How can IFAD reach the rural poor and leave no one behind?

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Findings from the 2018 Annual Report on Results and Impact of IFAD Operations (ARRI)

By Chitra Deshpande, Senior Evaluation Officer, Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD

In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, targeting is central to IFAD's mandate of rural poverty reduction. It is also a key principle of engagement for the current strategic framework. From 2007, IFAD's Targeting Policy has made poverty targeting a requirement in all IFAD investments. Given this importance, the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD conducted a review and identified five findings on IFAD's poverty targeting approaches which are presented in the 2018 ARRI's learning theme chapter and issues paper "Targeting the rural poor".

Our first finding is that although IFAD is known for reaching the "poorest of the poor", there is a lack of agreement within IFAD on our target group and the strategies needed. The Targeting Policy states that IFAD's target group is "rural people living in poverty and experiencing food insecurity in developing countries." It goes on by adding that IFAD "proactively strives to reach extremely poor people (as defined by Millennium Development Goal 1) who have the potential to take advantage of improved access to assets and opportunities for agricultural production and rural income-generating activities." Since 2008, IFAD has also increasingly engaged in market-oriented agriculture or value chain approaches directed towards less poor groups with greater commercial potential. Therefore, the ARRI highlights the importance of finding a balance between market-oriented and poverty-focused projects and the need to tackle the targeting challenges that subsequently arise.

Secondly, we found effective targeting strategies are based on differentiated poverty analysis of excluded groups such as women, youth, indigenous peoples or pastoralists. They are based on good contextual analysis so that targeting strategies are realistic, clear and practical. This is especially important in fragile contexts. With regards to gender equality and women's empowerment, gender strategies with specific targets are required. For youth, community-driven development with rural enterprise activities have proven effective. And for indigenous peoples, strategies should be culturally-sensitive and recognize and appreciate their different knowledge systems.

Finding 3 highlights the importance of credible poverty data, supported by monitoring through supervision and implementation support. Systematic monitoring allows targeting strategies to be flexible and responsive to a rapidly changing world. For example, in Mauritius a project design failed to recognize the rapid economic transition and many targeted households opted for employment in manufacturing and service sectors rather than stay in agriculture. In Cambodia, a project design initially favoured poor landowners, this was adjusted at mid-term when the project introduced approaches to identify poorer households. This resulted in identifying and issuing ID cards to the most vulnerable families through which they gained free access to government services.

Finding 4 confirms that reaching the poorest people and the "last mile" is costly but essential to achieve IFAD's mandate and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. More time and resources may be needed to design and implement projects that target marginalized groups living in remote areas as was the case in a project in Brazil which used demand-driven participatory approaches. Pursuing efficiency can also push targeting away from the poorest or those in remote areas.

Finally, Finding 5 highlights the importance of government commitment and partnership to reach extremely poor rural people. Government commitment to prioritizing rural poverty results in systematizing poverty targeting data and engaging in policy dialogue. For example, in Nepal the forest leaseholder approach was eventually integrated into the national policy. Partnering with international, regional and local agencies is important for policy dialogue. It is also a means of providing basic needs to extremely poor people, as was evident in the IFAD partnership with the Belgian Survival Fund in Sub-Saharan Africa.

IFAD's targeting policy acknowledges that poverty is context-specific and multi-dimensional. Therefore, its implementation requires greater investment in capacity for the required poverty data, differentiated analysis and responsive monitoring and supervision to develop poverty targeting strategies that are realistic, clear and flexible for different target groups and changing country contexts.

Based on these findings, the ARRI recommends revising the 2007 Targeting Policy and guidelines in order to establish greater clarity on who IFAD interventions should target. This is especially important given the emphasis on reaching the "poorest and most vulnerable people in each country" in the IFAD11 Consultation report and the 2030 Agenda commitment of "leaving no one behind." If IFAD is serious about targeting extremely poor people living in remote rural areas, then the Targeting Policy needs to clearly establish them as IFAD's primary target group. This will strengthen country programme managers' position in negotiations with governments and other partners and allow IFAD to more consistently "walk the talk" and truly realize the IFAD11 commitments.

Fnd out more about the 2018 ARRI learning event visit.