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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

Project

Tanzania

Agricultural Sector Development Programme
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Project

Kenya

Programme for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT)
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Project

Burundi

Value Chain Development Programme – Phase II (PRODEFI – II)
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Related news

Burundi to receive a US$24.9 million IFAD grant to enhance financial inclusion services in rural areas

October 2017 - NEWS
A total of 99,200 Burundian rural households in 17 provinces will benefit from a financial agreement signed today between the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Burundi. The agreement will enhance the availability of financial services in rural areas where demand currently far outstrips supply. Particular attention will be given to the most vulnerable groups, including women and young people.

Inclusive finance is key to ensure food security and transform the rural areas in East and Southern Africa

May 2017 - NEWS
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Uganda will bring policy makers and development practitioners together 22 -25 May in Kampala, Uganda, to discuss innovative approaches to expanding access to financial services for rural people.

Mozambique and United Nations agency to discuss ways of reducing rural poverty

February 2017 - NEWS
Media are invited to attend a national workshop to hear conclusions from an independent evaluation of the IFAD-supported country strategy and programme in Mozambique. The evaluation, conducted by IFAD's Independent Office of Evaluation, included six rural development projects implemented between 2010 and 2016 and amounting to an investment of US$237 million.

Related publications

Nutrition Mainstreaming in East and Southern Africa: Operational approaches

May 2017
Approaches and experiences in five countries from East and Southern Africa.
LANGUAGES: English

Investing in rural people in Madagascar

April 2017
Since 1979, IFAD has funded 15 rural development projects in Madagascar for a total of US$265.5 million. Five projects are currently ongoing. 
LANGUAGES: English, French

Grant Results Sheet CIMMYT - Understanding the adoption and application of conservation agriculture in southern Africa

February 2017

The programme’s goals were to increase the food security of smallholder farm households in southern Africa and enhance their livelihoods while conserving and improving the natural resources used for agriculture.

The focus of the programme was on developing productive farming systems for smallholder farmers who managed maize-based systems, based on the principles of conservation agriculture (CA): increasing the profitability, sustainability and labour efficiency of agricultural production.

LANGUAGES: English

Contact us

For more information about IFAD's work in East and Southern Africa,

please contact Henrik Franklin, Portfolio Adviser, at h.franklin@ifad.org