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Statement by Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the Opening session of the Thirty-ninth Session of the Governing Council

Mr Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished Governors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of everyone at IFAD – here at headquarters and in the field – I
warmly welcome you to this thirty-ninth session of IFAD’s Governing Council.

I would like to extend a special thanks to the representatives of farmers’ organizations who have made the long journey to participate in this year’s Farmers’ Forum, which is now in its tenth year.

And let me express our appreciation of our colleagues from the other Rome- based agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Programme. Our close collaboration has contributed to our effectiveness both in advocacy, and on the ground.

Allow me to also take this opportunity to introduce our new Associate Vice- Presidents: Perin Saint Ange of the Seychelles for the Programme Management Department; Shahin Lauritzen of Denmark as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Controller in our Financial Operations Department; and Henock Kifle of the United States as Chief of Staff in the Office of the President and Vice President.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We live in difficult times. Terror. Mass migration. 2015 was the hottest year on record. Southern Africa is now facing a worsening drought with hunger estimates rising daily. Drought is also plaguing parts of the Americas and Asia.

We face the very real risk of seeing reversals in the development gains made in poverty and hunger in recent years. This is the backdrop for our meeting today.

The situation is urgent. And this urgency is reflected in Agenda 2030, which calls for nothing less than the creation of prosperity, health and security for all, while protecting our planet and sustaining life. And all of this within the next 15 years. The agenda and deadline are ambitious because we no longer have the luxury of time. We must take action now.

Yet Agenda 2030 comes at a time when governments are confronting competing priorities such as responding to migration or funding long-term development initiatives.

This is a false economy. It is, of course, imperative to address emergency situations. But we cannot afford to lose our focus on long-term development.

Consider that today we are witnessing the greatest mass migration of people since the Second World War.

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

These are the conditions that have forced millions of rural people to leave their homes week after week, year after year, here in Europe, in my native

Africa, in Asia and in the Americas. Indeed, today around 14 million people are in danger of going hungry as a result of the prolonged drought in southern Africa.

Agenda 2030 aims to address the root causes of the despair, the desperation and even the conflict that compel people to leave their homelands.

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.

Today, with the growing urgency on the ground and the global community’s commitment to Agenda 2030, IFAD’s mandate is more relevant than ever.

Rural and agricultural development is not just our core business; it is our
ONLY business and has been for almost 40 years.

As you know, around 3 billion people live in the rural areas of developing countries. They account for about 40 per cent of the world’s population but they represent more than 70 per cent of the world’s poorest and hungriest. Most depend on agriculture for their lives and livelihoods. So focusing our attention on poor rural people, particularly smallholders, is key to achieving SDG1 to end poverty and SDG2 to end hunger.

IFAD worked closely with the other Rome-based agencies to contribute to the design of Agenda 2030. And we also supported Member States in drafting a goal linking sustainable smallholder agriculture to food security and nutrition.

Or consider that climate change is already affecting agriculture in developing countries. So focusing our attention on poor rural people, particularly smallholders, is key to achieving SDG13 on Climate Action.

The vulnerability of food production to climate change was recognized in December by the Paris Agreement on climate change. IFAD has been well ahead of the curve here, with a climate change strategy going back to 2010, and the creation of ASAP—the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme -- in 2012.

Today, ASAP is the largest global financing source dedicated to supporting the adaptation of smallholders to climate change. As a result, much of IFAD’s work on the ground includes climate action.

IFAD has long recognised that we will never achieve zero poverty and zero hunger without empowering women. IFAD’s gender equality and women’s empowerment policy ensures our work contributes to SDG5 on Gender Equality.

At the same time, the work we do to help rural people grow their businesses and form inclusive partnerships contributes to the achievement of SDG8, to promote decent work and economic growth.

IFAD’s Strategic Framework for 2016 to 2025 maps out how IFAD can solidify its contribution to the SDGs while also achieving the institution’s overarching goal of enabling rural people to overcome poverty and achieve food security through remunerative, sustainable and resilient livelihoods.


IFAD’s approach is to start with the people, investing in them so that they can grow their businesses and improve their lives through their own efforts; not through handouts.

Our success on the ground speaks for itself. Through rural financing in Ethiopia, women have grown their businesses into micro-enterprises. Coffee farmers in the highlands of Nicaragua have entered markets in California; young people in Egypt are transforming the desert into profitable farmland; Ugandan farmers are working together instead of in isolation to grow their businesses; Indian smallholders have become major suppliers to Tesco in the UK. Entire communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America have been transformed with more schools, better clinics, cleaner water and improved child and maternal health.

This is what I mean when I talk about the wide-reaching effectiveness of rural development.

Indeed, IFAD’s impact was singled out in the outcome document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa last summer.

I quote:

“We recognise the efforts of the International Fund for Agriculture Development in mobilising investment to enable rural people living in poverty to improve their food security and nutrition, raise their incomes, and strengthen their resilience.”

People who are resilient are people who believe they have a future, who can invest in themselves, and who do not need to abandon their homes and families in search of work or safety.

Transforming rural areas and creating this resilience is key to achieving the SDGs.

It is thanks to you, our Member States, that IFAD is fit for purpose and well positioned to contribute to the SDGs and to build this resilience.

And a big thank you also our staff. It is their dedication and commitment that have made this possible. They are our greatest asset. And also, thanks to our spouses, our wives, our husbands, our partners, and our families, for their support, patience, and their endurance – day and night.

It was your support of IFAD’s internal reorganization that has left us more efficient, effective, and capable of delivering on the SDGs in the years ahead.

