IFAD's Strategic Framework 2011-2015

Strategic framework 2011-2015IFAD's fourth Strategic Framework covers the period 2011-2015. It presents IFAD's overarching goal, objectives and thematic areas of focus. It also articulates the principles of engagement that will guide operations and how IFAD will deliver against the framework.

IFAD's unique mandate is improving rural food security and nutrition, and enabling rural women and men to overcome poverty. In today's changing global context, with new opportunities and challenges facing poor rural people, pursuing this mandate calls for honing IFAD's strategies and instruments to achieve greater and more sustainable impact. This does not entail radical changes in what IFAD does. Rather, it requires building on what IFAD has learned about small-scale agriculture and rural poverty reduction in over 30 years, by better leveraging its comparative advantages together with a range of partners.

This Strategic Framework has been prepared in response to a global context characterized both by persistent problems and major changes. The former include persistent rural poverty on a massive scale, with close to 1 billion rural people living on less than US$1.25 per day, and a high prevalence of food insecurity and hunger in some regions. The latter include increasingly diverse rural livelihoods; accelerating natural resource degradation and climate change; the growing economic importance of agriculture1 and rising demand for food, biofuels and other agricultural goods and services; higher and more volatile food prices; and growing private-sector investment in agriculture.

In this changing context, many factors – both long-standing and relatively new – keep rural households in poverty, leave them ill equipped to face new risks and opportunities, and undermine rural food security and nutrition. These factors include: inadequate and insecure access to natural resources, particularly by rural women; natural resource degradation; limited human capital and skills; weak collective capabilities and organization; poor access to technology and financial services; insufficient integration into agricultural markets and value chains;2 a lack of good employment opportunities; policy failures; and weak rural representation in policy processes.

Since the food price spike of 2007-2008, the international community has launched a number of initiatives to promote food security and nutrition, many of which include supporting small-scale agriculture. In parallel, greater global concern has emerged around climate change and its implications for agriculture and rural livelihoods. Many developing countries have begun to give higher priority to food security and nutrition, and sometimes to allocate more budgetary resources to agriculture. Prospects for enhanced South-South cooperation have also improved. The role of women in agriculture and in ensuring household food security and nutrition, and the need to support this role with targeted investments, are increasingly being recognized. These developments bode well for future progress in rural poverty reduction and small-scale agriculture. They also bode well for improved food security and nutrition in rural areas and beyond.

Against this backdrop, IFAD's work remains focused on poor rural people and their livelihoods and food security – and on small-scale agriculture as a crucial source of income and nutrition for many poor rural households, and a driver of rural economic growth. Over the years, IFAD has gained a wealth of experience that confers a comparative advantage in these areas. IFAD collaborates with partners to develop innovative and sound projects that respond to the constraints and priorities identified by poor rural people. It fosters the empowerment of poor rural women and men, their organizations and communities. It engages in policy dialogue on the basis of its field experience. In a changing global context, IFAD will use this comparative advantage to be a leading player and an effective partner in emerging initiatives around rural poverty reduction, small-scale agriculture and food security. It will do so in a way that maximizes benefits for poor rural people, and helps direct more policy attention, resources and services towards them.

To use its comparative advantage to achieve greater impact, IFAD will be guided by a dynamic vision in which small-scale agriculture can respond to growing demand for food and other agricultural goods and services, generating income and a range of other benefits for poor rural people. For many small farmers and livestock producers, agriculture can provide a robust pathway out of poverty today and in the future. For this to happen, small-scale agriculture must be market-oriented to capture the opportunities afforded by growing demand for agricultural products. It needs to be more productive and more sustainable to thrive in an environment of scarce resources and energy. It needs to become more resilient to a changing climate. Finally, it needs to be integrated into dynamic rural spaces where ruralurban linkages play an ever greater role, and where non-farm activities within and around agricultural value chains increasingly provide employment and entrepreneurial3 opportunities for many poor rural people.

In this context, IFAD's overarching goal is: enabling poor rural people to improve their food security and nutrition,4 raise their incomes and strengthen their resilience. This goal is underpinned by five strategic objectives:

  • A natural resource and economic asset base for poor rural women and men that is more resilient to climate change, environmental degradation and market transformation;
  • Access for poor rural women and men to services to reduce poverty, improve nutrition, raise incomes and build resilience in a changing environment;
  • Poor rural women and men and their organizations able to manage profitable, sustainable and resilient farm and non-farm enterprises or take advantage of decent work opportunities;
  • Poor rural women and men and their organizations able to influence policies and institutions that affect their livelihoods; and
  • Enabling institutional and policy environments to support agricultural production and the full range of related non-farm activities.

