Our Work

Making agricultural investments more effective for rural people

Effective agriculture and rural development investments are those that result in sustained food security and reduced poverty. This is our mission.

The FAO Investment Centre works in partnership with countries and both public and private financial institutions to increase the efficacy and flow of external, domestic and private investments to agriculture and rural development. Our role is to bring FAO’s knowledge to bear on each step of the investment process. We help developing and in-transition countries invest with the long-term picture in mind, create synergies between investment programmes, define and strengthen national capacities and design specific investment programmes and projects intended to bring the greatest environmental, social and economic benefits to the lives of rural people. We assist countries in promoting their agricultural sector not only for purposes of economic development, but also to meet the health and nutrition needs of their citizens.

Our work is country-focused. It involves collaboration in the field with national counterparts in government ministries, financing institutions, the private sector, the donor community and other UN entities, as well as with the intended beneficiaries of agricultural and rural development investment, especially small-scale farmers, who together comprise the world’s biggest investors in agriculture.


Upstream work serves the development of national agriculture and rural development investment strategies. It informs the criteria and rationale used to set the broad parameters and priorities of total investment in agriculture and rural development. It promotes increased agriculture and rural development investment by identifying where investment can provide the greatest benefit.


Work is downstream when it pertains to a specific investment programme or project. The Investment Centre’s purpose is to design programmes and projects that are: in accord with national investment priorities for agriculture and rural development; technically sound and the best of alternatives; attractive to intended beneficiaries; operationally and managerially workable; economically and financially viable; sustainable and environmentally sound.

Upstream work includes:

  • Sector Analyses – Various kinds of studies looking at a particular area within agriculture – e.g. farming systems, support services, use of a natural resource, rural livelihoods, etc. – to understand the constraints and opportunities within the sector and how it can be strengthened by changes in public policy and investment.
  • Public Expenditure Reviews – Assessing the quantity and efficacy of a country’s public expenditures for agriculture and rural development.
  • Investment Policy Analyses - Exploring how policies can be more conducive to greater public and private investment in agriculture and rural development, especially for small-scale farmers.
  • Contributing to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) – Specifying how to incorporate agriculture and rural development investments into national plans for poverty reduction.
  • Market Analyses - Studies that consider the contributions and constraints of all actors in a commodity chain to maximize performance of the whole chain.
  • Environmental Policy Planning and Management – Analyzing the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and the environment and how sustainable management of both serves national interests.

Downstream work includes:

  • Programme and Project Design and Preparation – All work related to translating a general concept into a specific investment programme or project that can be approved for funding by a financing partner.
  • Implementation Support – Missions at various points in the programme or project life cycle to assess progress, and provide technical support to enhance quality and effectiveness of the programme or project.
  • Environmental Action Plans – Ensuring that environmental concerns influence the design of every investment project or programme.
  • Socio-Economic Assessment – Understanding the link between a programme or project and its targeted beneficiaries in order to maximize positive effects and minimize risks.
  • End of Programme or Project Evaluation – Comprehensive reporting on all aspects of the programme or project and its impact.

Capacity Development

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The Investment Centre seeks to strengthen the capacities of public and private sector organisations to plan, implement and enhance the sustainability of their own agriculture and rural development investment operations.

We do this especially by working with local counterparts to transfer skills through on-the-job training. Best practices are promoted, building on lessons from international experience.

Formal training events develop capacity on themes ranging from sector-wide approaches, aid harmonization and alignment, and monitoring and evaluation to social analysis and gender mainstreaming in investment and specific technical matters such as climate change or value chains.

Study tours promote knowledge sharing between countries and facilitate South-South exchanges.

We publish studies, reports, technical papers and guidelines to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of future agricultural and rural development investments.  We develop software programmes such as RuralInvest and Ex-ACT to aid investment preparation and appraisal.  Workshops train counterparts how to use these and other practical tools, including COSTAB.