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. It 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.
Role in MENARID
IFAD, the leading agency of MENARID has significant comparative advantage in the MENA region. IFAD has a solid portfolio and long experience in region. It has diversified and good partnerships with Arab IFIs that continue to be a major focus of IFAD’s partnership agenda in the region. Examples of IFAD’s partners include the OPEC Fund, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development (AFSED), the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the Kuwait Fund for Development (KFD), the Abu Dhabi Fund for Arab Economic Development (ADFAED), the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organisations (AGFUND) and the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development (AAAID). IFAD also participates in key events in the region such as the annual meetings of the Coordination Group of Arab National and Regional Development Institutions, which is a collective entity of eight bilateral and multilateral development institutions with the objective of providing greater coherence and effectiveness in the delivery of Arab aid.
IFAD has a wealth of integrated NRM experience in the region as reflected in its loan and grant instruments. As of December 2006, total IFAD loan commitments in the MENA region amounted to US$1.3 billion invested through 105 programmes and projects in 15 countries. Of these105 programmes and projects, 31 are ongoing for a total loan amount of US$500 million. This current loan portfolio has generated about US$300 million in co-financing from other donor organizations and domestic sources. The IFAD portfolio in the MENA region also includes a substantial amount of regional research grants – covering both borrowing and non-borrowing Member States – as well as country-specific grants. Currently, the grant portfolio consists of 38 regional and country-specific research grants for a total of US$26 million. The IFAD portfolio in the MENA region also includes a substantial amount of regional research grants – covering both borrowing and non-borrowing Member States – as well as country-specific grants. The ongoing MENA grant portfolio consists of 17 regional research grant projects for a total of US$20 million, and 26 country-specific grant projects for a total of US$9 million. The regional research grants sponsored by IFAD in the region, are mostly designed and implemented by regional centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (such as the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas), and by Arab research organizations such as the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, the Arab Centre for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, and the International Centre for Bio-saline Agriculture. These grant projects are co-financed by many international financial institutions, such as the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development and the Islamic Development Bank.
IFAD has also developed networks and for partnership building, exchange and learning in the region examples include KariaNet, a multi-stakeholder partnership between IFAD, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and IFAD-funded projects in the Middle East and North Africa. Karianet aims to enhance networking among IFAD-funded rural and agricultural development projects in the region in order to improve knowledge sharing and information/experience exchange through the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).