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Statement by Kanayo F. Nwanze President International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the Seminar Peace and Development, in Warwick University, UK

Location: Warwick University, UK

29 February 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Preamble

 

I would first like to thank Professor Abhinay Muthoo for his kind invitation to return to Warwick this year. It is my very great pleasure to be here.

 

Today I would like to talk to you about how rural development is fundamental to peace and stability.

 

My agency – the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD, is not in the business of emergency aid. Yet our work invariably takes us to conflict and post-conflict situations -- because hunger and poverty are both the cause and the result of conflict.

 

For those of you who were not here last year, let me give you two simple figures that will frame our talk. The first is that around 3 billion children, women and men live in the rural areas of developing countries. Even with a world population of 7.4 billion, they still constitute a significant portion of our human family.

 

The second is that 75 per cent of the world’s poorest and the same proportion of the hungriest people in the world live in the rural areas of developing countries.

 

Although it is projected that by 2030 more than 60 per cent of the world’s population will be urban, our food will continue to be produced in rural areas. Farming is, and will always be, predominantly a rural activity.

 

Where we work

 

 At IFAD, we go where few other agencies or NGOs go, because poverty and hunger run deepest in remote and fragile areas.

 

Among the countries where we currently work are: Afghanistan, Colombia, Congo DR, Eritrea, Haiti, Mali, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan. 

 

Even in conflict zones, development needed

 

People tend to assume that when conflict beaks out, development ends. But those of us on the ground know that even in countries like Syria and Yemen, poor rural people are trying to get on with their daily lives.  As long as the rain falls and the sun shines, farmers will farm.  

 

And when the conflict ends, the nation will rebuild more quickly if its agricultural system is more or less intact.

 

Syria is still meeting 50 per cent of its food needs through local production. And about half the rural population are still home, on their farms, trying to preserve both their lives and livelihoods.

 

Despite the conflict, IFAD successfully completed four projects in Syria in recent years, improving livestock management and ensuring poor rural women and men had access to microfinance. It was only in the middle of last year that we were finally forced to suspend operations.

 

Through nearly 40 years in operation, IFAD has seen how lack of development can lead to conflict, and how conflict can halt – or even reverse – development.

 

Climate, conflict and migration

 

Today, the world is seeing the greatest mass movement of people ever – with around 247 million international migrants in 2015.

 

And the numbers are rising. In the Mediterranean alone, more than 76,000 migrants and refugees made their way to Europe in the first six weeks of 2016. This is nearly ten times more than the previous year.

 

The death toll has also risen. So far, 409 people have lost their lives, compared with 69 one year earlier.

 

What causes people to migrate? Conflict, certainly, but also hunger, poverty, inequality, poor governance, persistent indignity and lack of opportunity.

 

Whether migrants are escaping a man-made crisis or a natural disaster, their desperation is all too real. Migrants from Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria and Senegal are not running from crisis; they are escaping lack of economic opportunity. And if you follow their route across the Sahel, you will find endless sand, broken down vehicles, and corpses.

 

Climate change is also a factor in migration, hunger and instability. The World Bank has warned that 100 million more people are likely to be pushed into extreme poverty as a result of climate change. The vulnerability of food production to climate change was recognized in December by the Paris Agreement on climate change. And studies confirm that there is a correlation between temperature changes and the outbreak of war.

 

Arab Awakening

 

Does anyone remember the slogan during the 2011 Egyptian revolution?  It was:  “Bread, freedom, dignity”.

 

A three-year drought preceded the “Arab awakening” of 2011, pushing wheat and bread prices higher in the region. In Syria, the period was marked by the migration of farmers to cities.

 

Let’s connect the dots: Extreme weather, crop failure, massive internal migration, civil unrest, inequality and political destabilization.

 

And anyone who questions the link between inequality and conflict should look at the situation in Colombia, which has been plagued by conflict for 55 years, at a cost of 220,000 lives. The roots of this conflict are in agricultural areas – in the unequal distribution of land, wealth and rights.

 

These are the conditions that lead people to migrate; they are also the conditions that sometimes push people towards revolution and violence.

 

 

And they are the conditions that the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 have set out to fix.

Agenda 2030 and smallholders

 

Agenda 2030 aims to eliminate poverty, inequality, hunger and under-nutrition at the same time as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling the impact of climate change.

 

And all of this within the next 15 years. The agenda and deadline are ambitious because the situation is urgent. We no longer have the luxury of time.

 

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that underpin Agenda 2030 will depend largely on working with smallholder farmers and transforming the rural areas of developing countries.

 

Much of the world is moving towards a “big is beautiful” model without realising that farm size should be based on the conditions on the ground rather than on commercial pressures that may have little bearing on the most effective use of land and resources.

 

Developing the potential of small and medium-sized farms is good ethics and good economics.

 

It is good ethics because the world’s 500 million small farms are the main producers of food in many developing countries. They will remain so for decades to come. Yet today too many of those who work to feed the world are going hungry themselves.

 

It is a common misconception to think that small farms are synonymous with subsistence agriculture. Small farms predominate in rich countries such as Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and Switzerland. And developing countries such as Thailand and Viet Nam have built their economies on small farms.

 

In China, small farms cultivate only 10 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, yet they are responsible for 20 per cent of total production. Over 60 per cent of Viet Nam’s rice farms are less than 2 hectares. These small-scale farmers are contributing to the success of one of the world’s largest rice exporting countries.

 

Successful small farms lead to more vibrant rural economies. These, in turn, result in higher demand for locally produced goods and services, and this spurs the growth of non-farm employment in services, agro-processing and small-scale manufacturing.

