International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Four women with baskets full of grain on their heads.
Through IFAD, Switzerland supports people in Niger to produce high yields despite increased drought and to generate an income from it. © IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialised agency of the United Nations mandated to enable poor rural women and men to improve their food security and nutrition, raise their incomes and strengthen their resilience. Its mandate therefore aligns with the priorities of Switzerland's development policy.

Established in 1977 in response to the food crisis of the 1970s, IFAD is today the only multilateral organization with a mandate specialized on smallholder agriculture. Its work focuses on poor rural people, including poor smallholder farmers, fishermen and pastoralists, as well as landless and indigenous people.

Its programmes aim at improving poor rural people's access to financial services, markets, technology, land and natural resources. As an international financial institution, IFAD provides grants and loans on favourable terms to countries affected by widespread rural poverty. IFAD also provides expertise in the agricultural sector and supports innovation.


The world’s 767 million poorest people live on less than USD 1.90 a day. Three quarters of them live in the rural areas of developing countries. Most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, relying on small plots of land about one to two hectares for their food and income and with limited access to markets and services. Climate change, a growing global population, and volatile food and energy prices have the potential to push an even larger share of them into extreme poverty and hunger.

On the other hand, agriculture is a proven engine for poverty reduction. GDP growth generated by agriculture is more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector. In sub-Saharan Africa, growth in agriculture reduces poverty up to 11 times faster than growth in other sectors.

The IFAD’s aims

The overall direction of IFAD is summarized by the Strategic Objectives of its Strategic Framework 2016- 2025

  • Increasing poor rural people’s productive capacities in a sustainable and resilient manner;
  • increasing and improving their engagement in markets, while enabling them to better manage related risks;
  • strengthening the environmental sustainability and climate resilience of their economic activities.

IFAD is thus today the only multilateral organization with a mandate specialized on smallholder agriculture. It finances the development of sustainable agricultural value chains. Its work is complementary to the two other Rome-based agencies, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) with its focus on policy and knowledge, and the World Food Programme (WFP) focusing on humanitarian interventions.

The IFAD’s results

The recent Impact Assessment Initiative shows that from 2010–15, 139 million individuals benefited from project services. In 2019, IFAD-supported projects reached 131.7 million people. 22 million were able to access financial services; 2.6 million people were trained in crop and livestock production practices and technologies; 2.6 million people in small-farm households were supported in coping with the effects of climate change; 163,600 microenterprises gained access to business promotion services; 2,710 marketing facilities were constructed or rehabilitated; 3.1 million hectares of land were brought under improved management. 47% of IFAD targeted beneficiaries were women, 20% youth.

Switzerland’s commitment

Switzerland’s priorities

Switzerland’s core contribution to IFAD (IFAD11, 2019–21) amounted to CHF 41 million. As a member of and contributor to IFAD, Switzerland focuses in particular on the following issues:

  • Strengthening IFAD’s role as a global facilitator and coordinator of efforts between governments, farmers’ organisations, women’s groups, the private sector, agricultural research institutions and other stakeholders, on behalf of the rural poor in developing countries.
  • A sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible involvement of the private sector in value chains targeted through IFAD projects.
  • A solid and credible financial framework and strategy to ensure IFAD’s financial sustainability
  • Support to IFAD’s work in fragile contexts: Strengthening of knowledge of conflict sensitive programme management (CSPM) and its use in programme implementation. 
  • Integration in all IFAD projects of measures that respond to potential climate threats into all IFAD projects (climate change mainstreaming). As a result, farmers become more resilient and Swiss investments through IFAD more sustainable.
  • Mainstreaming of nutrition concerns in all IFAD programmes and projects.

Switzerland is represented in the highest decision-making body, the Governing Council, and has also a strong presence the Executive Board, of which it is an Alternate Member. The Executive Board decides on the work programme and approves projects, programmes and grants.

Switzerland is currently also member of the Evaluation Committee. Thanks to a 14 year long partnership of SDC with the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE), Switzerland’s contribution to the improvement of the whole evaluation system is recognized.

Switzerland and IFAD agree on the objectives of increasing agricultural production and productivity while sustainably managing natural resources, building sustainable and inclusive local and regional value chains, adapting to climate change, striving for a nutrition sensitive agriculture, contributing to women’s empowerment and supporting to farmers’ organizations. By contributing actively to IFAD, Switzerland can influence international agricultural development and make it more sustainable.