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Address of Lennart Båge, President of IFAD to the 37th World Farmers Congress of IFAP

Location: Seoul

16 May 2006

Mr Chairman, President of IFAP, Mr Wilkinson
Your Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Friends and colleagues

It is a great honour and privilege for me to address the 37th World Farmers Congress of IFAP and to be part of celebrating your 60th anniversary.  

Let me first congratulate you for these 60 years of empowering farmers of the world. I wish you a very happy celebration of this anniversary and all success in your deliberations and future initiatives.

IFAP was created and developed almost in parallel with the United Nations system which I represent here. IFAP shares with the United Nations the values of progress, social justice, peace and human rights.

How could it be different since "Agriculture is the great foundation of human welfare" as the Korean proverb says.

How could it be different for a constituency that feeds humankind; that manages the land, water and biodiversity of our planet.  

I also want to thank the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation of Korea for the warm welcome. I wish I could stay longer in your country to learn more from Korean farmers' innovations, successes and progress.    

Mr Chairman

Rural women and men, food producers of developing countries, and particularly the hundreds of millions of them who still fight to overcome poverty and hunger are the very reason for IFAD to exist and they are a large part of your membership.

I congratulate you on the increase over recent years in IFAP membership from developing countries, in particular through your Development Cooperation Committee. By the way let me congratulate Ms Elisabet Gauffin for her election as the new Chairperson of the DCC.

We see the growing number and the strength of Farmers' Organisations in almost all regions of the developing world. More and more we hear their voice in international negotiations and policy fora, be it at the WTO,  at the Johanesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development or more recently at the conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in Porto Alegre. We see Farmers Organisations proactively engaged in processes of sub-regional integration such as ECOWAS, MERCOSUR, or the ASEAN.  These are all very positive signs of farmers' growing influence and empowerment.

As a world federation, IFAP has a very diverse membership. From the South and from the North, from rich farm lands and from marginal areas, from farmers using modern technology and others - the vast majority - working with simple hand tools and traditional knowledge.

In this context global dialogue is needed more than ever, to search for common interests and to be energized by a sense solidarity that can overcome threats of fierce competition among very unequal players. Your diverse membership is also a powerful instrument for peer learning and support for coordinated advocacy and lobbying for both increased public investment in agricultural development in developing countries and increased ODA to agriculture from industrialized countries.

These are some of the very unique features and great values of IFAP.     

Mr Chairman

The world economy is growing fast. Here in Asia we see impressive progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately this is not the case everywhere and if current trends continue, the first MDG of halving poverty and hunger by 2015 will not be achieved in many countries, particularly - but not only - in sub Saharan Africa.

The vast majority of poor and hungry people in this world are small-scale family farmers and landless rural workers. The problem they are facing is that of improving their livelihoods in the context of rapidly changing global market and new forms of competition for influence and resources. Until the rural poor are in a position to better address these challenges, the risk is that what brings prosperity to others will bring continued and deeper poverty to them.

While material investment is essential, we know that most of the key issues confronting small scale family farmers are mediated by relations with others. Consequently a critical element for development is institutional and organizational capacity-building among the poor themselves. Resource poor farmers must be empowered to respond to the challenges they face.  

This is fundamental for us. We do not see the smallholder farmers as beneficiaries of international assistance but as citizens, small scale entrepreneurs, wealth producers. In fact the backbone in the quest for economic and social growth in most developing countries where agriculture is the major economic sector, the main employer and the main export earner. The rural poor must be subjects in their own life and not objects of someone else's welfare scheme. And you, Farmers Organisations and the Agri-Agencies you created for your cooperation, have a key role in their empowerment.   

