Washington D.C. - 18 May, 2012 – Small farmers as a group are the largest private investors in African agriculture and supporting them to be more profitable must be a key goal of the newest effort to help countries in the region tackle food security and economic development challenges. This was the message delivered by Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), to global business and government leaders assembled in Washington D.C. on the eve of the annual summit of the Group of Eight (G8).
Nwanze’s comments came at a symposium organized today by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs along with the World Economic Forum, featuring US President Barack Obama, of a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. This initiative continues the momentum which started with G8 commitments to global agricultural development made at the 2009 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy. IFAD is an international financial institution and specialized United Nations agency dedicated to enabling poor rural people in developing countries to improve their food and nutrition security, increase their incomes and strengthen their resilience.
“We're going to hold ourselves accountable. We'll measure results. And we'll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers' incomes and over the next decade helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty,” said President Obama in his speech.
In welcoming the New Alliance, Nwanze said, “The unveiling of this initiative today sends a strong signal that the world’s largest economies are ready to extend and deepen their commitments and deliver on a new level of support for eradicating hunger, and doing so in ways that are sustainable for our planet and our societies – including rural societies in developing countries.” He cited evidence showing that growth generated by agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. He also noted that ownership by African countries themselves is the core feature of the New Alliance.
“We are particularly encouraged that this new initiative is more about increasing resources to spur agricultural development in poor countries. It is also about paying rigorous attention to managing for results, accountability, scaling up impact, and bringing to the process new stakeholders, not only public but also from the private sector,” he added. “For this to work, African leaders themselves must take charge to create the conditions for small farms and other rural businesses to succeed.”
Nwanze noted that the participation of international agriculture and nutrition companies – many of whom had senior executives at the event – will add enormous value to this effort. But, he added that a key role needs to be reserved for home-grown businesses, small farmers and farmers’ organizations in the three African countries initially participating in the New Alliance - Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania and other countries who will join later. This is critical, he said, because small farmers manage 80 per cent of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa. IFAD’s experience in developing countries “repeatedly shows that smallholders can lead agricultural growth.”
Nwanze added that smallholder farmers need better linkages and access to markets, technology and information. The new G8 initiative will address these by promoting scaling up tools related to markets and finance, risk and insurance, and science and technology, to fill in gaps and strengthen small farmers’ position in the value chain.
“What poor farmers need is a sustained commitment to get the financing, technology, infrastructure, and access to markets to build productive and sustainable agricultural systems. If we invest in them, they will do the job,” said Nwanze.
“Working to double the income of a small farmer who scrapes by on less than a dollar a day is simply poverty management. But helping that farmer launch a business is poverty eradication,” emphasized Nwanze.
Heads of state from Benin – the chair of the African Union – Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania participated in the symposium. During the session, Nwanze pointed to IFAD partnerships in those countries that have helped improve conditions for small farmers and other rural businesses. For example, in Tanzania, IFAD helped create a system of agricultural warehouse receipts so that farmers can get credit on their stored harvest while they wait for more favourable market conditions to sell. In Benin, IFAD works to develop value chains to broaden market access for crops other than cotton, which currently dominates the country’s agriculture. This enhances opportunities for small farmers to succeed in their businesses. In Ethiopia and Ghana, IFAD works to increase small-scale lending, or microcredit, which can enable poor rural people to scale up their small businesses or increase their agricultural production.
The President of IFAD noted that in all three New Alliance countries, IFAD will continue to contribute its experience in working with farmers’ organizations, building their capacity to be strong interlocutors between farmers and others in the value chain, and to voice the interests of farmers in discussions about policy reforms to foster private investment.
Nwanze said the overall economic environment of rural areas must be improved to enable the generation of tomorrow to find work to earn incomes for a decent living. He called for the new G8 initiative to help governments prioritize investment in basic infrastructure and services, improving governance, and making rural areas decent places to live and to do business.
In its work to find new ways to combat rural poverty across the continent, IFAD has been collaborating closely with the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) since their establishment in July 2001. IFAD also cooperates with farmers’ organizations in the region within the context of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
Press release No.: IFAD/33/2012
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 almost US$14 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries through projects empowering about 400 million people to break out of poverty, thereby 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 168 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD)