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Statement by IFAD President to the General Assembly of the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO)

Your Excellency Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic
Mr Robert Carlson, President of the World Farmers' Organisation,
The Honourable Gianni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome
Ladies and Gentlemen
Friends and Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to be here today at the second  General Assembly of the World Farmers' Organization.

We are all of us bound together in our desire to eradicate poverty and hunger. We are all of us united in our understanding that it is the farmers of the world who manage the land, the water and the biodiversity of our planet.

For those of you not familiar with IFAD, let me quickly introduce my institution. IFAD is one of the three United Nations agencies based in Rome. We work closely with our sister agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, who are both represented here today.

But like all siblings, we have our own, distinct, personality. IFAD is distinct because it is a Financial Institution  entirely focussed on  supporting investment by and for smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisher folks and the other resource-poor people who live in the rural areas of developing countries.

Farmers' organizations and cooperatives play a central and essential role in inclusive agricultural development. In recognition of this, we have, for many years,  invested in these organizations to  support their own capacity-building efforts. We work to enable them to have access to financial and technical services, to develop their land and, most importantly, to access markets on better terms.  

Together with the major international and regional networks of smallholder Farmers Organisations, we  created the Farmers' Forum. The Farmers' Forum provides an on-going process of dialogue and partnership building. We were happy to invite the newly created WFO to the global meeting of the Forum in Rome this February.

Today, I would like to extend a special thanks to President Napolitano and Mayor Alemanno.

But first, let me convey, on behalf of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and on my own behalf, our sympathies over the loss of lives following the most recent earthquake in Italy that took place in the Emilia Romagna region.  IFAD expresses its full solidarity with the citizens of Italy during this difficult time.

Italy has always been a strong ally in the fight against poverty and hunger. In 1951, Italy recognised the significance of a stable world food supply by generously offering to host FAO, the United Nations' first dedicated food agency. Italy's contributions to IFAD have been crucial in helping us expand the work we do in developing countries.

The city of Rome has given IFAD a home for more than 30 years now. And with three United Nations food agencies based here, Rome is truly the world capital of agriculture and food security.

Let me be clear. The link between agricultural development and poverty reduction is unquestionable. Numerous studies have confirmed that growth generated by agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

And at IFAD, we know through experience that farmers organizations hold the key to agricultural development, poverty reduction and food security.

When I say farmers' organizations, I am referring to associations, cooperatives and unions of smallholders, of family farmers, of pastoralists and of artisanal fishers.

Smallholders by their number, and farmers in general, are the biggest investors in agriculture in developing countries. They invest  their own money, their time and labour and they bear all the risks associated with their enterprises.

Indeed, farming, even at its smallest scale, is a business. In recognition of this, G8 leaders at Camp David specified smallholder farmers as important private sector partners in their declaration on food and nutrition security.

The best way to  create the conditions for poor farmers to grow their businesses is to support and work with their organizations.

This is why farmers' organizations are IFAD's business partners in almost every country where we operate. We consult with them when we are formulating country strategies and designing agricultural and value chains development projects with governments.

Today, and in the months ahead, we at IFAD will look forward to learning about the dynamics of WFO's membership, its position on development issues and its partnership with farmers' organisations from developing regions.

From IFAD's perspective, agriculture and rural development is not just about food security and income. It is also about environmental stewardship. It provides  a pathway to wealth creation and economic growth. And it is the basis of social cohesion and the precursor for global security and peace.

Thank you.

Rome, Italy
6 June 2012