IFAD and IFAP share many perspectives and objectives. On my way to Seoul I was reading again your 2004 policy statement on "recommendations for eliminating rural poverty and achieving food security". And I was once again struck to see so many similarities in the analysis and priority objectives presented in this document and in IFAD Strategic Framework. Let me just mention few of them:                

  • Reengage public resources in agriculture
  • Focus development efforts on people and their organisations,
  • Involve farmers in decision making processes,
  • Empower women farmers,
  • Ensure secure access to natural, economic and productive resources on a long term basis;
  • Increase market power for farmers,
  • Establish fair and equitable trade rules

This common understanding and shared objectives between IFAD and Farmers Organisations were clearly stated at the first workshop we had with farmer leaders in February 2005 in Rome. At your 35th Congress in Cairo, in 2002, I said and I quote: "Our institutions have had a long and mutually beneficial association. I look forward very much to today being the start of an even stronger collaboration between us"    
Looking back at these last four years, I believe we can be proud of our progress in working together - and I would like to pay tribute to the leadership of IFAP and President Jack Wilkinson for these achievements. His drive for results is an example for all of us.  We now have the means to go much further. Let me focus on this recent progress in partnership between IFAD and Farmers Organisations.

I just referred to the workshop we had in February 2005 at the initiative of ROPPA, IFAP and Via Campesina, to discuss the project of a Farmers Forum in Conjunction with IFAD Governing Council. This was an ambitious project. But what came out of this workshop is even more ambitious and promissing. Not merely a periodic event but an ongoing bottom up process of consultation spanning operations on the ground and policy dialogue.
Within the same year, this process started to gain momentum here in Asia with the first national and regional consultations, in Sri Lanka and in the Philippines. National consultations also took place in five countries in Africa. IFAD participated in IFAP Regional Committee meetings in Africa and in the Mediterranean. We received in Rome an important delegation of Agricord and started working on concrete collaboration.

With the Farmers Forum process we are building a common and inclusive framework for regular interaction between IFAD, Farmers Organisations and our member Governments, from the country level to the global level. And we are now institutionalizing engagement with Farmers Organisations in some of our key operational processes. This is not only about dialogue and exchange of experience. This is about working together in the field, in development programmes and in shaping pro-poor policy frameworks. 

I said an inclusive framework because we recognize the diversity and the diverse stage of development of the organisations that farmers and rural producers set up to represent their interests. This is about IFAP and other global networks of rural producers. It is also about sub-regional organisations such as ROPPA, SACAU or COPROFAM. And it is about the many national or local organisations that are not yet affiliated to any network and with whom we work through our field projects. We want the Farmers Forum process to be open to all of them.        

Three months ago, in February 2006, the Farmers Forum met for the first time in conjunction with IFAD Governing Council. I met many of you on this occasion and we listened carefully to the statement you delivered at the plenary of the Governing Council.     

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me take this opportunity to respond here to the main requests and recommendations the Farmers Forum made to IFAD. 

You called on IFAD to support your own capacity building efforts in the domain of policies.You called for direct support so that you empower your members to interact with the market in a more equitable and profitable way and you recommended direct financing for capacity building of farmers' organizations according to their own priorities.

As you know IFAD invests most of its resources as loans to member countries' governments for rural development projects. Many of these projects have entire components for capacity building of grassroots farmers' groups, water users associations, small cooperatives and rural finance institutions. As national Farmers' Organisations grow in membership and in capacity, an increasing part of these development projects can and should be designed together with them and implemented directly by them in agreement with governments. This is already occurring in a number of countries, including Mali, India, Romania and Senegal and it will increase.  

IFAD also has a Grant facility. This is the instrument we can use for direct financing to FOs. We have already approved some regional programmes in this direction, particularly in Africa, including a joint programme with AgriCord and we are currently preparing others in south-east Asia and Latin America. The number of our small grants directed to national FOs is also increasing.  

In this regard we commit to:  First, closely monitor progress in this area of direct financing to Farmers' organisations; Second, at least double the number and volume of capacity building grants to FOs in 2006-2007, compared to the last two years. Areas of collaborations will be identified through national and regional consultations within the Farmers‘ Forum process. We also have a lot of expectations from our new partnership with Agricord.
Increasing direct grant financing to national FOs would be facilitated by the discussion of project proposals at an early stage in the development of our country strategies and country programme cycle and by an improvement of the quality of project proposals submitted to IFAD by national Farmers Organisations.