In pursuit of its goal and objectives, IFAD will better orient its efforts on various levels. At the macro level, it will:

  • Lead rural poverty reduction initiatives based on small-scale agriculture;
  • Help countries scale up successes through IFAD-funded operations;
  • Expand its policy engagement;
  • Strengthen its pro-poor partnerships with a range of actors, including other United Nations agencies, public and private donors, and commercial enterprises that can bring pro-poor investment, assets and services to rural areas; and
  • Enhance its knowledge broker and advocacy role.

At the programme and project level, IFAD will step up efforts on:

  • Enhancing environmental sustainability and resilience in small-scale agriculture;
  • Promoting win-win contractual arrangements to help small agricultural producers seize opportunities at lower risk in agricultural value chains;
  • Supporting the development of technologies for sustainable intensification of small-scale agriculture;
  • Increasing the capacity of financial institutions to provide a broad range of inclusive services to poor rural people;
  • Promoting the capabilities of rural women and men, including young people; and
  • Capitalizing on opportunities to use renewable energy sources at the farm and community levels, and promoting low-cost technologies using local resources to provide energy at the village level.

In terms of thematic engagement, IFAD will continue to focus on:

  • Natural resources – land, water, energy and biodiversity;
  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation;
  • Improved agricultural technologies and effective production services;
  • A broad range of inclusive financial services;
  • Integration of poor rural people within value chains;
  • Rural enterprise development and non-farm employment opportunities;
  • Technical and vocational skills development; and
  • Support to rural producers' organizations.

Gender equality and social inclusion will be addressed as cross-cutting themes in each of these areas, as will household strategies to improve food security and nutrition.

In all its work, IFAD will adhere to eight principles of engagement:

  • A differentiated approach based on country context;
  • Targeting;
  • Supporting the empowerment of poor rural people;
  • Promoting gender equality and women's empowerment;
  • Creating viable opportunities for rural youth;
  • Innovation, learning and scaling up;
  • Effective partnerships and resource mobilization; and
  • Sustainability.

In delivering on this Strategic Framework, IFAD will intensify its efforts to mainstream management for development results. It will continue to manage for quality by strengthening internal quality enhancement and quality assurance systems. It will also continue to pursue increased efficiency, delivering more in quantity and quality at lower cost. In addition, IFAD will develop new projects and programmes in partnership with a range of private-sector actors to bring greater benefits to small agricultural producers. It will step up advocacy and communication efforts around small-scale agriculture, rural development, and food security and nutrition. It will continue to amplify the voices of poor rural women and men in relevant debates. Finally, it will continue to promote profitable, sustainable and resilient small-scale agriculture as a key part of the response to growing demand for food and other agricultural goods and services – locally, in developing countries and globally.


1/ In line with IFAD standard practice, this Strategic Framework uses the term "agriculture" to include crop farming, livestock production, artisanal fishing and aquaculture, and forestry.

2/ In this document, the term "agricultural value chain" means the chain of activities through which agricultural goods and services are produced, distributed and consumed. Each value chain includes a range of activities and actors upstream and downstream of production, including input suppliers, providers of financial and other services, farmers and livestock producers, agricultural workers, processors, transporters, traders, consumers, etc. Although value can be produced in each segment of the chain, small agricultural producers and workers typically capture a minor part of the value produced along each chain, for a variety of reasons.

3/ In this document, the term "enterprise" is often used to indicate commercially oriented activities in which poor rural people engage, as small- and micro-scale "entrepreneurs". The term is used to recognize the fact that many millions of poor rural women and men derive their income from producing agricultural or other goods and services for the market, and that market and price calculations largely determine their decisions with respect to these activities. Only by recognizing and addressing their needs and constraints as small and microentrepreneurs can development programmes support these women and men to overcome poverty sustainably.

4/ Attention to nutrition within IFAD originates in the Agreement Establishing IFAD of June 1976, which states in article 7.1(d)(ii), "Operations", that "emphasis shall be placed on improving the nutritional level of the poorest populations in these countries and the conditions of their lives." In this context, IFAD contributes to nutrition through its support to agriculture, which improves access to nutritious foods and high-quality diets and supplies essential foodbased micronutrients to poor and marginal groups.