Italian Finance Minister Saccomanni and Unilever CEO Polman to attend IFAD Governing Council

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Rome, 17 February 2014 – As the international community works on a post-2015 development framework that ushers in profound changes in development policy, investment and practice needed for rural transformation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will welcome delegates from its 172 Member States for the 37th session of its Governing Council on 19-20 February.

The theme of the meeting is “Investing in smallholder family farmers for the future we want” in recognition of this year’s United Nations International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). Recognizing that there can be no food and nutrition security for the 2 billion people who depend on smallholder family farming without inclusive rural development, opinion shapers, policymakers, leaders of farmer organizations and private-sector representatives attending IFAD’s annual meeting will discuss the comparative advantages of family farming and what is needed to better support them.  

Fabrizio Saccomanni, Minister for Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic,  Abdullah Jummah Alshibly, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Unilever will attend and speak at the Governing Council. IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze will deliver the keynote address. Two Memoranda of Understanding, one between IFAD and Unilever and another between the Fund and the GCC, will be signed during the two-day meeting with Member States.

Leading up to discussions around the global development framework to be launched once the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, IFAD will host an event on 18 February, with, among others, Gerda Verburg, Chair of the Committee on World Food Security, for a lively discussion on Achieving a sustainable future for all: Rural transformation and the post-2015 agenda. Delegates will explore suitable policies around investing in and empowering smallholder family farmers, rural-urban dynamics, and building the resilience of rural women and men.  These issues will be the focus of a Governors' roundtable on Investing in smallholder family farmers: Investing in smallholder family farmers for the future we want.

This year’s Governing Council will open with a high-level panel discussion, Spotlight on the International Year of Family Farming, which will bring together farmer leaders and IFAD-funded project participants and stakeholders from Brazil, Colombia, Mali, The Philippines, Syrian Arab Republic and United Republic of Tanzania. Focused on family farming, the discussion will explore issues around investments required to improve productivity and profitability, necessities to achieve food security, and the public policies essential to grow agricultural as a provider of decent employment.

On the closing day, a panel, Small farmers = Big business, will explore private-sector investments in family farming with Unilever’s Polman, Andrew Rugasira, CEO of Good African Coffee and others. The panel’s deliberations will be of particular importance as IFAD explores the use of public-private partnerships in the operations it supports.

Today, the Fund recognizes that a broader approach to programming is essential to fulfilling its mandate. This includes establishing viable backward and forward linkages between rural producers and private markets, which is why IFAD has pledged to increase its support to the development of rural women and men in their role as entrepreneurs. In addition, as the livelihoods of poor rural people are often dependent on other private-sector operators, IFAD will continue to partner with businesses to improve small farmers’ income-generating opportunities. In 2013, for instance, the Fund formed a global strategic partnership with the Intel Corporation to strengthen ICT for Development (ICT4D) in IFAD-funded projects in Asia.

The two-day Governing Council meeting will come on the heels of the Fifth Global Meeting of the Farmers' Forum on 17-18 February. The biennial forum is an ongoing, bottom-up process of consultation and dialogue between small farmers’ and rural producers’ organizations, IFAD and governments. More than 90 farmer leaders, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers are gathering to celebrate the IYFF and to exchange best practices and challenges with IFAD staff and selected partners.

The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming to recognize the importance of family farming in the global development agenda. IFAD was the first development agency to formally support the call by civil society and farmer organizations for a year dedicated to family farming. In 2013, IFAD extended a US$500,000 grant to the World Rural Forum to support civil society involvement in 11 countries and five regions; an additional US$150,000 was given to support the facilitation and monitoring of progress during the year.

Family farming, in all of its forms, is the predominant form of agriculture worldwide. These women and men are custodians of vital natural resources and biodiversity, and central to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Despite this reality, they remain a largely untapped resource, and are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor people.

IFAD aims to reach 90 million people over the period 2013 to 2015, and to move 80 million out of poverty over the same period. Accelerating progress towards the goal, results reported in 2013 show that 33 per cent more poor people in rural areas received services from IFAD-supported projects than in the previous year. Women in particular were targeted, accounting for about 50 per cent of participants in IFAD-supported projects. Further, between 2011 and 2012, the total number of borrowers in IFAD-funded projects increased from about 145,000 to nearly 195,000, including more than 82,000 women.