You recommended that farmers' organizations participate - and in all cases, be at least consulted - in the development of IFAD's strategies at both the national and regional levels.

We agree with the principle of systematic consultation with FOs in the preparation of ourcountry strategy papers. We will do this in countries where appropriate national organisations exist. This is already occurring in Syria to Nicaragua,  Madagascar, Egypt and Senegal and will be part of the forthcoming policy on IFAD partnership with Farmers' organisations. We will also go from consultation to active participation where capacity exists and in agreement with governments. .     

You recommended that FOs be systematically involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of IFAD funded projects.

IFAD will seek increased Farmers Organisations involvement in project/programmes design and implementation in consultation with governments. The level and frequency of national farmers' organisations involvement in project design and implementation will be closely monitored by IFAD and reported to the Farmers' Forum.

You recommended that the first cycle of the Farmers' Forum (2006-2008) will comprise a significant number of national consultations in each region, to be fed-into regional or sub-regional fora, before the 2008 Governing Council

We commit ourselves to organise 20 national level consultations by the end of 2007 and four regional or sub-regional consultations before the 2008 Governing Council. The quality of these consultations and of their outcomes depends very much upon Farmers' Organisations. We know you need time to prepare yourselves and consult your members. Accordingly these consultations will be planned ahead of time.        

You recommended institutionalization of the interface between the Farmers' Forum and IFAD's Governing Council.

The initiative of the Farmers Forum in conjunction with the Governing Council has been well received by the Governors of IFAD and is de facto institutionalized. I said it very clearly in my concluding statement to the GC plenary in February. This will be further formalized.   

You proposed the development of agreed-upon principles of engagement or code of conduct to guide interactions and partnerships between farmers' organizations and IFAD

We are working on that and these principles of engagement will, after consultation with IFAP and the other international and regional networks, be attached to our policy on partnership with farmers organisations. We see these principles of engagement as a joint commitment to transparency and effectiveness in the use of resources and accountability to our respective constituencies. This point is essential for us. Aid creates donor dependency and too often affects accountability to the people institutions are meant to serve.

The farmers' forum recommended to put access to natural resources, land and water, on the agendas at all levels, and facilitate dialogue between governments and representatives of small farmers, rural women, indigenous peoples, coastal communities, and other marginalized groups. You call on IFAD to provide support services to beneficiaries of agrarian reform and in certain countries, to help regularise user and/or ownership rights.

IFAD is already engaged in this area, including with IFAP as co-founding members of the International Land Coalition. We will further increase our efforts in this area and this is why we are currently developing our own policy on support to equitable access to land and natural resources. IFAD supported the recent ICARRD conference in Porto Alegre and we are working on its follow up together with FAO and the International Planning Commission (IPC) in which IFAP and other farmers organisations are represented.

You recommended that IFAD should support the undertaking of an evaluation of the impact of regional market integration policies and market liberalization on family agriculture and the livelihoods of the rural poor.   

We recognise the importance and usefulness of such an initiative. This is beyond the sole capacity of IFAD, but we will develop partnership with other international or regional institutions in this area. We are undertaking with IFPRI a study on the impact of trade liberalization on smallholders in the Near East and North Africa region. We are currently working on a joint initiative with FAO to support the ACP secretariat and sub-regional Farmers' networks in ACP regions for the mid term review of the Economic Partnership Agreements process with EU.  

You call on IFAD to continue and broaden its support to the set-up of regional platforms of dialogue and negotiations between farmers' organizations and governments within sub-regional and regional institutions.

