IFAD and the GEF: a partnership for sustainable agriculture

June 3, 2016

The partnership between IFAD and GEF has benefitted millions of people. They have not only improved their livelihoods, but have preserved valuable natural resources.

Editor's note: This story is part of the publication produced for the 25th Anniversary of the Global Environment Facility. The publication is a compilation of contributions from across the GEF partnership; it includes stories and guest articles that have being submitted by countries, partner organizations and dignitaries from around the world.


By Ms. Margarita Astralaga, Director of Environment and Climate Division, IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) became an accredited agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in 2004. This partnership marked IFAD’s pledge to more systematically address the links between rural poverty and global environmental degradation. Since then, IFAD has led the way in transforming rural livelihoods by scaling up innovative solutions that redefine the relationship between agriculture and the environment.

“The partnership between IFAD and GEF has benefitted millions of people. They have not only improved their livelihoods, but have preserved valuable natural resources. As the climate becomes increasingly changeable, it is more important than ever for us to work together to reach millions more,” said IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze.

GEF finance has enabled IFAD to achieve some remarkable impacts. For instance, in the dryland country of Burkina Faso where rainfall variability and desertification are severe constraints on human development, IFAD has supported soil and water conservation techniques that have contributed to the re-greening of the Sahel.

Smallholders dig earth embankments in the shape of half-moons that are used to capture run-off water and concentrate organic matter. These half-moons have transformed the landscape, and in the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso, they have led to the rehabilitation of 200,000 to 300,000 hectares of land and the production of an additional 80,000 tons of food per year.

In Mexico, IFAD is helping small coffee producers in Campeche, Chiapas and Oaxaca states to conserve forests, which not only mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon, but are necessary for the production of high-value Arabica coffee beans. The project also supports indigenous women’s groups to market local forest products, such as wood handicrafts and silk garments. The DECOFOS project is another example of IFAD and GEF promoting win-win solutions to protect globally important ecosystems, as well as provide economic gains for traditionally marginalized groups. 

“The most important part is training - supporting these women so they are empowered and more economically secure” said Aldonza Garcia, DECOFOS project coordinator.

María Ofelia Cauich, one of the indigenous women’s group members from Campeche said, “We have been taught to love the environment. To love the place we live in. And to be proud of what we are.”

The Integrated Approach Pilot (IAP) on food security represents the future of IFAD and GEF engagement. The programme is a joint effort to address food security, natural resource management and climate change in a holistic way. Twelve African countries will participate in the US$120 million programme that aims to conserve ten million hectares of land, and sequester ten million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We recognize that there will be more pressure on African agriculture in the future, but with the IAP we have an effective financing instrument so that smallholders are not disenfranchised and the environment is not degraded. It is a sustainable vision for agriculture that can help alleviate the threat of climate change, and we are seeing a lot of support among our partner countries and agencies,” said Margarita Astralaga, Director of IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division.

In all of its investment programmes, IFAD strives to expand the asset base of land-users, while ensuring they have access to innovative technologies to increase the resilience of smallholders to global change.