Focusing efforts to create opportunities
for rural poor people

About the toolkit

Purpose – This targeting tool kit is to help you implement the revised operational guidelines on targeting and provide clear guidance on how implement IFAD's Targeting Policy: Reaching the Rural Poor so we can all collectively work to improve the targeting performance of IFAD supported operations.

What it contains – This toolkit is conceived as a one-stop shop and created to provide easy access to IFAD resources to develop poverty targeting strategies and monitor their implementation. It includes downloadable guidance notes and checklists for ease of reference for people on the go. This toolkit also refers to various IFAD-relevant policies and approaches.

Who is it for? – It aimed at staff members, consultants at every level involved in operations and those curious about what makes IFAD unique in its approach.

How to use it – The toolkit is met to be used regularly during the project cycle from COSOP to COMPLETION. It will be updated regularly, and as always, we welcome your suggestions to make the toolkit better – send them to

Targeting in IFAD’s operations

In its targeting policy of 2006, IFAD defines targeting as the set of purposefully designed actions and measures which ensure, or at least significantly increase the likelihood, that:

• specific groups of poor people - and women and men equally - will benefit from the development initiatives it supports;

• while at the same time diminishing the risk that the less poor will benefit disproportionately.

What is targeting? Targeting is traditionally defined as the process by which resources are directed to specific groups of the population, defined as poor on the basis of pre-determined eligibility criteria. 

What is targeting at IFAD? IFAD defines targeting more broadly as the set of purposefully designed actions and measures which ensure, or at least significantly increase the likelihood, that specific groups of poor people - and women and men equally - will benefit from the development initiatives it supports; while at the same time diminishing the risk that the less poor will benefit disproportionately

At IFAD, targeting is more than eligibility criteria. Targeting Targeting in IFAD does not refer exclusively to the implementation of eligibility conditions. It is rather understood as a comprehensive set of mutually supportive measures aimed at promoting the gradual inclusion of the poorest and most vulnerable in economic development and rural institutions, while at the same time creating disincentives for rural elites to capture resources, opportunities and decision-making.

IFAD’s targeting approach include these methods and measures:  

Geographic targeting

to select the poorest or most vulnerable areas within a country or region

Direct targeting

choice of eligibility criteria when services and resources are channelled to specific individuals or households

Self-targeting measures 

include the provision of goods and services that are aligned with the priorities, assets, capacities and livelihood strategies of the identified target groups

Enabling measures 

to promote a policy and institutional environment among stakeholders and partners that is favourable to poverty targeting

Procedural measures

to facilitate transparency in administrative procedures and remove unintended obstacles that may hinder social inclusion and gender equality

Empowering and capacity-building

to develop the capacity and self-confidence that they can articulate their needs and participate in planning, decision-making and project activities

Leaving no one behind

In line with the 2030 SDGs Agenda of eradicating poverty in all its forms and the Leave No One Behind principle, in 2019 IFAD has committed to improve its targeting performance.

Why does it matter?

• the pace of poverty reduction is starting to decelerate
• extreme poverty is three times higher in rural areas than urban areas
• the poorest and most marginalized people continue to be left behind .

One of the key objectives of IFAD’s targeting strategy is to empower those who are left behind to participate in rural development as active citizens. IFAD approach to targeting is strongly intertwined with the Fund’s social inclusion agenda and the
stakeholder engagement framework.

Revised Operational Guidelines
on Targeting

IFAD has revised the operational guidelines on targeting to provide clear guidance on how to go about targeting various groups along the project cycle from COSOP to completion. The ultimate objective is to improve the targeting performance of IFAD’s supported operations.

What has changed

• New context: 2030 Agenda and its principle of Leaving no one behind

• Clarity on who to target: Poorest, poor and vulnerable rural people

• Revised targeting principles

• Step-wise approach to targeting along the programme cycle from COSOP to completion

• Features of a robust poverty analysis

• Definition and prioritization of criteria for geographic targeting

• Outlines pathways out of poverty

• Strong focus on participation and accountability during implementation

• M&E outreach indicators are disaggregated by socio-economic profiles

• Annexes with guidelines for “targeting priority groups” (women, youth, IPs and people with disabilities) and “targeting in different thematic investments”.

Who does IFAD target?

IFAD's mandate and its targeting policy defines its target group as rural people living in poverty and experiencing food insecurity in developing countries.

Within this broad group, as defined in the revised operational guidelines on targeting IFAD’s comparative advantage lies in its targeting of:

• the poorest, the poor, the vulnerable peoples in line with the multiple indicators tracking SDG1 (poverty, inclusion, vulnerability); and

• those who are most likely to have little access to assets and opportunities due to social exclusion and marginalization (e.g. women, young people, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, people living in fragile situations etc.).

