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Nwanze stresses his agency’s continued commitment to economic transformation of rural areas, equality and dignity for rural poor

Rome, 19 February 2014 – In his keynote address at the 37th session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Fabrizio Saccomanni, the Minister for Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic, asserted that ensuring smallholder family farmers have adequate access to credit and investments is of paramount importance for poverty reduction.

Speaking to international policy makers, farmer leaders and private sector representatives, Saccomanni said that while some progress had been made, much remains to be done to eliminate hunger and poverty. “The challenges ahead require a radical increase in agricultural productivity, but this has to be pursued in a sustainable way,” he said. “Supporting smallholder agriculture is the way-out, as evidence and research show; it breaks the vicious cycle of poverty while preserving scarce natural resources.”

In his statement, Abdullah Jummah Al-Shibli, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) underscored that farming families are important for socio-economic development and stability. Women have a particular role to play in food security and through their empowerment, poverty can be eradicated, he emphasized.

IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze, welcomed farmers’ representatives and delegates from IFAD’s 173 Member States, including its newest member, the Russian Federation, which announced its commitment to support the replenishment of IFAD’s resources.

In his speech, Nwanze stated that today agriculture has an unprecedented potential to drive economic development and inclusive growth.

“Never have the opportunities been greater for the 3 billion people who live in rural areas, particularly those who depend on the world’s 500 million small family farms,” Nwanze added. “At IFAD, we are already starting to see signs of reverse migration from the cities back to rural areas. This is the changing story of development that we are seeing in a changing world.”

Nwanze’s remarks concentrated on IFAD’s unique focus on rural women and men, some of whom live in the most remote and neglected corners of the world. “We are here because the lives of 842 million children, women and men are blighted by chronic hunger,” he said, adding that “we are here because we know that if we invest intelligently in rural communities and smallholder family farmers, we can eliminate these appalling levels of poverty and hunger and avert the dangers of inaction.”

Also, Nwanze called attention to the irony that, in many parts of the developing world, the people who grow food are the ones struggling the most to feed themselves. “Urban populations need rural populations to grow their food. And more than that, they need rural areas to provide clean water and the healthy ecosystems that contribute to clean air.”

With 1.2 billion extremely poor people in the world and 76 per cent of them living in rural areas, investing in smallholders and transforming rural areas has a real urgency. The solution, Nwanze said, is clear: “If we are ever going to eliminate the scourge of poverty and hunger, we must make it possible for smallholders to invest in and grow their businesses, and help transform rural areas so that they are places where women and men can earn dignified and decent livings.”

Calling under-investment in rural areas “neither economically nor ethically sound,” he challenged all present to work to reduce the ever-widening gap between urban and rural, well-nourished and hungry, rich and poor. These inequities play out most starkly in the rural areas of the developing world, he stated, and especially on the women and young people who live there.

Nwanze outlined the measures IFAD has taken recently to ensure that the Fund can deliver more than ever, keep pace with the changing landscape and meet the demand of beneficiary countries. These include refined impact evaluations, increased collaboration with the Rome-based UN agencies and third party assessments, all with a greater focus on national and local levels.

Despite these important developments, Nwanze emphasized that IFAD’s “core values and our focus have not, and will not, change. IFAD remains dedicated to agriculture and rural development. IFAD continues to give special attention to young people, women and indigenous peoples. And IFAD remains committed to community-driven development that empowers rural women and men to lift themselves out of poverty.”

The farmers’ leaders attending the opening session had gathered at IFAD headquarters for the Fifth Global Meeting of the Farmers’ Forum, being held in conjunction with the Fund’s annual meeting. Representatives of millions of smallholder farmers recognized the United Nations International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) and shed light on the critical role that family farmers play in global food production.

In honor of IYFF, “Spotlight on the International Year of Family Farming”, a panel of farmer representatives and IFAD-funded project beneficiaries and stakeholders took the plenary floor to discuss opportunities and challenges facing family farming. Speakers came from a range of countries – Brazil, Colombia, Mali, The Philippines, Syrian Arab Republic and United Republic of Tanzania – and concluded that more investment is needed in farmers’ organizations, and that the projects and programmes must start at the grassroots and have a bottom-up approach.

Closing the first day was a high-level Governors' roundtable on Investing in smallholder family farmers: sharing experience. IFAD Governors and heads of delegation exchangedperspectives on the role of smallholder family farmers in the future of their countries, avenues for mobilizing further investment in rural areas, and the role that IFAD can play as a catalyst for investment in rural people.

On the second day of the Governing Council, a panel, "Stories from the field: Investment in the transformation of rural people’s lives," will explore how IFAD-funded projects and programmes are transforming and having an impact on the lives of rural people. Participants will also discuss how governments can capitalize on economic and social opportunities that improve the livelihoods of poor rural family farmers.

The same day, at a panel titled "Small farmers=Big business," Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Unilever, will share details about the company’s ambitious plan to incorporate 500,000 small farmers into its supply chains and to source 100 per cent of its agricultural raw materials sustainably. For the second-half of the panel discussion, Andrew Rugasira, CEO of Good African Coffee, among others, will join Polman to discuss how to attract private-sector investments in family farming that benefit both partners.

Press release No.: IFAD/11/2014

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).

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