UN IFAD President to visit China and N. Korea

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UN IFAD President to visit China and N. Korea

Press release number: IFAD 42/02

Beijing, 11 October 2002- The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mr. Lennart Båge, arrives in Beijing, China on 13 October as the first stop in his two-country mission addressing IFAD’s partnership with China and North Korea to reduce rural poverty.

IFAD has financed 16 rural and agricultural development projects in China for a total amount of US 400 million. In North Korea, IFAD has financed 3 projects amounting to USD 67 million.

In Beijing, the President is expected to meet with the Agricultural Minister, Mr. Du Qinglin, the Finance Minister, Mr. Xiang Huaicheng and other senior governmental officials to discuss the ongoing rural development projects that IFAD is financing. Later, Mr. Båge will visit rural communities in Anhui Province to see for himself the impact of the Fund's interventions.

The Southwest Anhui Integrated Agricultural Development Project has helped farmers in Dabieshan Mountain to boost household food security by developing the land, (soil and water conservation, terracing, irrigation), by introducing more productive farming practices and by facilitating access to small loans for income-generating activities. The project, which is jointly supported by IFAD, World Food Programme (WFP) and the Chinese Government, seeks to reach over 123 000 families (500 000 people) representing about 90-95 % of the total population of these particularly poor counties. Recognizing that women have greater difficulty in overcoming their poverty than men, the project has established a special credit line for them. By the end of its five-year lifetime- the project is expected to have provided technical training to about 70 000 women and literacy training to 30 000.

  40 yr. old Cui Zue of Fung Xian village in Zhaong Guang township of Anhui Province took a loan of CNY1000 ( USD 1 = CNY 8 approx.) to raise pigs. Having started with 1 pig, she now has 12. She sells piglets for CNY 150 each; in one year she managed to repay the loan. Now her two sons go to school and Cui Zue says ''It’s like a dream come true. After finishing primary school, my sons must go for secondary school. We were very poor and when my sons were in primary school we found it hard to keep them in school as there was no money to buy food. Now it is different.''  

During his stay in Beijing, the President of IFAD will participate in the Second Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly taking place on 16-18 Oct. The GEF’s focal areas - biodiversity, climate change, international waters, ozone depletion, and land degradation - hinge on rural poverty reduction because three quarters of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty in the world live in rural areas. Making their living from the land through agriculture and related activities, today's rural poor must be incorporated as partners within GEF’s natural resource management programmes in order for the global benefits to be realized. IFAD has built a firm partnership with the GEF, as the Fund is the sole international financial institution focused exclusively on rural poverty reduction, and access by the poor to productive natural resources is fundamental to success in the fight against poverty. In the context of land degradation, IFAD and the Global Mechanism - the financing mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification housed within IFAD – is playing a strong role to reduce the links between land degradation, food insecurity and water scarcity.

Mr. Båge will visit North Korea from 19 Oct. where he will meet senior Government officials and travel to the project sites where IFAD has been supporting sericulture, foodcrops production, livestock rehabilitation and sustainable agricultural practices. IFAD has financed three projects in the country so far, through loans on highly concessional terms (i.e. a service charge of 0.75 % on the capital to be repaid). While food relief is crucial for - North Korea, IFAD follows closely on the heels of the World Food Programme to help rebuild and/or develop the country's food production capacity to assure food availability in the long term.

  • The Sericulture Development Project has helped participating farm cooperatives to double the outputs and improve the quality of the cocoons used to make silk thread. The project has helped boost North Korea’s export earnings. The members of the farm cooperatives are earning now 3 to 5 times more than before. Most of the workers in silkworm raising are women. The Crops and Livestock Rehabilitation Project helped the farming cooperatives to increase food production at a time of acute food shortage and to rehabilitate the severely depleted livestock population on the farms, successfully using bank loans to individual- households as one of the instrumentalities for his purpose.
  • The Uplands Food Security Project is designed to rehabilitate farming production in a lasting manner by introducing productive practices that also protect the land. This latter is particularly important for North Korea where less than a sixth of the land area is arable and most of the rest is too steep even for grazing. The project helped the farm cooperatives resume their role as the producers of staple foods both for their members and for city-based workers. It also provided individuals with small loans to finance private income-generating activities. Indeed, this may be one of its major contributions to the ongoing policy dialogue or economic reforms.

Note to editors:

A Press Conference will be held on 22 October 2002 at 11:30 AM in the conference room of the United Nations compound at 2, Liang Ma He Nan Lu (opposite the Hard Rock Café across the Third Ring Road). The President of IFAD will address issues related to poverty and hunger in China and North Korea.

IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the specific mandate of combating hunger and poverty in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Since 1978 IFAD has financed 603 projects in 115 recipient countries and in the West Bank and Gaza for a total commitment of approximately USD 7.3 billion in loans and grants. Through these projects, about 250 million rural people have had a chance to move out of poverty. IFAD makes the greater part of its resources available to low-income countries on very favorable terms, with up to 40 years for repayment and including a grace period of up to ten years and a service charge of 0.75% per year.