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Statement by Kanayo F. Nwanze President International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at EAT Stockholm Food Forum Stockholm, Sweden

موقع: Stockholm, Sweden

12 يونيو 2016

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mission of EAT is to help feed the world with healthy food, from a healthy planet.

My institution, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has also been pursuing that ambition, for nearly 40 years.

Our focus is small-scale or smallholder family agriculture, particularly the world’s 500 million small farms. These are the farms that produce over 80 per cent of the food in developing countries and upon which depend the lives and livelihoods of some two billion rural people.

And paradoxically, the majority of the world’s poorest, invisible and forgotten, belong to this population. So I would like to preface my talk with two vital questions for you to consider:

Firstly – Do you believe that there is a universal, global challenge to our food system, or is it limited to developing countries alone?

And second, is there a difference in the needs of rural communities in developing countries from those of rural areas in developed countries?

While you consider these questions, let us look at the EAT mission.

It is quite clear, looking across the world that today, we fail to feed people adequately, in spite of producing enough food to feed every child, every woman and every man on this planet. It is equally clear that we are failing to adequately protect our environment.

Globally, around 795 million people are undernourished. And an estimated 50 million extra children, women and men are facing a potential food crisis in Africa because of the current El Niño induced drought.

The problem of malnutrition is most acute in the rural areas of developing countries:  that’s where 70 per cent of the world’s poorest women and men live.

Meantime the developed world – and a growing number of developing countries – is suffering a plague of obesity. Too many of us are eating too much food of poor nutritional value but that looks and tastes good!

Where food is in short supply, in parts of Asia and Africa, we produce too little of it, despite abundant land, water and people. And in sub-Saharan Africa we lose 20-40 per cent of it due to poor infrastructure for energy, storage, and transportation to markets.

Elsewhere, we damage our environment by bad decisions designed to produce the most food possible, with profit as the primary objective.

And we still end up eating too little, or badly, wasting enough of production to sustain perhaps 1.2 billion people – almost the population of India.  …. We have created a food system that has left us, and the environment, all losers.

How can it be that hundreds of millions of our human family still to go bed hungry and malnourished in a world of plenty? In a 21st Century with the most technologically-advanced generation?

We fail because of poor governance, corrupt leadership, greedy  businesses and an erosion of our moral values. We fail because, too often, we don’t listen to the farmers. We don’t understand that farming is a business. A business that supports the lives and the livelihoods of some 2 billion people, on 500 million small farms.

One of the most valuable lessons we have learned at IFAD is that rural development doesn’t come from a master-plan. It comes from local people. All the world now knows what happens when the opportunities of rural people are crushed.

They migrate. They walk across mountains or deserts to cities in search of work. And when they find more unemployment, frustration and hopelessness in the city, they set off anew – to Italy or Spain, and Sweden or Germany or South Africa. Because whatever the dangers may be along the way, life was even more hopeless at home.

Not all the of migrants and refugees who are flooding into Europe are from conflict-affected countries. Thousands are from Senegal, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire. They are not fleeing war. They are economic migrants, running away from the lack of opportunities.

Make no mistake: empowering rural people to create their own prosperity is an urgent global priority. Because if we don’t it’s a problem that’s going to get even worse. In Africa today, 60 per cent of the population is younger than 25. The majority are in rural areas; many  are young women and girls. There are not, and will not be, enough city jobs to go around.

And neither is spending 35 billion dollars every year to import food into Africa a sustainable solution. It creates jobs and makes big business in rich food exporting countries. But that 35 billion should be invested in Africa, creating jobs and wealth for our populations.

So we must look to the youth of developing countries to transform rural areas into economies that offer rewarding lives and lifestyles.

What are the obstacles that are getting in their way?

First, they often lack security of tenure to the land they work and secure access to the water they need.  And if you do not have secure land rights then there is no point in investing time, effort and capital to make land more productive.

Second, they need access to markets, so that they can transport their production to where the consumers are, at affordable cost with minimal waste – and earn a profit.

Third, they need collective organization so that they have a stronger voice and are more efficient when they are packaging, processing, getting certification, marketing and negotiating. And in the same vein they need common goods such as sanitation, clean water, power, schools and roads - because they can’t work or learn if they are sick, isolated and in the dark.

Fourth, they need information. Because they need to know about markets and prices, techniques and technologies. It’s no exaggeration to say that the most powerful tool in the hands of a rural small producer or SME today is the mobile phone.

And finally, fifth, they need functional institutions, good governance, committed and visionary leadership and the rule of law.

Our role is to help bring down these barriers.  At IFAD we see time and time again that when smallholders have the right conditions to succeed, they can contribute to higher food production and to safeguarding the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the start of my talk I asked you two questions. I hope you will now agree with me when I say that many of the problems faced by rural communities and food systems are universal.

Small farmers everywhere are battling to be profitable. Yet they are our champions in the fight to improve nutrition and counter environmental degradation.

To win, they need better access to markets, better organization, better infrastructure and better information.

If we equip them properly, they will help us to feed the world with healthy food, from a healthy planet.

Thank you.