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Remarks by Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, at the Briefing to the Group of 77 and China

Location: United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA

Excellencies and Ministers,
Esteemed colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to address such an eminent group this evening. These opportunities to share ideas and hear from our partners are invaluable to the work of IFAD.

The ability of the G77 and China to act collectively is a powerful tool as we work towards achieving the 2030 Agenda – and in particular, the first Sustainable Development Goal of No Poverty, and the second of Zero Hunger.

Indeed, many G77 countries are already playing an important role in the international development scene. Their contributions are invaluable as donors, as trading partners, as sources of expertise, and as incubators for the innovation that is so much needed in development. These are essential elements of South-South Triangular Cooperation.

We are particularly happy to see that the G77 and China are continuing to stand up for growth that is inclusive, particularly of young people, small-scale farmers, and small-and medium-sized enterprises.

Members of the G77 and China will be crucial to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

We must not under-estimate the magnitude of the challenge. Governments around the world have committed to ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030. Yet today, 767 million people live on less than US$1.90 a day. Eighty per cent live in rural – not urban – areas. Half of them in live in sub Saharan Africa

Sixty-five per cent of the world’s poorest people work in agriculture – primarily smallholder agriculture.

With these figures in mind, it is not surprising that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognized the contribution that rural development can make across the SDGs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, IFAD is both an international financial institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations. This dual mandate makes us unique.  

For the past 40 years, IFAD has worked exclusively in rural development, investing in smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs so they could improve their lives and livelihoods.

We believe that with timely and targeted support, smallholder farmers can better feed themselves, improve their livelihoods and help feed the world.

Around 2.5 billion people depend on the world’s 500 million small farms. This adds up to about one-third of humanity!

To date, IFAD has reached more than 460 million people, and our on-going portfolio will help 24 million emerge out of poverty every five years.

From a development perspective, we know that growth from agriculture reduces poverty up to 11 times faster than other sectors – so investing in agriculture to reduce poverty is urgently called for.

This is particularly true for Africa, which has 25 per cent of the world’s arable land and more than half the uncultivated land suitable for growing food, yet generates only 10 per cent of the world’s agricultural output.

As we all know, by 2050, global food production will need to rise by 60 percent to keep up with expected demand. Given the scale of the challenges, business-as-usual is not good enough.

So when I consider my vision for IFAD, it is this: I see IFAD becoming the world’s premier development financial institution for the agricultural smallholder sector.

I firmly believe that the size of IFAD’s operations should be determined both by the needs of the world’s bottom billion, and by IFAD’s capacity to deliver.

But meeting these needs and delivering more results will require IFAD to scale up. This means increasing IFAD’s programme of work, and improving its development effectiveness.

Externally, over the past two replenishment cycles, we have started moving in this direction. Recent improvements include direct supervision of projects, decentralization, a focus on non-lending products and stronger partnerships with the private sector.

Internally, we have continued to upgrade our service delivery to support the decentralization strategy.

As we move towards the eleventh replenishment of resources — what we call IFAD11 — we continue to envisage a range of improvements to achieve a larger impact.

Let me outline our plans for IFAD11.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognized IFAD’s efforts in mobilizing investment to help poor rural people improve food security and nutrition, raise their incomes and strengthen their resilience.

As our first improvement, we aim to enhance the way we mobilize resources still further

IFAD11 plans to increase its programme of loans and grants by between 25 to 40 percent.

Reaching this ambitious goal means broadening the range of our funding sources. IFAD has traditionally funded operations through the contribution of Member States, along with loan reflows and investment income.

More recently, IFAD has met demand for its services by making use of the Sovereign Borrowing Framework. And we will be exploring concessional partner loans and raising funds through capital markets when deemed appropriate.

IFAD will become an assembler of development finance. will also move from its primary role as a direct lender to

Already, for example, IFAD has a solid track record for mobilizing international cofinancing in the area of environmental sustainability and climate resilience. And, we will make more systematic use of Green Climate Fund resources to leverage our own resources.

Today’s youth generation is the largest ever. Most of these 1.8 billion young people live in the rural areas of low and middle-income countries. They are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. And they are also more likely to be poor and also more likely to migrate in search of work and a better life.

If we want young people to work in agriculture, then we must make farming a more attractive career option so that staying close to home becomes a choice. And we must also invest in rural transformation so that they have the infrastructure – the running water, electricity, schools and clinics – that are so often lacking.

Unless we invest in rural transformation, and develop strong rural economies, we will not make it.  

IFAD will continue to prioritize its work with the most marginalized people. For example, Half of IFAD’s portfolio is in Africa. 

In particular, we will continue to give priority to rural women’s empowerment, to the right to food and nutrition, and to rural finance for smallholders and small-scale entrepreneurs with an increased focus on early recovery in fragile situations.

Third, we will step up our efforts to ensure that IFAD’s resources translate into development results. Many changes are already being introduced at IFAD to instill a culture of results at every level, from the project, to the country and the corporate levels.

Excellencies and Ministers

Esteemed colleagues

Ladies and gentlemen,

IFAD wants to be key player in achieving Agenda 2030 and other intergovernmental agreements.

We believe that agriculture is key to solving the world’s most pressing problems — from hunger and poverty to conflict and migration to climate change.

Our projects give people choices, working with them to create opportunities. They facilitate value chain development and harness the power of the private sector. And they work with governments to design policies that reinforce national ownership of development.

With the plans in place for the eleventh replenishment, we are determined that IFAD will achieve greater impact than ever before.

Thank you.