IFAD Research series

The IFAD Research Series brings together cutting-edge thinking and research on smallholder agriculture, rural development and related themes. Through this series, IFAD seeks to present diverse viewpoints from across the development arena to stimulate knowledge exchange and to contribute to the global knowledge-base and debate on agriculture and rural development.

The Research Series includes rigorous reviews and studies on a broad and diverse range of themes related to IFAD’s work in smallholder agriculture and rural development. Thematic areas encompass policy, social sciences and specific areas of technical specialization, discussing topics such as migration, agricultural productivity and agribusiness opportunities, rural-urban linkages in food systems, and other related topics.

The research papers are authored by researchers and technical experts from IFAD and partner institutions and are based on research, statistics, technical work or field based work.



19 - Measuring Women's Empowerment in Agriculture: A Streamlined Approach

by Alessandra Garbero (IFAD) and Emilie Perge (World Bank)

The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) can be a useful tool to measure the empowerment, agency and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector. However, computing the WEAI in its current form involves large data requirements, resulting in lengthy surveys with several questions on various dimensions and indicators within each dimension. This paper proposes a reduced version of the WEAI, or the R-WEAI, and examines two possible approaches to reduce the data requirements while ensuring comparability to the full WEAI. Download



18 - Do agricultural support and cash transfer programmes improve nutritional status?

by Seth R. Gitter and James Manley (Towson University, Maryland), Jill Bernstein (independent consultant), and Paul Winters (IFAD)

Cash transfer and agricultural support programmes are both used to improve nutrition outcomes in developing countries. This paper examines previous reviews of the impact of these programmes and compares the evidence between the two. The paper finds that, although there are about the same number of programmes of each type, many more papers have been written about the cash transfer programmes than the agricultural programmes. While evidence suggests that both programme types improved the quality of food consumption, the paper concludes that both types show weak evidence of improvements in anthropometric outcomes. Download



17 - Population age structure and sex composition in sub-Saharan Africa: A rural-urban perspective

by Ashira Menashe-Oren and Guy Stecklov

This study describes the shifting age and sex patterns of populations across rural and urban sectors in sub-Saharan Africa from 1980 to 2015. It examines the relationship between the slowdown in urbanization and rural and urban age structure gaps, sex composition and dependency ratios. Findings show that rural-urban migration of young adults plays a key role in explaining dependency ratios and sex compositional gaps in rural and urban areas. Results also highlight the value of taking into account local age and sex structures to better prepare for the demographic dividend and other consequences of demographic shifts in sub-Saharan Africa. Download

16 - Getting the most out of impact evaluation for learning, reporting and influence

by Edward Heinemann, Adinda Van Hemelrijck, Irene Guijt

This paper describes the Participatory Impact Assessment and Learning Approach (PIALA) which was developed and piloted by IFAD. The approach aims to produce rigorous qualitative and quantitative evidence that can be used not only to identify and assess the impacts of development projects, but also to promote learning and improved understanding of the associated processes and pathways of socio-economic change. Illustrated with cases from Viet Nam and Ghana, the paper assesses the value of the approach for collaborative learning and reporting for IFAD’s country programming and global policy engagement, as well as for the wider development community. Download

15 - Remittances, growth and poverty reduction in Asia

by Katsushi S. Imai, Bilal Malaeb, Fabrizio Bresciani

Remittances have increased in low-income and lower- middle-income countries in recent years, playing an important role as a stable source of finance at the macro-level, and in poverty reduction at the micro-level. Drawing on a critical review of the literature and econometric analyses based on cross-country panel data, this study examines the relationships among remittances, growth and poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific and highlights policy implications to be considered by governments and policy-makers. Download

14 - Disbursement performance of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

by Tim Balint, Daniel Higgins, Paola Mallia, Silvana Scalzo, Paul Winters

This paper investigates the trends and the influencing factors of IFAD’s project disbursement performance over the past 20 years. Based on data from 577 projects in 111 countries, the study finds that disbursement of funds are often delayed and time-consuming. Using econometric analysis, the study assesses the internal and external factors affecting the amount and timeliness of disbursements, and provides important lessons on how international financial institutions such as IFAD can better monitor and manage this important aspect of their development effectiveness. Download

13 - Graduation models for rural financial inclusion

by Khalid El Harizi and Xinjia Yan

Graduation out of chronic poverty has recently been receiving considerable attention by the global development community for its potential synergies with social protection, microfinance and livelihoods development approaches to poverty reduction. This paper examines the evidence regarding the effectiveness of graduation strategies in reducing extreme poverty, with a focus on rural households, and proposes a new analytical framework to support future work on graduation as a learning and adaptation process in development practice. Download

