Impact story

Practical toolbox strengthens IFAD’s partnerships

Partnering with governments, companies, foundations or farmer organisations is central in the work of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Together with experts from Wageningen University & Research, IFAD developed a Partnering Toolkit, which offers practical tools to deepen and strengthen its partnerships. An important means now that IFAD's financial space to invest in partnerships is expanding.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is the UN international financial institution that provides investments to rural people, empowering them to increase their food security, improve the nutrition of their families and increase their incomes.

“Partnering is in our DNA”, says Willem Wefers Bettink, who for the past 30 years has been working with IFAD and now leads a team within IFAD that works on partnerships. “For the coming three years, IFAD obtained new financing of USD 1.5 billion meaning that IFAD can lend a total of USD 3.8 billion. Through partnerships with governments, private sector, foundations and farmer organisations that is more than doubled to 8.5 billion”, explains Wefers Bettink. “So there is a financial reason to become a partner. But our main reason is to have more impact.”

As an example, Wefers Bettink mentions a partnership between Mars, IFAD and the government of Indonesia, for the purpose of increasing the productivity of smallholder cocoa farmers. Mars brings in technical assistance, the government brings in convening power and rural reach and IFAD provides finance and monitoring capacity.

Deepen partnerships

In recent years, the board of IFAD decided to invest in deepening and improving the quality of partnerships, according to Wefers Bettink. He says, “A partnership should be more than just an agreement to contribute funds. If it doesn't function to its full potential, we should look together with the partner for ways together to improve it.”

IFAD had been working for years with Jim Woodhill, currently the driving force behind Foresight4Food. “Jim advised IFAD in the past and he knows our organisation very well. He suggested involving Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, because of its expertise in multi stakeholder partnerships, in the development of a Partnering Toolkit to give us more practical tools in hands to improve our partnerships.”

Hands-on tools

Herman Brouwer and Hermine ten Hove of Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation took the lead in writing the toolkit. The tools in the toolkit were tailor made and adjusted to the needs of IFAD, in cooperation with IFAD staff. The toolkit comprises very practical and hands-on tools and checkboxes, for example on identifying and selecting future partners, how to negotiate a partnership agreement or how to perform regular 'health checks' on the partnership.

“WUR has a very good name around the world and especially in developing countries, because of its expertise in agriculture and rural development”, Wefers Bettink says. “Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation included their knowledge, didactics and methodologies on partnerships in this toolkit.”

Review with the partner

The toolkit can help IFAD to improve the priority setting within partnerships, Wefers Bettink says, and get more insights in the contribution that partnering is making to IFADs outcomes and impact, together with the partner. “The tools create regular moments in time to review whether the partnership does what we want it to do. Furthermore, the toolkit offers ways to work on improvement together with the partner. A good partner is a critical partner that provides input on how to get the most out of a partnership.”

After the launch of the Partnering Toolkit, IFAD will organise a series of interactive events with the intended users of the toolkit within IFAD's organisation, for example IFAD's country directors. “Our people are naturally already very knowledgeable on setting up and managing partnerships. Nevertheless, I believe this toolkit will help us to raise the bar, by better structuring our work on partnerships, and better reporting on it.”