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WEF Crystal Awards Media Reception

Statement by Alvaro Lario, IFAD President

موقع: Davos, Switzerland

Thank you, Sabrina and Idris, for your outstanding support in championing the hundreds of millions of people in rural communities across the globe who work day in and day out to feed one-third of our planet.

These small-scale farmers are the unsung heroes of our food systems.

They are essential to our global food security, our global health and our global stability.

Yet, in the face of climate change, the COVID pandemic and recent conflicts, these farmers face unprecedented challenges.

The Elba’s have been powerful advocates for them and the Crystal award is well deserved.

It comes at a critical time for our planet.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Esteemed members of the Press,

We all know the forecasts for 2023. Prices for food, fertilizer, and energy are at historic highs. Climate change is accelerating. Fifty-four developing countries are struggling under a severe debt burden, and more may follow.

And if we don’t take action now, we will face catastrophic consequences.

In the years ahead, the IPCC is forecasting more extreme weather; more disruption to our food systems; more loss of plant and animal life; and more shortages.

When food production fails, prices rise. Hunger increases. And farming families face a stark choice – They can migrate. They can compete with neighboring communities for food. Or they can risk starvation.

Yes, we can expect more crisis in 2023. But we cannot continue addressing them only with emergency actions and short-lived solutions. The Band-Aid approach must end. We need to get to the root of the problem. If we don’t, our future looks bleak.

This is why we must invest in long-term solutions now. By investing in how we grow, process, and distribute food so that our food systems can meet the needs of people and planet – not just for today but for tomorrow.

I am calling on governments, development partners and the private sector to step up now with the investments that are urgently needed. In particular, we need to build and strengthen local food systems, and support greater food sovereignty.

And we need investment at a scale and speed the agricultural sector has never seen.

The cost of climate-proofing food systems is estimated at US$1.3 trillion a year. But this is a fraction of the market value of the world’s food systems, which is estimated at $10 trillion.  

The longer we wait, the higher the costs.

At IFAD, we promote investment in the most remote and vulnerable smallholder farmers and communities because it works. Every dollar invested in agricultural development yields about $10 worth of benefits. And growth in agriculture is more effective in ending poverty and hunger than growth in any other sector.

Today’s food crisis is not only the result of the war in Ukraine, or the COVID-19 pandemic, or of climate change.

It is primarily the result of long-standing weaknesses and under-investment in the overall structure of food systems.  And it is a result of glaring inequalities that have left too many small-scale producers in dire poverty.

Small-scale producers receive just 6.5 cents of every dollar for the food they produce. They are cut off from financing, social services, electricity, and even paved roads. And the small-scale farmers who grow more than one-third of our food receive less than 2 per cent of global climate finance.

This is not only unfair -- it is dangerous. Hunger and poverty fuel social unrest and conflict. 

If there is one thing I would like you to take away this evening– it is that long-term investment in small-scale farmers is good for stability; it is good for the global economy; and it is good for the planet.

And with the predictions of extreme weather in the years ahead, the need is urgent. The need is urgent. The future of life on earth depends on leaving no one behind. The window of opportunity to transform our food systems is closing.

Thank you.