Skip to Content
X

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.

Learn more

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
Read More

Kenya

Aquaculture Business Development Programme
Read More

Madagascar

Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains Development Programme (DEFIS)
Read More

Related news

Eswatini and IFAD partner to boost inclusive financial services for smallholder farmers

October 2019 - NEWS
About 30,900 rural people in the Kingdom of Eswatini will benefit from a new US$38.5 million project that aims to improve the prosperity and resilience of poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers and micro-entrepreneurs in the country.

Call for proposals: Grant to implement inclusive red meat value chains for women and youth farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa

September 2019 - NEWS
This call for proposals is to select a recipient or consortium of recipients to receive a three-year IFAD grant financing to implement the project: Inclusive red meat value chains for women and youth farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa for a total amount of up to US$2 million. 

Afrobeat stars Mr Eazi and Sherrie Silver at 2019 African Green Revolution Forum to support IFAD's call for greater investment in youth and rural development

August 2019 - NEWS
Urgent investments in agriculture and rural development from Africa's leaders are needed to create opportunities in support of the millions of young people who will soon enter the job market.

Related publications

Research Series Issue 40: Local-economy impacts of cash crop promotion

October 2019
This is the first study to quantify the general equilibrium impacts of introducing a new cash crop into a poor isolated economy, including impacts on environmentally sensitive fishing activities.

Food loss analysis: causes and solutions – The Republic of Uganda. Beans, maize, and sunflower studies

September 2019
This report illustrates the food loss assessment studies undertaken along the maize, sunflower and beans supply chains in Uganda in 2015-16 and 2016-17. 

Research Series Issue 39: Smallholder farming, growth linkages, structural transformation and poverty reduction

September 2019
There are different views around the future of smallholder agriculture and its potential to contribute to the needed transformations of agriculture and rural economies.