It was your foresight in supporting IFAD’s new business model that has made us more country-based, with 40 country offices in operation and 10 more to come.

Our Strategic Framework for 2016-2025 calls for even greater decentralization so that our country offices will ultimately serve the majority of our programmes and projects, strengthening our work on the ground and bringing us closer to the people we serve.


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, I am a scientist by training. Scientists believe in taking action on the basis of evidence. However, development agencies and institutions do not have a strong tradition of rigorous assessment of impact.

So in recent years, IFAD has invested in developing a methodology to assess our impact. IFAD is, I believe, unique in embarking on an impact assessment exercise of this scale and delivering it in only three years!

The result has been the creation of a world-class tool that is providing a public good, in the form of knowledge. And I am happy to say that it is already generating interest from other international financial and development institutions.

Today, we can say with some certainty that IFAD’s approach to development yields strong results, and that many of the programmes and projects we support have a significant impact on income, resilience, nutrition, and gender empowerment.

And, importantly, project participants are better off than they would have been in the absence of IFAD.

Let me share a few figures with you:

139 million people already reached by projects that opened or closed between 2010 and 2015 – more than the population of Japan! 
5 million hectares of land now under improved soil and environmental management from projects in the same period.
40 million women and men will have significantly higher agricultural revenue as a result of our ongoing and new projects

These are results to be proud of! And few other institutions can offer such statistically sound and verifiable data.

In developing our impact assessment tools, we have learned a number of important lessons including the fact that assessing impact using a single indicator – such as the poverty line – is flawed and inadequate.

We are now applying the lessons we have learned to programme design to improve our development effectiveness – while also enabling us to assess impact much more rigorously.

In addition to the Impact Assessment initiative, IFAD is also preparing a Rural Development Report to gain greater insight into the factors that have accounted for significant reductions in poverty and under-nutrition of the past three decades.

Preliminary findings indicate that these improvements were the result of inclusive rural transformation and that productivity growth on small family farms and rural small and medium-sized enterprises is fundamental.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It has been clear to IFAD for some years that Official Development Assistance (ODA) would be just one of the financing instruments for the post-2015 era.


As a result, in recent years we have explored new avenues of financing for development.

The Spanish Trust Fund included our first sovereign loan. The most recent of our new financing tools is the Sovereign Borrowing Framework which is providing the means to leverage additional resources and mange them more flexibly. It has already resulted in a financing agreement with the KfW Development Bank of Germany.

These innovative sources of funding will allow IFAD to meet the increasing demand from our Member States, but they are a supplement, not a substitute for our core replenishment funding. Contributions by our Member States through IFAD’s 3-year replenishment cycle will remain the primary source of core resources for the Fund.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our Member States who have given so generously to support our work.

It is thanks to you that IFAD’s tenth replenishment was the biggest in the Fund’s history. To date, we have pledges from 91 Member States, compared to 79 in the same period of IFAD9. I encourage those who have not yet pledged to do so today.

It is thanks to you that our Programme of Loans and Grants broke through the US$3 billion ceiling to reach a $3.09 billion for IFAD 9. And it is thanks to you that in 2015, the annual volume of project and grant approvals reached a record US$1.4 billion.

This is a significant investment for the rural communities we serve.

As a result, millions of women and men now have access to financial services, are being trained in agricultural technologies, natural resource management, and entrepreneurship.

And a full 49 per cent are women, and this number is growing.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The results I am sharing with you today reflect the impact of a transformation at IFAD that started several years ago and that is making your institution more agile and efficient than ever. With the reform of Human Resources, a better business model, greater in-country presence, improved knowledge tools and more varied financial instruments, IFAD is fit for purpose and poised to play a key role in delivering on the SDGs.

To summarize:

First, an internal reorganisation of processes, management, Human Resources and a robust organizational structure that allows IFAD to fulfil its unique role as both an international financial institution and a United Nations development agency.

Second, a new business model positioned around a corporate decentralization plan.


Third, a knowledge-based globally responsive institution – and with a culture of rigorous impact assessment and dissemination of knowledge and Fourth, a reshaping and broadening of our financial model and resource base through innovative instruments for long-term sustainability.

These changes have taken a number of years to implement, but we are now reaping the benefits. As you embark on the business items and take decisions that will affect the future of your organization, let us remember that development, also, is not a short-term fix.

It requires the investment of time, effort and money day after day, week after week, month after month until the changes are fully rooted. But the yields are more than worth the effort.

It is thanks to the vision of you, our Member States, and to your unwavering support – and to the dedication and commitment of our staff and the support from our families -- that we have been able to make a difference in the lives of millions of rural women, children and men.

Before I close, allow me to draw your attention once more to the children, women and men who are fleeing conflict, hunger, inequality, indignity or extreme poverty.

The numbers are rising. In the Mediterranean alone, in the first six weeks of this year more than 76,000 migrants and refugees have made their way to Europe by sea. This is nearly ten times more than one year earlier.

The death toll has also risen. So far, 409 people have lost their lives, compared with 69 in the same period of 2015.

Most come from war-torn countries, but tens of thousands are not from conflict zones. But whether they are escaping a man-made crisis or natural disaster, their desperation is all too real.

As the poet Warsan Shire says: “no one puts their child in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.”

This year, more than ever, it is imperative that we commit to investing in long-term development.

With your continued support IFAD will help build a world without hunger, a world without poverty, a world of opportunity and dignity; and a world where the land is always safer than the sea.

Thank you.

IFAD Headquarters,
Rome, Italy
17 February 2016