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2022 Global Forum on Food and Agriculture, Statement by Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD President

24 January 2022

Healthy soils lie at the heart of healthy and sustainable food systems. Soil health is recognised by the Sustainable Development Goals as an essential element of mitigating and adapting to climate change; and of food security and biodiversity.

Today, as we discuss how to improve soil protection and restore degraded soil, I would ask you not to over-look the role of small-scale farmers. They produce 31 per cent of the world’s food calories on less than 11 per cent of the farmland.

Small farms provide employment and food. And they have greater biodiversity than larger farms. Yet small-scale producers are among the most affected by climate change and land degradation. And they often go hungry themselves.

They are cut off from market opportunities, financing and technical assistance they need to adapt and innovate in their farming practices to rebuild their soils, and resilience. One way to make small farms more profitable is to monetize their services in conserving ecosystems, including soils.

We need to support practices that have agro-biodiversity and the regeneration of soils at the center. These practices ensures resilience, a diverse income base, and more nutritious food in poor rural communities. Land is fundamental to the lives of poor rural people. It is a source of food, shelter, income and social identity. Secure access to land reduces vulnerability to hunger and poverty and provides an incentive for farmers to nourish their land and soils for future generations.

Let us work together - private sector, government, farmer organizations and NGOs – to scale-up and accelerate global improvements in soil health.