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IFAD’s response to the COVID-19 crisis - protecting and enhancing rural resilience

21 April 2020

©IFAD/Edward Echwalu

The COVID-19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis: it is affecting societies and economies. The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates, for example, that 140 million additional people could fall into extreme poverty this year as a result of the virus, while a recent United Nations University study projects that global poverty could increase for the first time since 1990.

The potential impacts on already vulnerable groups are especially worrying, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where a large share of people are threatened by poverty and hunger.

In particular, the livelihoods of rural women and men are already being deeply affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

As such, it is imperative that we act fast.

It is also imperative that we act together. No country or person can isolate themselves from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – whether that be from the virus itself or from its social and economic impacts. And no entity can find solutions to the crisis by acting alone.

That’s why the UN Secretary-General has called for urgent and coordinated global action to respond to the crisis, including through a socio-economic response framework – and why IFAD is responding within this framework.

IFAD’s strategic response to the COVID-19 crisis is centred on a coordinated range of activities that address immediate impacts, prevent the erosion of results from past and ongoing operations, and put in place the building blocks to support post-crisis recovery.

To achieve these goals, our response is organized into four broad categories:

  1. Identify immediate solutions

IFAD’s country teams are already working with governments to find immediate solutions within ongoing projects. So far, over 100 projects across 65 countries have identified measures that can be put into action as part of the COVID-19 response. In India, Mexico and Palestine, for example, there are plans to purchase agricultural surpluses from farmers to ease the effects of reduced market access. And efforts to improve access to inputs have either been planned or are already being implemented in several other countries, including Angola, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ghana, Indonesia and Viet Nam. These efforts draw from a wide-ranging set of options and are always tailored to the needs of local people in the context of the pandemic.  

  1. Scale up

We have launched a multi-donor COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility to provide a more scaled-up response to complement our repurposed activities. The Facility will safeguard the food security and resilience of poor rural people by ensuring timely access to inputs, information, markets and liquidity. It will be targeted first and foremost at IFAD’s project beneficiaries, to ensure that the positive impacts they have achieved are not reversed. If funding permits, the Facility may also be scaled out to reach additional rural people in need. IFAD has initiated the Facility with US$40 million of seed funding from its own resources. To enable us to reach the scale needed, we aim to mobilize at least US$200 million from Member States and other donors.

  1. Advise and support

We are advising and supporting governments as they work to mitigate some of the potentially most severe impacts of the crisis. In Bangladesh, for example, our proposal for maintaining essential transport and logistics for agriculture has become part of the national response plan.

  1. Look to the long term

As governments begin to enact their long-term recovery plans, we remain ready to take action to support them. This means rebuilding rural economies and refocusing efforts with the aim of eradicating rural poverty and hunger in a post–COVID-19 context. The lessons IFAD has learned through our work in other fragile and post-emergency situations will be of particular value in this recovery phase. Key initiatives include supporting governments as they develop plans to accelerate recovery, rebuilding the resilience of rural livelihoods, and addressing structural inequalities so that, when the next crisis strikes, we are able to protect those most at risk of being left behind.

As COVID-19 continues to damage economies, societies and the health of far too many, we are determined not to allow it to cause more harm to the livelihoods of rural people. At this challenging time, we rely on the collaboration and support of our valued partners – governments, our sister UN agencies, farmers’ organizations, and the private sector – to ensure that the current COVID-19 crisis does not cause a food and poverty crisis.

Find out more about IFAD’s response to COVID-19.

Read the Joint Statement by FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank on COVID-19 Impacts on Food Security and Nutrition on the occasion of the Extraordinary G20 Agriculture Minister’s Meeting