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Statement by IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze at World Food Day, FAO Rome

13 October 2016

Let me first add my appreciation to and applaud his Excellency Matteo Renzi, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy for his passionate and incisive statement this morning.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco,

His Excellency Macharia Kasnau UN SG’s Special

Envoy on El Nino and Climate,

Excellencies,

Colleagues Jose Graziano da Silva and Etharin Cousin,

Esteemed colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate my colleagues at FAO for their decision to put not only climate change, food and agriculture in the spotlight for this World Food Day, but also the importance of smallholder farmers.

If we are ever to break the cycle of poverty and hunger, we must focus our efforts on building the resilience of smallholders.

Why? Because three-quarters of the world's poorest and undernourished people live in the rural areas of developing countries. Because most of these women and men depend on small-scale agriculture for their lives and livelihoods. And because smallholders confront the challenges of poverty, hunger – and often conflict and climate change – on a daily basis with very limited resources.

It is true that food and agriculture must change because the climate is changing. And part of that change requires making smallholder farmers resilient to climate change. But if we wish to rid the world of the scourge of hunger, we must also change ourselves.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today is the last time I will have the honour of addressing you on World Food Day in my present capacity as President of IFAD. So I would like to take this opportunity to speak freely. My institution, IFAD, represents 176 Member States. Our sister agency, the World Food Programme, has xxx State Members. And our host today, FAO, has 194 Member Nations plus two associate members. In other words, the Rome-based agencies represent the desire of every nation on earth to end hunger.

And every year, for almost a decade now, I have joined with my fellow heads of agency to commemorate World Food Day and call for action to put an end to hunger.

But there is only so much that UN agencies can do. To succeed in ending hunger, each and every one of the nations that support us and our missions must also do their part – whether as donors or as recipients -- to fulfil their commitment to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is time to move beyond words, beyond conferences, and beyond commemorations to take concrete action.

There is something terribly wrong with a world where 800 million children, women and men are severely undernourished. There is something terribly wrong with a world where 160 million children are stunted by lack of sufficient nutrients in their early years. And there is something terribly wrong with a world that today grows more than enough food for every person on the planet, and yet so many hundreds of millions go hungry. Does it make sense that one third of the food we produce is lost or goes to waste when millions are hungry?

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, there is something terribly wrong with our world!

Agriculture is a long-term business; a tree does not mature in a day, a week, or even a year. It takes patience and foresight to invest in the future of food systems. And our work, too, is a long-term business.

Success will require the investment of time, effort and money from donors and developing nations alike -- day after day, week after week, month after month until rural areas have been transformed; until they offer a range of opportunities and a decent and dignified living.

Success also requires leadership, good governance, the rule of law, and a commitment to the disadvantaged, the invisible – particularly the women, the indigenous people and the youth who live far from our cities and seats of government and who are so easily forgotten.  They must be included as partners in all development efforts.

Most of all, success requires concerted action. Today is the last time I will make this call to action to the Rome-based development and donor community. On this World Food Day, I hope my call to action will not be just another call.

Thank you.