Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



Release number IFAD/21/08

Addis-Ababa, 2 April 2008 – IFAD Vice-President Kanayo Nwanze has called on African countries and international donors to step up their efforts to mobilize greater investment in agriculture and rural development.

“Rapid agricultural and rural development holds the key to eliminating poverty in Africa,” Nwanze told a meeting of African Union and United Nations delegates. “A concerted, coordinated and collective effort is the most effective way to tackle the triple scourge of poverty, climate change and high food prices and to guarantee a sustainable future for women, marginalized groups and smallholder farmers in Africa.”

Nwanze was addressing delegates at the first annual meeting of the African Union/United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, held this week in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

This meeting comes at an opportune moment, midway to the  2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Nwanze said. Although the MDGs have galvanized unprecedented commitment to meet the needs of the world’s poorest, progress towards poverty reduction targets has been uneven, especially in the rural areas, and particularly in Africa.

The situation in Africa, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, remains critical. Recent food price riots in some African countries are likely to expand in the coming months.

“The escalation of social unrest we have seen in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Senegal may become commonplace in other African countries,” Nwanze said.

The proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty remains above 40 per cent. Similarly, although the proportion of undernourished people in Africa decreased very slightly between 1990 and 2000, from 29 per cent to 27 per cent, the absolute number of undernourished people in Africa increased by about 20 per cent, from 174 million to 212 million during the same period.

A disastrous combination of rising temperatures, climate variability, uncertain growing seasons, decreased water availability, new pests and diseases, and decreasing biodiversity has the potential to reverse recent progress in reducing poverty in many parts of the world. In Africa, at least 75 million people will be at risk of increased water stress, and the amount of arid land will increase.

Investment in agriculture is key to boosting economic growth in poor countries, reducing rural poverty and enabling the world to achieve the first MDG of halving poverty and hunger by 2015, Nwanze said. 
IFAD has spent the past 30 years working in Africa to reduce rural poverty. Today, IFAD is one of the principal external financiers of agricultural development on the continent. Across the region, IFAD is working to assist governments and their national partners to develop and implement policies and their programmes for reducing rural poverty and enhancing the performance of the agricultural sector.
IFAD is currently providing financial support to more than 120 programmes and projects in Africa. These projects are worth over $2.6 billion, just under half of which is provided by IFAD and the remaining amount from partners, including national governments.


IFAD was created 30 years ago to tackle rural poverty, a key consequence of the droughts and famines of the early 1970s. Since 1978, IFAD has invested more than US$10 billion in low-interest loans and grants that have helped more than 300 million very poor rural women and men increase their incomes and provide for their families.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency. It is a global partnership of OECD, OPEC and other developing countries. Today, IFAD supports more than 200 programmes and projects in 84 developing countries.