 

The net result is a dynamic flow of economic benefits between rural and urban areas so that nations have balanced and sustained growth.

 

Youth

 

Importantly, by transforming rural areas into economic hubs of activity, we make them more attractive to young people.

 

In too many parts of the world, youth unemployment and underemployment rates are unacceptably high. Although today’s young people are more educated than ever, their prospects for employment look bleak.

 

Consider that an estimated 600 million young people in developing countries will be competing for around 200 million jobs over the next decade.

 

And consider that the world population is expected to grow to 8 billion in the same period. There will be no shortage of demand for food and opportunities in agriculture.

 

We need the youth of today to be the farmers of tomorrow.

 

By investing in agricultural development we can create a world where young people have something to gain, instead of a world where they have nothing to lose. A world where young people take up the tools for production, not arms for destruction!

 

Programme Examples

 

I have seen this in action in my own country of Nigeria, The Niger Delta is better known for its violence than for its farming.

 

For many years, it was a “no go zone”. But IFAD went ahead and established a project to train young people there to become rural entrepreneurs. These young men and women learned that fish farming and vegetable growing can be lucrative businesses. Today, these young people are role models and are contributing to the stability, wealth and nutrition of their communities.

 

In northeastern India – an area known for its insurgency – IFAD’s neutrality and its community-driven approach to development has made us a trusted partner for government and local communities alike.  Women have formed collectives and have more economic power, and young people are more productively engaged. The degraded natural resources base is being regenerated, sanitation has improved, and in each of the villages where we work the mothers now make sure their sons do not join the insurgency groups.

 

In Nicaragua, IFAD is working with a cooperative of coffee growers that has its roots in the armed conflict of the 1980s.

 

After the conflict, the cooperative evolved into a direct exporter of high quality coffee to the United States. The existence of dignified work and good income has been a powerful incentive to maintaining the peace between conflicting parties.

 

These are just a few examples of the growing evidence from IFAD projects that the development work we do at the community level has a direct impact on peace and security.

 

So, how do we unlock the potential of smallholder agriculture in the developing world so that it contributes to sustainable economic growth and global food and nutrition security?

 

Over the course of my career in research and development I have learned much about what does, and does not work, and would like to share with you four important lessons.

 

Lessons

 

The first thing we must do is to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for rural development. Over the course of my long career I have seen far too frequently how development efforts fail when they are imposed from outside, when decisions are made on a one-size-fits all basis, without responding to the reality of the landscape or the desires of the participants.

 

There are solutions, many solutions, to inequality, poverty and hunger, but each must be targeted to the conditions of a specific region, or even a specific village.

 

Development needs to respond to the needs of the communities we serve rather than our own needs. I am a scientist by training. And I know very well how exciting it is to develop a new technology in the lab and then take it to the field. But why give a poor farmer in Africa a new seed that increase yields when that farmer does not have access to safe storage?  When the nearest market town is five hours down a dirt road so the farmer is forced to sell at the farm gate?

 

My second lesson is no amount of high technology or advances in research and development will have the desired impact on peoples’ lives unless the social aspect of a community are adequately addressed.

 

Let me give you an example. In Ethiopia I visited three projects about 200 kilometers south of Addis. The first two were participatory and inclusive. The farmers – women as well as men – had formed strong organizations. They were growing and financing their businesses through rural savings and credit organizations. They were irrigating their crops and managing water through a community-based water users association. Their yields and incomes were higher. Nutrition had improved.

 

But at the third project, the development plan had not addressed social issues. There were no farmers’ organizations. The men dominated the discourse and women were excluded. These fairies had seen on improvements in yields, income or nutrition. They were not even able to box their produce properly!

 

This leads to my third lesson. We need to ensure that smallholders, especially women, are not excluded, exploited, or otherwise marginalized from business opportunities. For companies, this may mean working with farmers’ organizations. These organizations can act as a single point of contact, simplifying operations and paperwork for companies while offering a degree of protection for individual farmers.

 

Role of Private Sector

 

 Organizations such as IFAD play a role in creating the right condition for mutually beneficial public-private-producer partnerships to flourish. We also work to bring together the interests of all parties in ways that are equitable and transparent.

 

 We work with government to help them create favorable policy environments and provide the infrastructure to allow rural businesses to thrive. And we help build relationships between small-scale producer and private companies, negotiating and supporting inclusive and sustainable collaboration.

 

 After all, farming, even at its smallest scale, is a business.

 

  My fourth and final lesson is, in rural areas, if you have to choose who to invest in, start with the women. When you invest in a man, you invest in an individual. But when you invest in a woman, you invest in a community.

 

Women are the primary care givers in rural households, and when women earn money, they are more likely than men to spend it on food for he family.

 

  There is compelling evidence that women’s education, health, nutritional status and decision-making power have significant impact on the health an nutritional status of children. And as we saw from the India example, when you invest in a woman you also reduce the risk of her children joining extremist causes.

 

Conclusion

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

  Let me leave you with one final thought. The events of recent years have shown us that our world is one world –whether rich or poor, old or young, from the North of from the South – we are all in this together. We will either float or we will sink together.

 

  By working together and committing to meet Agenda 2030, I believe not only can we ensure sustainable food and nutrition security, but we can create the conditions for peace.

 

  To you, the students here today – whether of European, African, Asian or American descent, the years ahead will hold tremendous opportunities in international development.  

 

We need your talent, your energy and your creativity. I hope we can count on you!

 

Thank you.