Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



Promoting sustainable sourcing; improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers

Rome, 20 February 2014 – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and leading global consumer goods company Unilever today signed a public-private partnership agreement aimed at helping to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers around the world.

The 5 year global agreement – the first of its kind by IFAD with the private sector – was signed by IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze and Unilever CEO Paul Polman to help improve food security through: raising agricultural productivity; linking farmers to markets; reducing risk and vulnerability; improving non-farm rural employment; and making agriculture more sustainable.

Scoping exercises have already begun looking at ways to leverage IFAD’s knowledge and expertise in working with small-scale farmers and rural enterprises with Unilever’s ability to integrate farmers into markets and its expertise in sustainable agriculture. These have included a joint field mission to review an IFAD-supported project in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Western India in January 2014, focused on spices and onions.

About 1.2 billion people live in poverty, 76% of whom live in rural areas; and 200 million are unemployed1. This will be exacerbated as the growing population demands more food. The world will need to feed nine billion people by 2050. A 70% increase in global agricultural production will be essential to feed them, as we’ll need to produce as much food between now and 2050 as we have done in the last 10,000 years. Unless higher small and large crop yields can be reached, many people will remain hungry and trapped in poverty.

Kanayo Nwanze said, “It is not enough to focus narrowly on boosting agricultural productivity. Instead, a broader approach that also supports the establishment of viable linkages between rural producers and markets is essential.

“IFAD recognises that the right types of investments in agriculture are essential to food security for a growing population. That is why partnerships like the one we have signed today with Unilever are so critical”.

Investment in agriculture, according to the World Bank is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the very poor than growth in other sectors.

Paul Polman said, “Now, more than ever, the world needs to increase investment in agriculture and this investment must come from both the public and private sectors to effect truly scalable transformational change.”

“Both smallholder and large-scale agriculture are necessary to boost productivity and produce enough food to feed the world’s poor. In order to move from subsistence to commercial farming, 1.5 billion people who rely on small farms need access to knowledge, assets, credit, markets, and risk management that can come from larger-scale business enterprises.”

Both IFAD and Unilever have similar geographic footprints and countries– like China, India and Indonesia - that are key to development and growth. Both organisations are guided by similar principles and shared aims and commitments to improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers and eradicating poverty.

Through a programme of loans and grants supporting over 256 projects and programmes in
97 countries, IFAD is helping 78.7 million rural people receive services to move out of poverty. Women in particular are targeted, accounting for about 50 per cent of participants in projects in 2013.

In November 2010, Unilever set out its Sustainable Living Plan, committing to a ten year journey towards sustainable growth – with the aim of helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, sourcing all its agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, and decoupling its growth from its environmental impact. Supporting these three big goals are seven pillars including three focusing on enhancing livelihoods, sustainable sourcing and nutrition.

Since the end of 2010, Unilever has increased the number of smallholders trained in sustainable practices to around 450,000.

Notes - Source: ILO 2013 Global Employment Trends Report


Press release No.: IFAD/12/2014

  • 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).
  • Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries. We work with 173,000 colleagues around the world and generated annual sales of €49.8 billion in 2013. Over half of our company’s footprint is in the faster growing developing and emerging markets (57% in 2013). Working to create a better future every day, we help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known brands, 14 of which - Knorr, Persil / Omo, Dove, Sunsilk, Hellmann’s, Surf, Lipton, Rexona / Sure, Wall’s ice cream, Lux, Flora / Becel, Rama / Blue Band, Magnum and Axe / Lynx - now generate a turnover of €1 billion or more.
  • Our ambition is to double the size of our business, whilst reducing our overall environmental footprint (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal) and increasing our positive social impact. We are committed to helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, and decoupling our growth from our environmental impact. Supporting our three big goals, we have defined seven pillars, underpinned by targets encompassing social, environmental and economic areas. See more on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/.
  •  Unilever has been recognised in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes for 14 consecutive years. We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. Unilever has been named sector leader of the CDP’s Forests programme for three consecutive years, and in 2013 led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey - for the third year running. Unilever was named LinkedIn’s third most sought-after employer worldwide in 2013.