The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a UN agency and international financial institution (IFI) that enables rural people to overcome poverty, can play a unique role in connecting the humanitarian-development gap by leveraging its rural development financing to achieve greater economic opportunities and food security for refugees and other displaced people and rural host communities. The agriculture sector plays a key role in the livelihoods of rural people and can potentially be a bridge to offer both improved income for host communities and for those who have been displaced.
IFAD commits to establish the Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS), aiming to raise $100 million in new funds to expand rural projects in the Near East and North Africa region to address the increased pressures put on rural communities by the influx of refugees and displaced persons. The funds will support agricultural-related training, financial access, and adaptation technologies that will increase the self-reliance of refugees and displaced persons and strengthen the resilience of host communities, thereby balancing the needs of both. The facility will pool donor grant resources with established IFAD-financed projects in the region, thereby leveraging existing design, staff, implementation support, supervision and M&E systems already in place. The commitment will focus on countries with large proportions of refugee and displaced communities, including Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia, with an initial focus on Jordan, Iraq and Sudan. Projects will range from two to three years in length and will vary in total cost from $1.5 million to $15 million based on the context. All projects will be designed with insights of local communities, and with a special focus on gender issues and womens economic empowerment.
FARMS will build upon IFADs existing operating model of implementation through national government partners and NGOs, but reflects a shift in approach by expanding scope to include rural regions that have been impacted by a high influx of refugees and displaced persons. In addition, FARMS will be allocated as grant funding as opposed to concessional loan financing to reflect the economic and social costs many developing host countries are already incurring as a result of the influx. Expanded projects will include activities focused on creating permanent and temporary jobs for refugees and hosts in agricultural value chains by providing vocational training; increasing access to finance through grants and revolving microloans; improving irrigation, agricultural production and processing facilities to support increased food demand; implementing sustainable natural resource management and renewable energy solutions; as well as supporting womens empowerment through promotion of income diversification activities and investments.
In addition to host communities, FARMS will support projects that focus on restoring agricultural productivity in origin areas from where refugees and IDPs have fled so that people who have left are motivated to return and those who remain have a chance to rebuild their lives.
FARMS funds will be channeled through IFAD's portfolio of projects. Therefore, monthly/ quarterly progress will vary across countries and projects. FARMS will be initiated by end-2016/ early-2017, with projects designed in a few countries (Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon identified as the first priority countries) and then expanded across the region.
Over a period of three years, the following projected outcomes will be achieved through FARMS financing, which will be contextualized depending on final project designs and local community demands:
- Improved productive rural infrastructure through implementation of at least 500 rural community infrastructure projects
- Creation of at least 500,000 days of temporary work
- Creation of at least 20,000 employment opportunities, primarily for youth, through increased public and private investment in agriculture in rural areas, support for creation of on and off-farm rural enterprises, access to finance, markets and services
- Increased social resilience through building community-level and local government capacity through increased capacities for at least 500 organizations
- Improved governance and management of natural resources through participatory programs in at least 500 communities
- Improved policy and regulatory to address the needs of rural host and sending communities
The current global crisis of forced displacement is unprecedented and the worst since World War II. According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 65 million people worldwide are affected, with a total population of concern of approximately 22.2 million people in the Near East and North Africa region. In this region, the crisis most acutely affects communities in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the neighboring countries of Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, and Tunisia.
The causes of forced displacement are varied and often specific to a context. Some common causes include: protracted conflict; fragility as characterized by weak institutions, food insecurity, unemployment (particularly youth unemployment); and competition over natural resources. While the causes vary, the consequences are uniformly significant. Families that are forced away from their homes often cannot return for decades. UNHCR further estimates that nearly all refugee camps and informal settlements of migrants and displaced persons are based in rural areas areas that are already struggling due to increased pressure on food production, worsening climate impacts, and fewer livelihood opportunities.
These conditions of fragility can undermine and undo development outcomes achieved by the international community and national partners over decades. While immediate, often life-saving humanitarian support is urgently needed, the long term solution to reduce the frequency of such crises is equitable and sustainable development. The need to provide support for rural areas deeply impacted by the current crisis is particularly urgent to avoid the risk of deepening vulnerabilities and exacerbating displacement and conflict.