Poverty and intersecting inequalities

Multi dimension of poverty - IFAD’s priority target groups are affected by five broad dimensions of poverty and marginalization. 

Socio-economic status: income and multidimensional poverty, inequalities in access to assets and income, the Human Development Index, food and nutrition insecurity, household composition 

Social exclusiondiscrimination based on socially ascribed identities such as sex, age, disability or ethnicity. 

Governance: laws, policies, rural institutions (producer organizations, savings and credit cooperatives, self-help groups, community-decision-making bodies), voice and participation. 

Geographyaccounts for isolation and remoteness, environmental degradation and impeded access to transportation and services 

Vulnerability to shocks: populations that are vulnerable to natural disasters, violence, crime and severe food insecurity. 

IFAD’s priority target groups are affected by a number of factors and so their reality is complex.  Therefore, pro-active and comprehensive measures are needed to target those who are left behind!

Intersecting inequalities

IFAD’s target group in not homogenous and is located at the intersection of multiple and overlapping inequalities and vulnerabilities. There are differences by gender, age, ethnicity, type of disabilities, migration status, etc… 

Applying an intersectional lens recognises that people have different identities, needs, priorities and coping strategies which can changeover time. The intersection of simultaneous inequality and vulnerabilities require targeted and integrated actions.

IFAD’s integrated approach

While IFAD’s approach to intersectionality is rapidly evolving, the IFAD’s Transformational Framework for Mainstreaming is one of IFAD’s approaches to comprehensively respond to the various and evolving needs of its diverse target group. 

IFAD is committed to deliver inclusive and sustainable rural transformation and to positively change the livelihood of its target group. To achieve this, IFAD integrates climate change, gender, nutrition, youth and indigenous peoples, as appropriate for a given context, maximising its commitment to leave no one behind.

What is it? The framework highlights the interlinkages among the mainstreaming themes (Environment and Climate, Nutrition, Gender and Youth).

Why it’s important. Support for an integrated and transformational approach to these mainstreaming areas contributes to sustainable food systems transformation and inclusive solutions to rural poverty and food insecurity.

IFAD targeting principles

The updated principles, which are aligned with the 2030 Agenda and its guiding principle of LNOB, as well as with IFAD's more recent policy documents, including its IFAD11 commitments, are: 

1. Targeting the poorest, the poor and the vulnerable rural people and those who are more likely to be left behind.

2. Mainstreaming gender, youth, nutrition, environmental and climate issues in the operationalization of the targeting process in COSOPs and projects.

3. Recognizing the dynamic nature of poverty and the importance of tackling the multiple forms of vulnerability.

4. Aligning targeting with government poverty reduction priorities, policies and strategies.

5. Ensuring that working with relatively better-off stakeholders results in direct benefits for the poorest.

6. Testing innovative targeting approaches by strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new ones .

7. Adopting consultative and participatory approaches to targeting.

8. Empowering and building the capacity of those who have less of a voice and fewer assets.

One of the key objectives of IFAD’s targeting strategy is to empower those who are left behind to participate in rural development as active citizens. IFAD approach to targeting is strongly intertwined with the Fund’s social inclusion agenda and the stakeholder engagement framework.

Targeting in IFAD’s
programme cycle

The targeting process in the IFAD project cycle will involve the analysis and prioritization of target groups and a targeting strategy, both for COSOPs and for projects at design, during implementation and at completion

Four questions drive targeting in IFAD programming: 

Who is the intended target group? 

Analysis and disaggregation of target group along poverty level and socio-economic features.

Why are they poor?

Understanding the multiple drivers of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion.

What are the best strategies? 

Design and implementation of targeting strategy, based on the definition of the pathway out of poverty, the menu of activities tailored to the livelihoods of the poor, targeting measures and tools.

How can we monitor progress? 

How can we support and monitor the progress and performance of the targeting strategy and ensure that is effective and accountable? 


The primary objective of a country strategic opportunities programme (COSOP) is to ensure that IFAD's investments in the country promote inclusive and sustainable rural transformation while reducing poverty (SDG 1), achieving food security and improving nutrition (SDG 2).

Three steps to address targeting in COSOPs

COSOPs and the SECAP background study require an analysis of the rural poverty situation in the country that includes an assessment of the national poverty reduction framework, in consultation with national stakeholders.

✔ The COSOP is grounded in sound poverty and livelihood analysis target group profiling, using national definitions.

✔ Consultations are held with key national stakeholders.

