IFAD’s role for rural development and the importance of evidence in its activities

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Author: International Fund for Agricultural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (IFAD LAC)

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a financial institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations that provides financing for rural development projects, providing tools to beneficiaries, to improve their income and food security. During the 40 years of work, IFAD has reached the world’s most remote communities with a commitment to transforming rural economies and food systems to be more inclusive, productive, resilient and sustainable.

IFAD’s work is directly related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, No Poverty and 2, Zero Hunger. However, due to their intersectionality, the diversity and scope of their projects, IFAD has also contributed to the achievement of other SDGs such as Gender Equality (Goal 5), Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8), Climate Action (Goal 13), and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (Goal 16).

These commitments are reflected in the inclusion of cross-cutting themes in the projects, such as climate and environment, nutrition, gender and youth. Currently, IFAD has around 215 projects, of which 33 are located in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). In this region, IFAD reaches 17 countries, where it supports more than 3 million direct beneficiaries, many of them women, youth and indigenous communities. Since 2013, more than 400,000 women in LAC have been direct beneficiaries of the projects and, since 2016, more than 15,500 households have received specific support to improve their nutrition. In addition, in the projects designed in their current regional portfolio, IFAD 11, youth indicators were included in 84% of them, gender in 61.5%, nutrition in 53.8%, and climate change in 38 %. In addition, IFAD intervenes by providing support due to the effects that climate change has and will have on small farmers. That is why it aims to support them in creating communities resilient to climate change through adaptation and mitigation projects. In this sense, 70% of their projects have climatic components and 100% of them deal comprehensively with people’s vulnerabilities to increase their resilience factors in different areas. Since 2008, 1.2 million hectares have achieved sustainable and climate-resilient management.

To analyze their data and evaluate their impact, IFAD designs and finances projects that incorporate baselines, mid-term lines and final lines, which are managed through the implementing entity of each project. Likewise, it manages a set of comparable indicators between the logical frameworks of all the projects in the global portfolio, which allows adequate monitoring of the projects’ progress, as well as measuring the attribution of their results in a standardized way.

Evidence is an essential part of IFAD’s work. For this reason, it is one of the few financial institutions that evaluates its impact on a corporate basis. In addition, it has committed with its executive board that at least 15% of all projects that complete each replenishment cycle (that is, every 3 years) have an impact evaluation implemented directly by IFAD. In this way, they can evaluate the impact of their projects in an aggregate way through impact evaluations of individual projects. In the last 5 years, the LAC division has carried out impact evaluations for projects in Peru, Brazil and Mexico. These evaluations allow us to take out best practices and lessons learned with solid evidence.

Among the impact evaluations scheduled for 2021, the Project “Accesses in Bolivia” was evaluated, which had an investment of US $72.7 million. The results show a 21% increase in annual agricultural income compared to the control group. Of this increase, 91% is explained by the revitalization of IFAD-supported enterprises. Similarly, this evaluation showed that beneficiaries increased their access to water by 34% and improved household income by 10%. Finally, the project presented a 41% increase in productive assets and a 22% increase in total income per year.

For the second semester of 2021, impact evaluations are scheduled for projects in Argentina and Nicaragua, which will allow the generation of knowledge on a wide range of topics, the exchange of information, and the creation of new South-South cooperation practices in the region. To this end, IFAD’s LAC division has a specialized center in Brazil that is in charge of aligning projects and themes to hold this type of exchange. Some examples of cooperation that took place and are taking place are between Mexico and Brazil on issues of agroforestry and agroecology in semi-arid regions and between Peru and Costa Rica on the issue of payments for environmental service.

IFAD remains firmly committed to generating robust and rigorous evidence in all its projects. This not only contributes to improving the design of future projects but also to their proper implementation to have an efficient impact on the well-being of rural communities. In addition, the production and use of evidence will contribute to the generation of greater knowledge about effective interventions for rural development in the region.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) invests in rural people, empowering them to increase their food security, improve the nutrition of their families and increase their incomes.