Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



Press release number: IFAD 05/03

Rome, Thursday, 13 February 2003 – Development experts from around the world will explore ways to enable the world’s rural poor people to overcome poverty as an essential step in achieving the Millennium Development Goals at the annual meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) governing council 19-20 February in Rome, Italy.

Established at the Millennium Summit in 2000, the goals represent global commitment to reducing the proportion of people living with extreme poverty and hunger by 50 percent by the year 2015.

“About 75% of the world’s 1.2 billion people suffer extreme poverty and hunger live in rural areas,” said Lennart Båge, president of IFAD, a United Nations agency dedicated to fighting rural poverty. “We will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals unless we create the conditions in which these 900 million people can climb out of poverty.”

The meeting of IFAD’s governing council also marks the Fund’s 25th anniversary. Ministers of finance and agriculture and other senior officials from 162 member states will attend, as well as representatives of the United Nations, international organizations, financial institutions and non-governmental organizations.

Expected keynote speakers at the opening plenary include:

  • His Excellency Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of the Italian Republic
  • His Excellency Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General
  • His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State to the Holy See and Special Envoy of the Holy Father
  • President Lennart Båge of IFAD

“Our efforts to fight poverty in rural areas are crucial to world security,” said IFAD President Lennart Båge. “Debilitating poverty and hunger are sources of disease, civil strife and instability. The consequences of poverty are not limited by national boundaries, but present growing risks throughout the world. Poverty can only be reduced by ensuring that all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Only when this happens can there be a solid foundation for peace, stability and sustainable economic growth.”

Through its work in the world’s most disadvantaged areas, IFAD is helping to achieve two Millennium Development Goal targets – the promise to halve the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. However, IFAD’s president warns that without more intensified global action and investment on behalf of the poor throughout the developing world, none of the Goals are likely to be achieved by their 2015 target date.

“Agriculture is how most poor rural people make their living and the real engine of economic growth in most developing countries,” said Mr. Båge. “Yet, global investment in agriculture and the rural sector has fallen sharply – by almost 50% in the decade between 1988 and 1999. Clearly, increasing our investment in agriculture and rural development is absolutely essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”

The Rome meeting will address obstacles to achieving the targets, with emphasis on creating the conditions in which the rural poor can help themselves. These obstacles will be considered within four roundtable discussions on the day two of the meeting (Wednesday, 20 February) on four themes:

  • Promoting market access for the rural poor
  • Building and transforming rural institutions that support the rural poor
  • Enabling poor rural women to become more powerful agents of change in their communities
  • Supporting indigenous people and their role in sustainable development

IFAD has been fighting hunger and poverty in rural areas since 1978. This specialized United Nations agency acts as a catalyst, bringing together partners, resources, knowledge and policies to enable rural poor people to overcome their poverty. IFAD is the only United Nations agency that focuses exclusively on the rural poor. Its unique approach involves designing, implementing and financing, with low-interest loans and grants, projects and programmes that meet the specific needs of poor communities. Since it began, IFAD has invested USD 7.7 billion in 628 rural development projects in 115 countries and territories. These projects have enabled more than 250 million small farmers, fisherfolk, landless workers, artisans, nomads, indigenous people and others to take steps to achieve better lives for themselves and their families.

IFAD’s projects, which are implemented with partners around the world, enable people to increase food production, raise incomes and improve their health, nutrition and education on a sustainable basis. They do this by building the capacity of local organizations to support the poor over the long term and providing clean water close to home, credit and other financial services, access to land and other natural resources and training to take advantage of opportunities for small enterprises.

Access to markets has long been a major problem for many rural people. While trade liberalization and globalization present opportunities for the rural poor, they can’t move ahead unless they can compete on an equal footing. Economists estimate that the potential gains from freer trade in agriculture – a sector that greatly affects the rural poor – could mean an annual increase in global welfare of USD 160 billion, a figure that easily outstrips current aid.

Women and indigenous people, two groups of the extreme poor who are further marginalized because they lack assets, income and, above all, a voice, will receive in-depth attention at the meeting. An estimated 70% of the world’s poor are women and the majority of the Earth’s 300 million indigenous peoples are poor.

IFAD’s governing council will also announce the details of the organization’s 6th replenishment from member countries. IFAD expects significant increases in donations from member countries.

The session’s agenda also includes:

  • announcement of the 2003 programme of work and budget
  • release of a progress report on the Popular Coalition to Eradicate Hunger and Poverty, which is dedicated to increasing the poor’s access to land and other resources
  • a progress report on the Global Mechanism of the united Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

Note to Correspondents

A joint press conference by H.E. Alpha Oumar Konaré, Former President of the Republic of Mali, IFAD President Lennart Båge and Mrs. Eveline L. Herfkens, UN Secretary-General’s Executive Coordinator for the

Millennium Development Goals Campaign will be held at the Press Centre, Palazzo dei Congress, Wednesday, 19 February 2003, at 12,00 hrs.

A closing press conference will be given by IFAD President Lennart Båge at the Press Centre on Thursday, 20th February 2003, 13:00 hrs..

Proceedings of the two-day meeting will be video webcast live on a special dedicated site accessible through (http://www.ifad.org) or through

The Conference will take place at the following address:

Palazzo dei Congressi,
Piazzale J. F. Kennedy,
00144 Rome (EUR)


IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the specific mandate of combating hunger and poverty in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Since 1978 IFAD has financed 628 projects in 115 recipient countries and in the West Bank and Gaza for a total commitment of approximately USD 7.9 billion in loans and grants. Through these projects, about 250 million rural people have had a chance to move out of poverty. IFAD makes the greater part of its resources available to low-income countries on very favorable terms, with up to 40 years for repayment and including a grace period of up to ten years and a service charge of 0.75% per year.