IFAD's work on climate and environment

Poor rural people face a series of interconnected natural resources management challenges. They are in the front line of climate change impacts; the ecosystems on which they rely are increasingly degraded, their access to suitable agricultural land is declining, their forest resources are increasingly restricted and degraded, many produce on marginal rain fed land, with increased water scarcity; and declining fish and marine resources threaten essential sources of income and nutrition. Further, global population is growing rapidly and to meet its needs, agricultural production must double by 2050.  

Environment and natural resource management (ENRM) is at the core of IFAD's poverty reduction mandate because small scale farmers rely directly and indirectly on the environment and natural resources for their livelihoods.

There is a new global consensus that a more systemic approach to sustainable agricultural intensification is required that better preserves or restores the natural resource base and increases the resilience of farming systems to a changing climate.

Over the centuries, smallholders have learned to adjust to environmental change and climate variability. But the current speed and intensity of climate change are outpacing their capacity to adapt. Crop failures and livestock deaths are causing economic losses, raising food prices and undermining food security with ever-greater frequency, especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Agriculture, along with forestry, can play a key role in tackling climate change. Poor farmers are guardians of natural resources, often managing vast areas of land and forest. Targeted assistance can enhance this crucial role. Improving land management and farming practices and planting forests can help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Systems embracing a number of sustainable intensification practices, often building on traditional techniques, are being promoted and increasingly adopted by farmers.

IFAD is committed to a major scaling up of successful ‘multiple-benefit' approaches to sustainable agricultural intensification by smallholder farmers. These approaches can build climate resilience through managing competing land-use systems, while at the same time reducing poverty, enhancing biodiversity, increasing yields and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Since climate change and fiscal austerity are reshaping the architecture of public (and potentially private) international development finance, IFAD is also undertaking new efforts to enable smallholder farmers to benefit from climate finance in order to reward multiple-benefit activities and help offset the transition costs of changing agricultural practices.  In this framework, IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is a new multi-year and multi-donor financing window to channel climate and environmental finance to smallholder farmers through IFAD-supported programmes. 

IFAD is also an executing agency of the GEF and of the Adaptation Fund. These are  among the main financial mechanisms for addressing the intertwined issues of poverty alleviation, sustainable land management and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Responding to climate change requires collective action. IFAD works closely with developing country governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, along with partners in the international development community. IFAD has a close relationship with the other UN agencies in Rome: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

IFAD's particular strength is in working directly with poor rural people and their organizations. Community-based approaches and community-driven development are particularly effective in helping poor rural communities become more resilient so they are better able to cope with climate change.