IFAD is supporting family Farmers' Organisations engagement in the MERCOSUR commission on family agriculture (REAF). In West and Central Africa we work in partnership with other donors and Farmers Organisations in the sub-regional rural development "Hub". We are currently discussing partnership with Producers' Organisations in the ASEAN areas and in the Central American CAFTA.     

Finally, during the Farmers Forum, we discussed with you, Mr Wilkinson, the idea of working together with IFAP and the European Consortium for Agricultural Research in the Tropics (ECART), on successful models for empowering producers in markets and for managing risks in family agriculture.

We received recently from you two research proposals, both of great relevance and interest given the rapid and worrying concentration of agrifood supply chains and evolution of markets. We appreciate very much this idea of tripartite partnership between IFAD, Farmers Organisations and Research Institutions. Our staff is currently reviewing these proposals and should, as soon as possible, meet with IFAP and ECART in order to reach an agreement on at least one project to start before the end of this year.

Now why all these actions, all these commitments?  Not only because we recognize that agricultural development is crucial for poverty reduction.  More than that, the quality of life of the entire humanity is in no small measure linked to a vision of agriculture and food production, a vision that respects people and nature and recognises their needs and limits. 

Only when we place the family farmer and the rural communities, in the centre of our concerns, when we recognise the multiple and vital role they fulfil, when we ensure their access to all that the modern world has to offer, will we be, indeed, working for an equitable and sustainable progress of all nations.   

Mr Chairman

In conclusion let me very briefly elaborate on the theme of your 60th anniversary celebration that strongly reaffirm the multiple roles and functions of agriculture: Empowering farmers for diversity, for sustainability, for health, for peace.

There is no human industry that is as diverse as agriculture; diverse in its products, in its way of producing, in its way of managing and combining land, water, biodiversity and human labour. And over the world rural people are also the custodians of the extraordinary diversity of human cultures, languages and traditional knowledge. We in IFAD give great value to this diversity of cultures and agricultures, including through a particular attention to the special challenges that face ethnic minorities and indigenous people. 

Diversity of agricultural models is threatened by an increasing competition among increasingly unequal forces, by less supportive public policies and by the rising power of a highly concentrated supermarket industry. Under these conditions how can diversity be maintained and promoted in this rapidly globalizing world?

There is no other answer than investing in agriculture development in these countries, regions and rural communities that are threatened by marginalization and exclusion. To enable them to modernize, diversify and develop in their own ways. To fully recognize, everywhere, the multiple and vital roles of family farmers, including their rights and duties as the stewards of our natural resource heritage.

This cannot be done without much more public resources to agriculture in developing countries, without enabling policies and without an adequate level of protection of their national or regional markets. On this later point the Doha Development Round as well as the regional Free Trade Agreement negotiations must leave sufficient policy space to developing countries and must listen to the voices of the poor.       

Peace is the first condition for equitable development and eradication of hunger. But poverty is itself strongly associated with the outbreak of war and conflict. This was clearly recognised two years ago by the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. Any progress in poverty reduction, in people empowerment, in development of accountable public institutions and in cooperation among nations is progress towards peace. And I am glad that IFAP shares with the United Nations this very fundamental concern.         

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen

As you all know poverty is much more than low income. It is deprivation of basic capabilities. As the Nobel Prize winner Professor Amartya Sen says, let's see "development as the process of expanding the real freedom that people enjoy". Let us see expansion of freedom and people capabilities as both the "primary end and the principal means of development".  This is much more than GDP growth: "Development has to be more concerned with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedom we enjoy. Expanding the freedoms that we have reason to value not only makes our lives richer and more unfettered, but also allows us to be fuller social persons, exercising our own volitions and interacting with - and influencing - the world in which we live."     

I am sure that you, who collectively work for the empowerment and development of hundreds of million of farmers, for a world of dignity, security  and prosperity for all, will appreciate as much as I do these words of  Amartya Sen.

May I wish you all success in your deliberations, in your future initiatives and in our future collaboration.

Thank you very much.         

Seoul, 17 May 2006