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Statement by Gilbert F. Houngbo IFAD President at FAO HQ: Zero Hunger - Turning commitment into action to achieve SDG2

Location: FAO HQ, Rome, Italy

Bouille MOFA (El Salvador),
Thyhes (Lao Rep.),
Urgesse (Ethiopia),
Amb. Gornass (Chair of the CFS),  
Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m delighted to be here today because this side-event goes straight to the heart of our collective responsibility to end rural poverty and hunger.

This requires more than calorie counting. It requires that every woman, child and man on this earth has access to a balanced diet – to enough nutritious food to lead a full and active life. From childhood right through to old age.

Recognition of other speakers

Mr da Silva has already made clear that much remains to be done if we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 – that is, our collective ambition to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030. And Mr Beasley has detailed some of the efforts being made today to realize this goal and better cooperation for the RBAs.

What is at stake               

Ladies and Gentlemen,

But nobody should underestimate the scale of the task before us.

Quite frankly, at the current pace, the international community is not on track to meet its commitment to zero hunger by 2030.

Hunger is the product of poverty

The cause of this hunger is not lack of global production. As we heard this morning from Achim Steiner’s lecture, we already grow enough food to feed more than 10 billion people. And food supplies are perfectly stable in developed countries.

In some countries – particularly those most at risk of famine -- the main cause of hunger is conflict. But for hundreds of thousands of food insecure people, hunger is a result of poverty and inequality. It is a result of the exclusion of small-scale producers from larger food systems.

And it is a result/by-product of inadequate investment in resilient food systems, combined with decades of neglect of rural areas.

Today, climate change is making matters worse and increasing the scale of risk in many developing countries.

Can we still achieve zero hunger by 2030? I truly believe the answer is “yes” – but only if we act now to establish inclusive and sustainable food systems, and to build the resilience of poor rural people, and the eco-systems they depend on.

We can and we will succeed, provided we work very well in partnership. For the Rome-based agencies, that means each of us bringing our areas of expertise to the table.

But our partnerships must be broad, and include everyone with a stake in zero hunger and resilient food systems – from the public sector to the private sector; from the IFIs to the NGOs; from national governments to poor smallholder producers themselves.

Our starting point must be the rural areas of developing countries.

Eighty per cent of the world’s poorest people – it is important that we remind ourselves of this – and most of the undernourished – live in rural areas. Agriculture is their main source of income.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we prepare for the panel discussions, permit me to highlight three areas that deserve particular attention.

The first is gender. There is good evidence that women’s education, health, nutritional status and decision-making power have a significant impact on the health and nutritional well-being of children.

Women are also more likely than men to spend what they earn on food for the family.

Women play an important role in agriculture and rural economies, yet have significantly less access to services, markets and assets, including land. In other words, less access to productive resources.

Rural women also often lack authority in their homes, organizations and communities

So empowering and investing in women is an essential step in ending hunger.

Second, there is youth. Around 55 per cent of youth in developing countries live in rural areas. They are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than adults; and rural youth also face inadequate access to land ownership, water, markets, finance, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Empowering rural youth can be a catalyst for achieving the SDGs – and we need the energy, strength and creativity of young people to drive rural transformation and build sustainable food systems.

Third, we must take a holistic look at rural areas. Enabling the 2.5 billion people who depend on the world’s 500 million small farms to grow more and earn more is an essential step in resilient and sustainable food systems.

But income and higher production alone will not end hunger in its entirety. Social inequality and economic vulnerability lie at the root of poverty and hunger, so we need to tackle both of these elements. So it is a matter of rural transformation.

To transform rural areas economically and socially, more is needed than just money. Governments have a key role to play in putting in place the policies, regulatory framework, and enabling environment required to promote responsible private sector investment.  

Small farms themselves are businesses. And so a smallholder will not invest in building production if there is no access to markets and no hope of selling a marketable surplus.

Similarly, prima facie the private sector also will not invest in smallholder agriculture if the risk seems too high. So it is important for all of us to de-risk investment for others.

IFAD does this. In fact, we work in some of the most remote areas of developing countries which have never benefitted from development interventions before.

Ladies and gentlemen,

All of us here today share a common vision of a world without hunger by 2030. I am convinced that by working together, we can and we shall succeed.

Thank you