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Keynote address by IFAD President at the Gulf Forum to Enhance Food Security and Support Small and Medium Scale Farmers

Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

01 March 2015

Your Excellency Dr Rashid Ahmad bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water,

President Mohamed Bin Obaid Al-Mazrowei, of    
the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment 
and Development, 

Excellencies, 
Honourable delegates and guests, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to be here with you today. IFAD is proud to be a partner in this event, which brings together so many key players from the realms of government, development, the private sector, and academia.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development, the government of the United Arab Emirates and the sponsors -- including the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and the Food Security Centre of Abu Dhabi.

  I would also like to express IFAD's appreciation to the UAE for its continuous  support. The UAE is one of IFAD's founding members, helping to shape our institution from the start. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with the UAE and are confident it will continue to support IFAD.

These meetings are essential for enhancing our collaboration and effectiveness. They provide a platform for us to share ideas, learn from each other and explore new avenues for development.

For those of you not familiar with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD, the first thing you should know is that IFAD is both an International Financial Institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations. This makes us not only different, but also unique.

IFAD is the only development-oriented institution in existence that combines an IFI's tough head for business with a UN agency's soft heart for people.

 IFAD is dedicated to drastically reducing poverty and hunger.

For almost 40 years our business has been investing in rural people to help them improve their food and nutrition security and increase their incomes. We provide low-interest loans and grants to developing country governments.

And we act as a trusted broker -- mobilizing further investment from donors, the private sector and other partners, that support sustainable and inclusive development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The benefits of agricultural development are irrefutable. We know that GDP growth due to agriculture is at least three times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated at 11 times more effective.

But the benefits for improved food security and poverty reduction are greatest when our development efforts focus on the smallholder farmers. They grow up to 80 per cent of the food produced in the developing world. But too often they are poor, and too often it is the farmers and their children who go hungry.

Let us remember that poverty and hunger are most prevalent in therural areas of developing countries – not the urban -- where more than 75 per cent of the world's poorest people live.

If we truly wish to enhance food security and support small and medium-scale farmers, then we must ensure our investment money is going where it is needed most.

 An estimated two-thirds of the developing world's 3 billion rural people live in small farm households, working on small plots of land.

 

Smallholder farmers are expected to continue to be the main producers of food in many developing countries for decades to come.

By making it possible for smallholders to invest in their businesses, we can not only improve income, food security and nutrition, but also transform rural areas so that they are places where people can earn dignified and decent livings.

Why does this matter?

We need our rural areas to grow the food for our cities. And we need strong rural communities -- so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. So that developing nations can have balanced growth. And, importantly, so that rural youth can find decent employment near home.

The mass migration of young people from rural areas to overcrowded cities in search of illusory economic opportunities has never been more worrying. Too many lose their lives before even reaching the city, or live in squalor once they arrive. And young people without prospects have nothing to lose and are more easily swayed by extreme rhetoric.

Today's generation of young people is the largest in history. We need to harness their energy and creativity and provide them with attractive opportunities to build their future in rural areas.

Let me share with you three secrets for inclusive and sustainable development, from IFAD's experience in the field.

The first is to respect the dignity and foster ownership of project participants. Poor farmers are not looking for charity. And handouts do not build strong communities or nations.

IFAD has a stellar reputation on the ground and is trusted by millions of small family farmers the world over because they are our starting point. They contribute to project design. And they invest their time and even their own money in projects. And they have seen the results --- higher production, better incomes, better nutrition and better lives.

In Yemen, for example, women invested their own money in a domestic water scheme which saved them 300 hours-a-year collecting water. The project also introduced new crop varieties and drip irrigation. Household food security improved. Rates of child malnutrition fell. And the project also contributed to peace and stability in the area.

 

The second secret to success is investing in young people. Vibrant rural economies need energetic and enthusiastic young people. And we will need our young people of today to be the farmers of tomorrow.

But the youth of today are justifiably alienated from farming and rural life. Why would a young woman or man wish to remain in a village without electricity or running water? Where there is no health clinic? When there is no prospect for employment beyond back-breaking labour in the field with antiquated implements?

We must invest in infrastructure – roads, clean water, electricity and Internet connection -- so that farmers can farm more efficiently, so that they are more resilient, and so that the rural space is more attractive to young people.

My third and final secret for success is that development must be done in partnership between producers and the public and private sectors. At IFAD we call this the four Ps.

These partnerships bring together the interests of all parties in ways that are mutually beneficial, equitable and transparent. And they work!

In partnership, governments can create favourable policy environments and provide vital infrastructure.

And in partnership, we can build relationships between small-scale producers that are inclusive and sustainable. After all, farming is a business, no matter the scale or size.

In this way, smallholders are better positioned to benefit from existing markets and new markets alike.

The private sector gains on the supply side and farmers benefit from links to secure markets, as well as gaining access to technology, services and knowledge. 

Later today, we will give you a concrete example of IFAD's experience with a 4P partnership in Egypt, which has helped some 200,000 people, including 110,000  unemployed graduates, improve their production and connect to the export market. Today they have contracts with some of the world's biggest companies including Heinz, and farm gate prices have risen by 33 per cent.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us remember that today some 800 million women, children and men are chronically undernourished.  That 160 million children are stunted because of early malnutrition.

But there is no need for this level of hunger – not in this 21st century of cutting-edge technology and hyper-connectivity. Not today, and not even when the world population passes 9 billion. 

The truth is that we already know how to grow enough food to feed every mouth and to create enough wealth to end poverty.  If we work together, to make sure that no region and no person is marginalized, and if our partnerships are inclusive of the young and the poor, as well as business and government, then we can and we will end poverty and hunger.

Thank you.

 

Fairmont Hotel 
Abu Dhabi, UAE 
2 March 2015