The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established as an international financial institution in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. The Conference was organized in response to the food crises of the early 1970s that primarily affected the Sahelian countries of Africa. The conference resolved that "an International Fund for Agricultural Development should be established immediately to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries". One of the most important insights emerging from the conference was that the causes of food insecurity and famine were not so much failures in food production, but structural problems relating to poverty and to the fact that the majority of the developing world's poor populations were concentrated in rural areas.
IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Seventy-five per cent of the world's poorest people - 1.05 billion women, children and men - live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods.
Working with rural poor people, governments, donors, non-governmental organizations and many other partners, IFAD focuses on country-specific solutions, which can involve increasing rural poor peoples' access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.
IFAD's Strategic Framework for 2007-2010
IFAD's activities are guided by the Strategic Framework for IFAD 2007-2010: Enabling the rural poor to overcome poverty.
IFAD's goal is to empower poor rural women and men in developing countries to achieve higher incomes and improved food security.
IFAD will ensure that poor rural people have better access to, and the skills and organization they need to take advantage of:
All of IFAD's decisions - on regional, country and thematic strategies, poverty reduction strategies, policy dialogue and development partners - are made with these principles and objectives in mind. As reflected in the strategic framework, IFAD is committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the target to halve the proportion of hungry and extremely poor people by 2015.
Working in partnership to eradicate rural poverty
Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD works with governments to develop and finance programmes and projects that enable rural poor people to overcome poverty themselves.
Since starting operations in 1978, IFAD has invested US$11.5 billion in 838 projects and programmes that have reached some 350 million poor rural people.
Governments and other financing sources in recipient countries, including project participants, contributed US$10.1 billion, and multilateral, bilateral and other donors provided approximately another US$8.2 billion in cofinancing.
This represents a total investment of about US$18.3 billion, and means that for every dollar IFAD invested, it was able to mobilize almost two dollars in additional resources.
IFAD tackles poverty not only as a lender, but also as an advocate for rural poor people. Its multilateral base provides a natural global platform to discuss important policy issues that influence the lives of rural poor people, as well as to draw attention to the centrality of rural development to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Membership in IFAD is open to any state that is a member of the United Nations or its specialized agencies or the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Governing Council is IFAD's highest decision-making authority, with 165 Member States represented by a Governor and Alternate Governor and any other designated advisers. The Council meets annually. The Executive Board, responsible for overseeing the general operations of IFAD and approving loans and grants, is composed of 18 members and 18 alternate members. The President, who serves for a four-year term (renewable once), is IFAD's chief executive officer and chair of the Executive Board.
The current President of IFAD is Mr Kanayo Nwanze, who was elected for a four-year term in 2009.