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Overview

Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and to some of the poorest, the East and Southern Africa region displays remarkably diverse levels of economic growth.

Unfortunately, this growth has not automatically led to a reduction in poverty. Instead, there has been an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line. This is partly because Africa has the largest proportion of young people, many of whom are unemployed, in the world.

Over 65 per cent of the population of the region depends on farming. Yet, in recent years, there has been a decline in agricultural production triggered by drought and climate change.

Fundamental weaknesses in the agricultural sector have prevented a broad-based reduction in rural poverty and inequality, leaving many small farmers trapped in poverty. In particular, these include a lack of secure access to land, credit, and markets, notably for women and young people.

Overcoming obstacles, raising incomes

Nevertheless, economies in the region are evolving and opportunities are emerging. Strong investment from remittances and a buoyant private sector, and a growing middle class, provide resources and boost demand.

However, there have been different levels of progress in terms of development, economic growth and sustainable rural transformation. Some more developed markets, such as those of South Africa, have relatively sophisticated supply chains and infrastructure. In others, long distances and isolation pose obstacles that prevent smallholders from accessing markets and urban consumers, and thus from increasing their incomes.

Partnerships that put people first

At IFAD, we work closely with governments to develop policy frameworks.

When shaping projects, we choose a variety of strategies tailored to each set of local circumstances. We identify the core problems and provide blended solutions, including better agricultural technologies, finance, empowerment of women and young people, natural resource management and adaptation to climate change.

Working with governments, NGOs, local people and organizations, we help smallholder farmers introduce better farming techniques and crops; and access markets to enhance incomes, food security, and nutrition. We also connect farmers to rural entrepreneurs with access to finance. This helps ensure that growth is inclusive, sustainable and diverse.

The proof: by the end of 2016, 16 of the region’s governments had partnered with us for a total of 42 programmes, and our financing commitment was for over US$2 million.

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Agriculture is the largest sector in the East and Southern Africa region, employing 65 per cent of Africa’s labour force and accounting for over 30 per cent of the region's GDP.

Economic growth has done little to reduce hunger in the region: malnutrition levels are only 5 percentage points lower than in 1990.

Maize, wheat, rice, millet, potatoes and cassava are the main agricultural trade commodities for the region, generating estimated annual trade revenues of US$50 billion.


Spotlight

Amidst drought and flooding, Malawian farmers look to diversify their diet

An IFAD-supported project is encouraging Malawian farmers to eat the food they produce - instead of over relying on maize and other food products that they are forced to buy.

Projects and programmes

Burundi

Project to Support Agricultural and Rural Financial Inclusion in Burundi
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Kenya

Aquaculture Business Development Programme
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Madagascar

Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains Development Programme (DEFIS)
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IFAD to provide US$43 million to boost aquaculture in Mozambique

February 2020 - NEWS
IFAD announced today support for a new project to reduce poverty and increase production and incomes for more than 88,000 rural small-scale fish farmers through aquaculture.

Mozambique and IFAD join to combat climate change and increase food security

February 2020 - NEWS

IFAD today announced support for a new programme to increase incomes, improve food and nutrition security and build the resilience of at least 902,500 rural Mozambican farmers, in one of the African countries most affected by climate change.

Ethiopia and IFAD to help families adapt to climate shocks in new multi-million dollar project

November 2019 - NEWS
Half a million of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable families are set to benefit from a new US$451 million project to increase their resilience to climate shocks in the country’s poorest regions.

Fostering Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural Value Chains: The role of climate-resilient infrastructures for SMEs

February 2020
This study uses examples from the BRACED and ASAP programmes across sub-Saharan Africa, and reviews evidence on initiatives that invest in climate-resilient infrastructure to support smallholder farmer organisations and agri-businesses in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) category, and, ultimately, foster inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chains.

Brief on Gender and Social Inclusion: East and Southern Africa

February 2020
High rates of poverty continue to prevail in the East and Southern Africa region, and countries are far from achieving the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Research Series Issue 61: The narrative on rural youth and economic opportunities in Africa: facts, myths and gaps

December 2019
This paper reviews the narrative on rural youth and economic opportunities in Africa, using a set of policy documents from various African countries and regional and international organizations.