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Increasing agricultural productivity and profitability

Poor rural people rarely control the conditions that determine their livelihoods. Geographically dispersed in remote rural areas, small producers lack the basic infrastructure — banks, roads, power supplies and Internet connectivity — needed to run a business. 

Most cannot produce a large enough volume of products to interest buyers, and, when they do, they are often hit with high transaction costs, making it difficult to earn a living and compete in markets.

Smallholder farmers often lack opportunities to negotiate better terms of trade for their agricultural products and to hold governmental and non-governmental organizations accountable for their role in rural development. Their powerlessness is closely linked to a lack of services, as well as the limited provision, and quality, of public goods.

However, effective rural institutions and organizations can help poor rural people overcome these barriers by:

  • increasing their productivity and profitability by giving them direct access to critically needed resources, services and markets;
  • reducing the price of inputs for farmers through larger collective purchases; and 
  • acting as a forum for exchanging knowledge and experience, as well as jointly-owned assets, such as equipment and machinery.

Organized groups and communities are more likely to have their voices heard and their demands met. When farmer organizations and cooperatives join forces at higher levels, they can influence policy dialogue and decisions that affect their ability to succeed. 

Strong rural institutions also promote social cohesion and stability, decreasing the adverse consequences of political and economic disenfranchisement.

Institutions as drivers of rural change

IFAD is dedicated to securing rural people’s access to productive resources and strengthening rural institutions and organizations. Functioning, inclusive institutions are key to rural transformation and to ensuring that our poverty reduction efforts are sustainable.

Organizations such as market associations and cooperatives help rural women and men negotiate better prices for their produce and access markets. These organizations also facilitate dialogue among smallholder farmers, governments, donors and the private sector. 

When rural voices are heard, it is more likely that pro-poor policies will be comprehensive, complementary, and well-placed to meet the diverse needs and realities of small producers in rural communities.

Training, financing and practical support

IFAD-supported projects provide training and financing to support a diverse array of organisations, including water users’ groups, agricultural producer and trade associations, and women and youth associations, among others.

Our activities strengthen rural institutions and develop their organizational capacity — at both the local and national level — so that rural people can overcome social, political and economic barriers, and seize wider opportunities.

For example, we partner with rural financial institutions, such as banks, micro-finance institutions and credit unions, to make it easier for marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples, youth, and women to access loans and credit for their farm and off-farm activities, including for longer-term investments. 

IFAD also provides resources to support communities with planning processes, with a particular focus on women. Community-driven development approaches rely on local committees to prioritize investment needs for rural development. It also helps ensure IFAD-supported activities reach as many people as possible.

We have also helped to produce a Toolkit, a Field Practitioner’s Guide, and a Good Practices Guide to support rural institutions and organizations increasing food security around the world.



The Angolan cooperative building a brighter future

Small-scale farmers and fishers are joining forces and tapping into northern Angola’s immense potential for inland aquaculture.




Tonga Rural Innovation Project


Integrated Livelihoods Support Project


Programme for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT)


Asset Publisher

Antonella Cianciotta

Technical Specialist (Global), Farmers' Organizations in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (FO4ACP)

[email protected]

Fanny Grandval

Senior Regional Technical Specialist (West and Central Africa), Rural Institutions

[email protected]

Luiz Claudio Marques Campos

Senior Regional Technical Specialist (Latin America and the Caribbean), Rural Institutions

[email protected]

Sauli Hurri

Lead Global Technical Specialist (East and Southern Africa), Rural Institutions

[email protected]

Marie Edward Mikhail

Country Technical Analyst (Near East, North Africa and Europe)

[email protected]

Stories and news

Stories and news

The Angolan cooperative building a brighter future

July 2024 - STORY

Small-scale farmers and fishers are joining forces and tapping into northern Angola’s immense potential for inland aquaculture.

Farming with pride for inclusive agriculture – Episode 62

June 2024 - PODCAST

Hear from LGBTQ+ farmers forging inclusive spaces in vegetable farming, beekeeping and beyond.

Small businesses for a sustainable future in Brazil

June 2024 - STORY

Farming is not easy in Brazil’s semi-arid north-east. But with the support of a local cooperative, these small businesses are producing food while protecting nature.


Morocco's rural women venture forth with vinegar

June 2024 - STORY

Apple farming is a way of life in central Morocco, but farmers have been struggling with post-harvest losses. This all-woman cooperative is turning things around.

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Related publications

Related publications

Food Systems Finance for Resilient Futures: A Multilateral Development Bank and National Development Bank Collaboration Roadmap

March 2024

This working paper proposes five recommendations that Multilateral Development Banks can adopt to implement capital adequacy reforms in a way that supports National Development Banks in transforming food systems finance.

The IFAD-GEF Advantage III: An integrated approach for food systems, climate and nature

August 2023

This third edition of the GEF-IFAD Advantage highlights the partnership's advantages in various domains, including food systems, biodiversity, climate change adaptation and land degradation.

Farmers’ Organizations in Africa

June 2018
The Support to Farmers’ Organizations in Africa Programme (SFOAP): Main phase (2013 - 2018) is a continental programme which strengthens the institutional capacities, policy engagement and engagement of value chains of African farmers’ organizations (FOs). The programme supports the 5 regional networks of African FOs (EAFF, PROPAC, ROPPA, SACAU and UMNAGRI), their members at national level, and the pan-African FO (PAFO).

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Enterprise Risk Management Policy Tags: INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS
Type: Policies and Strategies, Policy