European and African Heads of State attend IFAD annual meeting to speak for poor rural people

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European and African Heads of State attend IFAD annual meeting to speak for poor rural people

Rome, 11 February 2010 – The Presidents of the Italian Republic and of the United Republic of Tanzania – Giorgio Napolitano and Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete – will address the opening of the annual meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on 17 February.

Held at IFAD's Rome headquarters for the first time, the two-day meeting of the Governing Council will draw representatives of IFAD's 165 Member States. The Governing Council is the highest decision-making body of the UN's rural poverty agency.

A major highlight of this year's meeting, the 33rd session, is a plenary panel on the afternoon of the first day, From summit resolutions to farmers' fields: climate change, food security and smallholder agriculture.

In addition to President Kikwete, panellists will include: Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College of London; Haydee Castillo, Coordinator of the Women's Forum for Central American Integration; Dr Nahed Taher, CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank; Ajay Vashee, President of the International Federation of Agriculture Producers; and Kevin Cleaver, Associate Vice-President of IFAD. The panel will be moderated by CNN anchor Jim Clancy.

Also,three side events will take place with participation from academics, scientists and researchers who will focus on natural resource management, climate change and the role of smallholder agriculture and family farming. A fourth side event will look at the state of rural poverty in developing countries in anticipation of the launch of the 2010 Rural Poverty Report – an IFAD flagship publication.

The 2009 Governing Council approved the 8th Replenishment of IFAD's resources, resulting in an unprecedented 67 per cent increase from the previous one. At that time, the Council elected Kanayo F. Nwanze as IFAD's fifth President.

Since taking office, Nwanze has led IFAD's programme of work to a significant growth of 19 per cent over the previous year, increasing the resources invested in poor rural communities. Nwanze also has driven the expansion of IFAD's presence in the countries where it works to reinforce national ownership and leadership, and to strengthen relationships with governments, local organizations and most importantly, with poor rural people.

The gathering at IFAD headquarters comes at a crucial time when international efforts begin to shift towards medium-to-long-term reconstruction and development one month after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The earthquake and its aftermath serve as a stark reminder to donors and governments that a strong agricultural sector is vital to ensuring secure food supplies in the face of natural disasters, as well as food price hikes and a growing population.

Last week in Haiti, IFAD signed an agreement to provide a grant of US$5.66 million to support agricultural production for 18,000 smallholder households located in rural areas in the North of Haiti, some of the poorest regions in the country. In addition, IFAD, together with the Food and Agricultural Organization extended a 2008 initiative, which was implemented after the soaring food prices, to meet the demand of seeds and tools for the March and July planting seasons.

Note for editors

IFAD's annual meeting, the Governing Council, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year's efforts, challenges and successes.

 Press release No.: IFAD/07/2010

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$11 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering some 350 million people to break out of poverty. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN's food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).