IFAD recognizes the vast potential of rural finance to improve the livelihoods of rural people.

Over the past 30 years, the development of financial systems has had an enormous impact on rural livelihoods. Ground-breaking institutions and new instruments have allowed financial services to grow and broaden their reach.

Technology has allowed clients in remote communities to access a wider range of financial products.

IFAD has worked on rural finance systems in more than 70 countries for over four decades, and has invested over US$3 billion in rural finance systems.

But there is still much to be done. In a changing global economy, amidst financial crises, volatile food and agricultural commodity prices, and the perils of climate change, inclusive rural finance remains a crucial element in rural transformation.

Managing risks and leveraging investments

There are many risks affecting smallholder farmers that discourage the private sector from investing.

Financial institutions often perceive small-scale agriculture as being too risky and are reluctant to lend money to farmers and agribusinesses. Farmers themselves are reluctant to borrow for agricultural production because of their difficulty in managing risks such as climate-related shocks and livestock disease.

Over the past ten years, IFAD has become a leader in the field of agricultural risk management (ARM). The Fund promotes a holistic approach to protect and strengthen rural economies and food production systems, at the same time as leveraging rural financing and investment in smallholder farmers.

As part of the holistic approach to ARM, insurance is a valuable financial tool for unavoidable risks that cannot be managed in other ways.

IFAD hosts the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM), a G20 initiative that brings a comprehensive risk management approach and process, where risks in agriculture are assessed, prioritized and tackled in a structured way.

PARM provides technical support to developing country governments to support them in moving away from a culture of coping with disasters towards a smart management of risk.

PARM is also home to two technical assistance initiatives focused on agricultural and climate risk insurance that support IFAD’s portfolio: INSURED (Insurance for Rural Resilience and Economic Development) and Managing Risks for Rural Development: promoting micro insurance innovations (MRRD).

The power of microfinance and remittances

IFAD-supported projects increase access to financial services and loans, so that small-scale producers can invest in their businesses and increase their productivity.

As one of the leading microfinance funders worldwide, IFAD's ongoing investments in rural finance at 31 December 2017 was around US$1.14 billion. Approximately 13 per cent of our ongoing investment portfolio is dedicated to rural finance.

Remittances are a powerful instrument for fostering financial inclusion and livelihood development in rural communities. Our multi-donor Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR) aims to maximize the impact of remittances on development, and promotes migrants’ engagement in their countries of origin.

In depth

Insurance

Smallholder farmers and poor rural households are extremely vulnerable to local and global shocks. Agriculture is their main source of food and income, and this is the sector hardest hit by the climate breakdown. 

Remittances and migration

For over a century, people have been moving from rural to urban areas, and across national borders in search of better opportunities. Of the 250 million international migrants, approximately 200 million leave home to work and send remittances home to their families.

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Projects

Benin

Adapted Rural Financing Services Promotion Project
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Bangladesh

Promoting Agricultural Commercialization and Enterprises Project
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Armenia

Infrastructure and Rural Finance Support Programme
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Related publications

Crowdfunding Malian diaspora remittances to finance rural entrepreneurship

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This case study examines a pilot initiative carried out by the IFAD-supported FIER project in Mali, together with the Babyloan crowdfunding platform, to leverage diaspora remittances abroad as a way to support rural entrepreneurship in the home country. 

The Agri-Business Capital Fund (ABC Fund)

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The Agri-Business Capital Fund (ABC Fund) invests in smallholder farmers and rural small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries to support sustainable and inclusive agricultural value chains. 

INSURED - Insurance for rural resilience and economic development

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INSURED is a technical assistance programme working to strengthen agricultural insurance in IFAD’s portfolio.

Related documents

Rural Finance Policy

August 2009 - CORPORATE
This new IFAD Rural Finance Policy builds on, updates and supersedes the IFAD Rural Finance Policy of 2000, responding to the recommendations made in the corporatelevel evaluation of 2006. It incorporates the major thrusts of the earlier policy and offers a framework for IFAD’s rural finance portfolio. The new policy provides the guiding principles for rural finance operations at the three levels of intervention – micro, meso and macro – and gives further detail for IFAD’s governing bodies, development partners and the broader public on the Fund’s approach to rural finance.

IFAD Policy on improving access to land and tenure security

December 2008 - CORPORATE

Secure access to productive land is critical to the millions of poor people living in rural areas and depending on agriculture, livestock or forests for their livelihood. 

It reduces their vulnerability to hunger and poverty; influences their capacity to invest in their productive activities and in the sustainable management of their resources; enhances their prospects for better livelihoods; and helps them develop more equitable relations with the rest of their society, thus contributing to justice, peace and sustainable development.

IFAD Policy on supervision and implementation support

September 2007 - CORPORATE

Improving the quality of project implementation and achieving better results on the ground are priorities for IFAD, achieved largely through effective supervision and well-directed implementation support. In recognition of this, IFAD has made a series of efforts to examine, clarify and enhance the role of supervision and implementation support in its operations. These efforts acquired a new urgency in the context of the drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the consequent changes in the international development architecture. 

The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness emphasizes systematic support for nationally owned strategies for attaining development results, the increased use of national administration systems, and more jointly coordinated and predictable actions among aid donors. As a signatory of the Paris Declaration, IFAD is responding to the challenges of harmonization and alignment by positioning itself fully within this new development context and seeking to provide optimal support to member countries in order to reduce rural poverty. Addressing the issues of project implementation through improved supervision and implementation support is part of that response.