✔ The COSOP is aligned with national priorities and poverty reduction strategies.

✔ Partnership opportunities are identified.

PDF - STEP 1: Poverty analysis and target group definition

Outcome of the analysis and consultations tailor COSOP investments and targeting strategy in line with the country's goals and priorities and the LNOB principle.

Preliminary IFAD interventions are identified, and a targeting strategy is developed including:

✔ The Theory of Change outlines the pathways to achieve the desired poverty reduction impact. When better-off beneficiaries are included, the ToC demonstrates how the poorest will benefit.
✔ A preliminary identification of project location based on geographic targeting criteria.
✔ Targeting lessons from previous operations,
✔ Take the different target groups into account, with attention to IFAD crosscutting priorities.

PDF - STEP 2: Defining COSOP targeting strategy

✔ COSOP Results Management Framework include targeting specific indicators.

PDF - STEP 3: Monitoring progress

Project design

The project design leverages the analysis and recommendations in the COSOP and further defines target groups, activities, measures and implementation arrangements to reach the poor in the target area.

Three steps to address targeting in project design

Poverty and Target Group profiling of the target area, using a variety of data and methods is the necessary first step to develop a sound targeting strategy.

✔ Poverty and target group analyses, using national poverty data is combined and validated with local stakeholders, including poor rural communities and IFAD’s priority groups, using participatory tools.

✔ The target group is disaggregated along poverty and social axis, with attention to IFAD’s crosscutting priorities and based on national definition of poverty.

PDF - STEP 1: Poverty analysis and defining target groups at design

Outcome of the analysis tailor the project’s activities and targeting strategy, which includes detailed measures and implementation mechanisms to enable the intended target group to participate in and benefit from the project.

✔ The ToC sets out the pathways for reaching and benefiting the poorest, the poor and the vulnerable, and shows how the poorest will benefit in projects that are directly targeted at them.

✔ The targeting strategy includes:
• Poverty-focused criteria and cross-cutting priorities for selecting provinces and communities (geographic targeting)
• A clear definition of activities, eligibility criteria and measures (enabling, empowering and self-targeting) for reaching and benefiting specific poverty segments, in line with IFAD targeting approach.
• The financial and human resources needed to deliver activities for poverty targeting
• Partnerships for poverty targeting
• Mechanisms for the implementation of the targeting strategy (PIM).

PDF - STEP 2: Developing the targeting strategy at design

✔ Targeting-related indicators are included in M&E framework, log-frame and learning systems.

✔ Mechanisms for participatory monitoring are in place.

PDF - STEP 3: M&E in project design

Project implementation

The implementation of the project’s targeting strategy is based on the activities and processes previously identified in the Project Design Report (PDR) and the implementation arrangements defined in the Project Implementation Manual (PIM).

Three steps to address targeting in implementation

This includes the project start-up workshop and the pre-investment phase.

✔ Start-up workshop: the PIM is validated and PMU staff is trained on targeting

✔ Pre-investment or start-up activities includes: • information campaign
• Training on targeting to PMU staff and partners
• Preparation of AWPB

PDF - STEP 1: Targeting during start-up

✔ The targeting and social inclusion specialist appointed to PMU support the implementation of the targeting strategy across all components.

PDF - STEP 2: Targeting implementation

Direct supervision and implementation support are key instruments to monitor and improve the project’s targeting performance.

✔ The mission assesses and scores the poverty outreach and targeting performance of the project, especially the extent to which the poorest and most vulnerable are benefitting.

✔ Different verification methods are used for the assessment (M&E data, project reports and the view of local stakeholders) .

✔ Practical changes and tools for improving targeting performance are proposed and validated with PMU.

PDF - STEP 3: Supervision, implementation support and completion

Project completion

The project completion report includes a critical analysis of the project’s targeting strategy and an assessment of how well it performed with a view to informing both project scaling-up efforts and future projects and country strategies. 

Steps to address targeting in project completion

The participation of a targeting and social inclusion specialist is a requirement in project completion to ensure learning and lessons on targeting are capitalised.

✔ The assessment of targeting and outreach is carried out in consultation with local stakeholders.

It covers:
• Effectiveness of implementation arrangements • Effectiveness of project targeting strategy in reaching and benefitting the poor, the poorest and vulnerable social groups
• Contribution of the targeting approach to project outcomes
• Potential for using the targeting approach in scaling-up activities under new programmes.
• Systematization of lessons and good practices

Lessons and good practices on targeting are disseminated widely, with national partners, IFAD staff and beyond, using a variety of channels (e.g. IFAD GFPs networks; gender news; regional meetings, etc.)

Targeting in thematic investments


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