IFAD Asset Request Portlet

Asset Publisher

Speech by the IFAD Vice Presidentfor the CPE Roundtable Workshop

Your Excellency Permanent Secretary,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for organizing this Country Programme Evaluation workshop.

Let me begin by conveying to all of you my excitement and sincere interest in participating in these proceedings. The workshop constitutes an important event for both the Government of Rwanda and IFAD, and we, the members of the IFAD delegation, are all very pleased to be here.

Today's workshop could not take place at a more opportune time – when the world must contend with feeding nearly 7 billion people within a context of repeated natural disasters, internal conflicts and considerable economic and financial challenges. By 2050, global food supplies and security could very well deteriorate even further as the world's population swells to 9 billion.

Of course, the drivers, constraints and implications of this uncertain outlook are all perfectly well known here in Rwanda, a country blessed with rich volcanic  soil and strong farming traditions, but also challenged with the highest population density in Africa, scarce land availability, high transportation and energy costs, and a difficult topography.

Nevertheless, if we accept that Rwanda represents – even in part – a microcosm of the opportunities and challenges of food production and demand present in today's global environment, as mentioned in the latest Sector Evaluation Report for the Joint Sector Review, then perhaps our outlook for the future should be considerably brighter.

In recent years, the Government has undertaken an ambitious program of reform designed to fundamentally transform Rwanda's economy and future. A spate of reforms in key legislation, modernization and reorganization of many institutions, and an increased focus on entrepreneurship and the private sector have won this country praise from many quarters of the international community. 

Moreover, the government's specific focus on strengthening agricultural production -- both as a key engine of economic growth and means of improving food security -- has been commendable.

This commitment to developing the sector is seen in all aspects of the government's reform agenda, including the Vision 2020 and the Economic Development Poverty Reduction strategies, as well as the latest public budget which is entitled, "Ensuring Food Security and Price Stability whilst Promoting Sustainable Growth".

Therefore, amid this context of broad concern about the global situation and genuine excitement about Rwanda's forward momentum, I am proud to be here today to collect ideas and hear first-hand about what must be done to make IFAD's partnership with Rwanda – and our other member countries -- more effective.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the past thirty years, IFAD has been helping poor rural people in this country escape poverty by building sustainable livelihoods. Since 1981, we have supported 13 projects, totalling some US$ 284 million, of which IFAD has contributed over 50 per cent of the funding. And today we remain committed to partnering with the Government to shape a bright future for the land of a thousand hills.

For IFAD, that future must include an improved quality of life, an increased access to economic opportunities and a reduced exposure to food insecurity, for Rwanda's millions of rural inhabitants.  Included in this group are hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers, young people and women, who need only investment in their productive capacity, in their know-how, and in the roads and bridges that surround them to unlock a better quality of life.

In the face of climate change, rising populations, and environmental degradation, at IFAD we believe that only sustainable approaches to agricultural intensification can be used to achieve this vision.

Nevertheless, such approaches place a high premium on knowledge and innovation -- from the development of improved and resistant varieties of crops to the use of communication technologies to get market information – and farmers, therefore, need to be armed with a battery of information, techniques and expertise to remain resilient.

No single entity or a country can do this alone. Fortunately, we have several billion potential partners. Give people the right tools and they can feed themselves.

During a field visit to the Bugesera district yesterday, I have personally witnessed exactly this kind of engagement with rural people and smallholder farmers --  approaches to improving agricultural productivity, food security and livelihoods which are based on investing in and harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of the local community. I firmly believe that this sort of approach – based on empowerment -- is needed to ensure that millions of people in Rwanda, and across the world, have food on their tables come what may over the months and years ahead.

I would therefore like to reiterate and reaffirm IFAD's commitment to supporting Rwanda in its quest towards further economic development as illustrated both by our past actions and, most recently, by two financing agreements that we have just signed this morning: namely for PRICE, a new project focusing on export-driven agricultural value chains, and for the Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PAPSTA), which supports a shift from subsistence agriculture to market-based farming.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by stressing that geographical and political contexts may vary from country to country as much as the weather, but what is important for all is government commitment, community ownership, education and training, women's empowerment and engagement of young people who represent the future of rural areas. With the required investments and continued collaboration, we can jointly meet the challenges and deliver on the promise that the agriculture sector holds for Rwanda.

I fully believe that if every country in Africa makes similar choices and implements them fully, then Africa can both feed itself and make a major contribution to global food security.  I look forward to constructive and fruitful discussions during the sessions of this workshop. Let us work together to ensure that progress made to-date can be sustainable through stronger partnerships, as we collectively help poor rural people escape poverty by building sustainable livelihoods.

Thank you.

Rwanda, 28 September 2011