12 - An evidence-based assessment of IFAD’s end-of-project reporting

by Bia Carneiro and Alessandra Garbero

Project Completion Reports (PCRs) are a critical tool for development organizations, both for accountability purposes, and as a means of learning from project experience to inform the design of future operations. This paper analyses a sample of PCRs from IFAD to assess the extent to which evidence is used to determine a project's effectiveness in bringing about development. The report finds that most claims on results are not supported by evidence, and discusses implications for the objective measurement of development effectiveness. Download

11 - Food safety, trade, standards and the integration of smallholders into value chains - A review of the literature

by John Humphrey

This paper analyses how food safety challenges and requirements affect smallholder farmers' access to markets. High food safety standards in destination countries force governments of developing countries to make strategic choices about establishing domestic standards and upgrading the infrastructure and knowledge base of smallholder farmers. The paper suggests mechanisms that can be used to respond to these challenges, to enable smallholder inclusion in different markets. Download

10 - Inclusive finance and inclusive rural transformation

by Calum G. Turvey

This paper provides an overview of concepts, issues and research on the relationship between financial inclusion and inclusive rural transformation. It demonstrates how changing demand for financial services, innovations in rural finance, and different investment strategies affect the interplay of supply and demand. Download

9 - Social protection and inclusive rural transformation

by Carolina Trivelli, Silvana Vargas, Jhonatan Clausen

This paper analyses how different types of social protection interventions affect rural livelihoods. It examines how these interventions can help rural transformation by increasing productivity and asks how they can influence inclusiveness. Using country-level evidence, it suggests that the effectiveness of social protection depends upon specific contexts and combinations of interventions, and asks what this means for building policy. Download

8 - Fostering inclusive rural transformation in fragile states and situations

by Karim Hussein

This paper challenges our understanding of fragile states and situations, and asks how they relate to issues of inclusive structural and rural transformation. Drawing on IFAD's experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Haiti and the Republic of Sudan as case studies, it analyses the policies and approaches that are successful in fragile states and situations. Download

7 - Measuring IFAD's impact. Background paper to the IFAD9 Impact Assessment Initiative 

by Alessandra Garbero

This paper examines the impact of IFAD-supported projects so as to learn lessons for future projects. It analyses the different methods used by IFAD to measure a project's impact, finds that IFAD is improving the well-being of rural people, and recommends that impact assessments be built into future projects from their inception. Download

6 - Why food and nutrition security matters for inclusive structural and rural transformation

by Steven Were Omamo

This paper challenges current thinking on the connection between rural transformation and food security & nutrition. It advocates that improving rural and structural transformation has a positive cyclical effect upon communities by improving food availability, access, supplies and utilization which in turn improves the health and education of communities. Using evidence from across the developing world, the paper creates a policy agenda to maximise potential for smallholder farming to transform local economies. Download

5 - Rural-urban linkages and food systems in sub-Saharan Africa

by Karim Hussein and David Suttie

This paper examines the role of rural-urban linkages in fostering inclusive and sustainable food systems and how these contribute to rural transformation and,  more broadly, to sustainable and inclusive development. Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, the paper analyses the interdependencies between rural and urban areas and points to the key roles played by rural-based populations and producers, particularly smallholders, in promoting inclusive, mutually beneficial and sustainable urbanization. Download

4 - The effects of smallholder agricultural involvement on household food consumption and dietary diversity: Evidence from Malawi

by Rui Benfica and Talip Killic

This paper investigates how household agricultural involvement affects food consumption and dietary diversity in rural Malawi. It analyses the relationship between on-farm income shares and the caloric consumption levels and shares across food groups. It finds that while food consumption and dietary diversity increase with agricultural involvement, the quality of diets does not improve. It highlights the importance of income diversification to dietary diversity and the need for investments in nutrition-sensitive agricultural value chains, nutrition education and crop diversification programmes. Download

3 - Fostering inclusive outcomes in African agriculture: improving agricultural productivity and expanding agribusiness opportunities

by David Suttie and Rui Benfica

This paper looks at the role of agriculture in fostering inclusive and sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa. It discusses how improving agricultural productivity, smallholder access to markets and expanding agribusiness opportunities can accelerate transformation, investment and industrialization. The paper presents key investment and policy elements to be considered and points to the centrality of smallholders for the rural transformation process to be inclusive. Download

2 - Migration and transformative pathways

by David Suttie and Rosemary Vargas-Lundius

This paper analyses the role of migration in promoting rural livelihoods and discusses how migration interacts with transformative economic processes. Focusing on migration out of rural areas, it examines the impacts of migration on rural livelihoods and challenges the perspective that sees rural outmigration as a failure of rural development. Download.

1 - Agricultural and rural development reconsidered

by Steve Wiggins

This paper is a guide to current debates about agricultural development. It analyses the changes in development approaches and thinking in recent decades and explores today's critical issues in agricultural and rural development policy. With the main focus on Africa, the paper also includes insights from Asia and Latin America. Download