IFAD has been working in India for more than 30 years. Today, India is IFAD's largest borrower and one of its main contributors.
The current Country Strategic Opportunities Programme in India is fully aligned with the government's policy framework and aims at increasing access to agricultural technologies, natural resources, financial services and value chains. A major crosscutting objective is to share knowledge and learning on poverty reduction and nutrition security – with a focus on tribal communities, smallholder farming households,landless people, women and unemployed young people.
IFAD is working at the grass-roots level, targeting its activities to the poorest and most vulnerable groups in rural society, such as small-scale and marginal farmers, women, tribal communities and scheduled castes. Over the years, the Fund and the Government of India have achieved significant results in the following areas:
Commercialization of smallholder agriculture. IFAD is increasingly investing in the commercialization of smallholder agriculture and building the capacity of small farmers to enhance their incomes from new market opportunities. Projects have facilitated innovative partnerships between small farmers and private-sector companies. A number of these partnerships involve multinational companies and major corporations, including Tata, Tesco, Unilever, East West Seeds, FieldFresh and ITC. This approach has led to high-value and high-quality products being exported from India to markets as far away as Europe.
Grass-roots institution building. All IFAD-supported projects focus on strengthening local people's ability to manage their own development. These interventions follow fully participatory planning and implementation processes – ensuring that they are truly demand-driven and client oriented, in line with indigenous knowledge and the capacities of participants. Through IFAD's investment in creating and strengthening grass-roots organizations such as self-help groups, and its support for the federation of such groups over time, the rural poor have gained greater bargaining power for access to services, inputs and markets.
Women's empowerment. IFAD-financed projects have empowered rural women to gain a greater voice in decision-making and resource allocation for development programmes and projects. Innovative efforts, such as the so-called Courage Brigades (or Shaurya Dal), have removed constraints that keep women from using their full potential for rural development. Forming women's groups has proven an effective way to reduce genderbased violence, change social attitudes and enable women to start up small businesses. Projects have also emphasized enhancing access to financial services for women – for example, by linking women's self-help groups with commercial banks.
Tribal development. Tribal communities – often located in the most remote, underdeveloped areas of the country – are an important IFAD target group. Projects supported by IFAD have contributed to enhancing the livelihoods of many tribal communities. These locally driven interventions aim to improve natural resource management, enhance access to land, improve agricultural production and expand vocational skills. The success of these projects has led to recent attempts to reach out to the most disadvantaged tribal communities, known as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
In many cases, IFAD-supported programmes and projects have been a starting point for larger development initiatives. Many successful models, piloted by IFAD projects, have now been scaled up by state governments and other development partners, extending benefits to millions of rural women, men and children throughout India.