In West Africa, for example, IFAD’s US$16.6 million loan to the Rural Youth Vocational Training, Employment and Entrepreneurship Support Project in Mali will provide support to young people, particularly women, who lack technical and management skills, and give them access to financing to undertake new income-generating activities. In Central Asia, IFAD provided a US$11.0 million loan to the Livestock and Market Development Programme II in Kyrgyzstan, to support livestock producer households, particularly vulnerable households and those headed solely by women. And in the Asia and Pacific region, a US$39.5 million IFAD loan for the Bangladesh Coastal Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Project will strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers, small traders, micro-entrepreneurs, landless people and women, and increase their food security and incomes.  

In 2013, IFAD was honoured with the Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities award for the US$103.2 million in financing it provided for climate change adaptation efforts in 10 vulnerable countries under the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). The IFAD-supported Post-Tsunami Coastal Rehabilitation and Resource Management Programme in Sri Lanka was named “2013 Project of the Year” by the United Nations Office for Project Services.

IFAD remains committed to smallholder and family farming. Both are central to its mission of reducing poverty and hunger in the rural areas of the developing world.  Leveraging the wide-ranging potential returns of investing in smallholder family farmers was one of the rationales for the establishment of IFAD in 1977.  Over the course of decades, IFAD has invested more than US$15 billion in grants and low-interest loans to create vibrant rural communities; investment in smallholder family farming has been an essential aspect of this work.

Note to Editors: Last year was the first year of IFAD’s Ninth Replenishment period for which Member States agreed to a target of US$1.5 billion in new contributions to finance agricultural and rural development projects across the developing world. By the end of 2013, IFAD was financing 241 ongoing programmes and projects in partnership with 97 recipient governments for a total value of US$12.2 billion. This includes IFAD financing of US$5.4 billion and external cofinancing and domestic contributions of US$6.8 billion.  A selection of high-impact projects, publications and events supported by IFAD in 2013 includes:

  • A new 10 year programme to ramp up agricultural productivity and modernize the sector has started work across Madagascar and is providing training, particularly for young rural women and men. The Vocational Training and Agricultural Productivity Improvement Programme aims to reach about 7 million people – about 20 per cent of the country’s population.
  • In Bangladesh, the Char Development and Settlement Project is ensuring that land titles are issued in the name of both women and their husbands. This joint ownership strengthens the women’s influence in family decisions involving land and other household matters. In 2013, land titles were approved for more than 1,200 poor families on newly accreted coastal lands known as chars.
  • A programme to conserve the environment and reduce poverty in the provinces of Ningxia and Shanxi in China has improved crop and fodder production by an estimated 35 per cent. Some 89 per cent of participants adopted recommended practices that have improved irrigation through reduced canal leakage and water loss.
  • As part of its work to improve the use of remittances among poor rural populations, in May 2013, IFAD and the World Bank convened the 4th Global Remittance Forum in Bangkok, Thailand at which a regional report highlighting the immensity of remittances in Asia was launched. The forum convened 350 policymakers, private-sector players and civil society leaders to chart a course for leveraging the development impact of remittances sent home each year in Asia and globally.  
  • In Liberia, IFAD funded the first project in the country to partner the public and private sectors. A private exporter joined forces with the Ministry of Agriculture to revitalize smallholder coffee and cocoa plantations. The company has invested more than US$1 million for training, vehicles and capital to help three cooperatives rehabilitate some 1,000 hectares. It pays farmers up to 50 per cent more than traditional intermediaries, as well as a 10 per cent commission to the cooperatives. By year’s end, the firm was set to expand its investment, which will rehabilitate up to 15,000 hectares of cocoa and coffee.
  • Farmers in Gaza and the West Bank are reclaiming unused terrain and turning it into productive land. Since the IFAD-supported programme began work in 2010, 12 villages have reclaimed more than 2,100 dunums (about 210 hectares), and planted some 52,000 olive and fruit trees, and thyme seedlings. In addition, the programme has built 17 kilometres of roads, more than 81,000 square metres of retaining walls and nearly 13,000 cubic metres of water cisterns.

Press release No.: IFAD/07/2014

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested about US$15.6 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries through projects reaching approximately 420 million people and helping to create vibrant rural communities. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the United Nations’ food and agriculture hub. It is a unique partnership of 172 members from developing countries, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

News Source : Italian Finance Minister Saccomanni and Unilever CEO Polman to attend IFAD Governing Council

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