The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. Seeking to address rural poverty, the conference created IFAD to finance agricultural development projects, primarily for food production, in developing countries.
IFAD’s goal is to empower poor rural people in developing countries to improve their food security, raise their incomes, and strengthen their resilience. The agency’s Strategic Framework for 2011-2015 guides its activities and demonstrates commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially the target of halving the population of hungry and extremely poor people by 2015.
Gender equality is essential for sustainable economic development and empowering rural women is vital to enabling poor people to improve their livelihoods and overcome poverty. Increasing evidence reveal that women’s improved capabilities and welfare strongly correlate with poverty reduction improvements, including lower infant mortality and child malnutrition. Women make up a significant portion of the global agricultural labour force (43 percent) in poor rural communities, in addition to their unpaid household and care work. However, rural women have limited access to land, credit, information, and technology, and face difficulties in mobility and political participation.
Addressing gender issues is a cornerstone of IFAD’s programme, as reflected in its Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy (available here). The gender policy is central to the attainment of the Strategic Framework’s overarching goal, and gender equality and women’s empowerment are included in both the Framework’s objectives and in the core principles of engagement. The policy’s three strategic objectives are to (1) promote economic empowerment to enable rural women and men to have equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, profitable economic activities, (2) enable women and men to have equal voice and influence in rural institutions and organizations, and (3) achieve a more equitable balance in workloads and in the sharing of economic and social benefits between women and men. To address gender inequalities and discrimination, IFAD focuses on areas which can empower women economically and socially, including access to land, water, education, training, markets and financial services.
For more information, please visit the official IFAD website.