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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 Microinsurance 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.
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.
The first woman camel farmer in North Africa: Imen’s story
Benguerdane is a small town in the desert plain of El Ouara, a region in the extreme south-east of Tunisia, just a few kilometres away from the Libyan border. The climate there is forbiddingly arid, and the main source of livelihood is raising livestock like sheep and goats.
James Marc de Sousa-Shields
Lead Regional Technical Specialist, Rural Finance and Markets