IFAD Governing Council speaks with one voice on impact of financial crisis

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IFAD Governing Council speaks with one voice on impact of financial crisis

Kanayo F. Nwanze appointed next IFAD President

Rome, 19 February – Concluding its 32nd session in Rome today, IFAD's Governing Council spoke with one voice about the impact of the global economic crisis, particularly on the world's most vulnerable, poor rural people.

In speeches to the Council, country after country echoed the view that IFAD's mandate as a champion of the world's smallholder farmers is more relevant now than ever.

In his message, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, highlighted IFAD as an important member of the United Nations family, describing the Fund as "a crucial ally of the world's smallholder farmers''.

Brazilian Minister of Planning, Budget and Management Paulo Bernardo Silva, and Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic, Nicola Cosentino,  stressed the important role of smallholder farmers in achieving food security, boosting agricultural productivity and catalysing economic development.

The Governing Council, the Fund's highest decision making body, appointed Kanayo F. Nwanze as the next IFAD President for a four-year term. Nwanze is currently Vice-President of IFAD and will take up his new post on 1 April, 2009.

During the two-day meeting, IFAD welcomed the Republic of the Marshall Islands as a new Member of the Fund, bringing the total membership to 165.

The Council approved the 8th Replenishment of IFAD's resources – a record $US 1.2 billion in new monies – and acknowledged the efforts of Member States in achieving this benchmark replenishment.

The Council recognised the dedication of outgoing IFAD President Lennart Båge, whose insight has allowed for the evolution of IFAD into a proven instrument to fight poverty.

Delegates expressed their confidence in President-elect Nwanze, emphasising that IFAD's strength lies in its membership, a unique partnership of OECD, OPEC, and other developing countries. 

Parallel to the Governing Council, 3 Round Tables addressed critical issues for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

At Round Table 1, Food price volatility – how to help smallholder farmers manage risk and uncertainty, participants examined policy options at the local, national and international level to reduce the vulnerability of poor rural people. There was a broad consensus calling for market-friendly, farmer-centred solutions tailored to local realities, underpinned by increased public and private investment and Official Development Assistance for agriculture.

The challenge of turning demand for land into an opportunity for smallholder farmers was at the heart of the discussions of Round Table 2, The growing demand for land. Risks and opportunities for smallholder farmers. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, foreign and domestic investors have been buying up agricultural land for agro-fuel production or for outsourced food production. Discussion focused on how to ensure such investments involve and benefit poor rural people without threatening their land rights.

Round Table 3, Research and innovation for smallholder farmers in the context of climate change, recognized that new thinking was needed to address hunger and poverty, health and nutrition and the environment, where old approaches had failed. Discussion centred on the need to involve smallholder farmers in developing innovative approaches. Participants recognized the need to target research to smallholders and agreed that modern scientific knowledge needs to be integrated with the traditional knowledge of rural communities.

IFAD was created 30 years ago to tackle rural poverty, a key consequence of the droughts and famines of the early 1970s. Since 1978, IFAD has invested more than US$10.6 billion in low-interest loans and grants that have helped over approximately 350 million very poor rural women and men increase their incomes and provide for their families. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency. It is a global partnership of OECD, OPEC and other developing countries. Today, IFAD supports close to 250 programmes and projects in 87 developing countries and one territory.

Press release No.: IFAD/12/09