IFAD Asset Request Portlet

Asset Publisher

Statement by the WFP Executive Director for the thirty-third session of IFAD's Governing Council

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I'm so grateful to be here with you today as the IFAD Governing Council convenes at a critical moment in human history.  With Haiti on our minds and other crises throughout the world there is much on our plates. But I am more hopeful today than ever before that we can defeat hunger for three major reasons.

The first is that all of you have put hunger at the top of the global agenda. With the focus on food security at the G8, G20, the World Summit on Food Security and recently at the  African Union, you have all decided that this is the time to take action and turn the tide against hunger.

Secondly, we are working together as never before. Country-led food security strategies mean that all parties – host nations and donors, international organizations and NGOs – must support nations as they strive to feed their people.

I also have to testify about the power of the three Rome agencies – IFAD, FAO and WFP – working as one to help the world's most vulnerable. You may have heard that last Friday IFAD President Nwanze, FAO Director-General Diouf and WFP Executive Director Sheeran established a joint task force to combine our unique strengths and resources to help Haiti recover better than ever. Yesterday we had our first meeting and are making real progress in implementing on-the-ground solutions to help build food security in Haiti.

The third reason I am hopeful is because all of you know something that the world is just now coming to learn – the power of the smallholder farmer.

Today, more than one billion hungry people, or nearly one in six people on earth, wake up each morning not knowing whether they will have enough to eat. 

Many of these hungry people are farmers, working small plots of land in rural Asia, Africa and Central America.

In fact about 500 million smallholder farms in the developing world now support 2 billion people, or one third of the world's population. Eight hundred million of the people who earn less than $1 a day farm about one acre – often in several scattered plots.

But these farmers – a majority of them women – too often need food assistance themselves, dependant upon tired soil, unpredictable weather and unaffordable inputs for yields that rarely even feed their own families.

It's clear that the world must produce more food to feed more people. It is also being increasingly recognized that any truly effective and sustainable food security plan must emphasize empowerment of smallholder farmers.

To unleash the power of the smallholder we must invest in training and skills development.  This can mean no-till farming, access to quality seeds, healthy soils, appropriate fertilizers, and water and crop management systems.  Finally, smallholder farmers need access to markets. 

Many of you already know that WFP in September 2008 launched a new program called Purchase for Progress to help smallholder farmers in developing countries with training, skills to improve product quality and packaging, and connects them to markets.  By the end of 2013 at least 500,000 smallholder farmers in 21 countries will have increased their agricultural production and earnings through the P4P program.

We also make sure to use our purchasing power to help developing nations. WFP purchased over $1 billion or 80 percent of our food commodities from developing countries last year, and are leveraging our purchasing power to provide contracts to farmers. You may be surprised where we purchase our food. Last year our number one supplier was Pakistan. Our top 10 included South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia,

Investment in agriculture pays off. The World Bank estimates that GDP growth generated by agriculture is up to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth generated by other sectors. Vietnam has proven that investment in smallholders can lift an entire country to prosperity. They have gone from food deficit to being the second largest rice exporter in the world; from a poverty rate of 58 percent in 1979 to less than 15 percent in 2007.

Africa is the next frontier, with nations such as Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana leading the way.

In this fight against hunger, the role of women is particularly evident, as women produce more than 50 percent of the total food grown worldwide, including up to 40 percent of food in South America, 60 percent of food in Asia, and, 80 percent in Africa. And she will need the support and partnership of her nation and of the world.

In the year since P4P was launched, WFP have proven that this is a workable model in more than 15 countries, promoting gender equality and putting in place measures to increase women participation in trainings and contractual arrangements wherever possible.

Hungry women, particularly rural women, are not a hunger problem to be fixed, they are an "integral part of the solution," as Mrs. Mubarak told us on World Food Day last year.  When you empower smallholder farmers you empower women to be part of the hunger solution.

In Liberia, 70 percent of people's livelihoods are from farming, and women make up the majority of small holders.  Connecting women small holders to markets is critical.  WFP and FAO have installed rice milling machines for farmers cooperatives, so farmers can benefit from the price of milled rice.  WFP made an initial purchase of rice from the cooperatives this year, and is planning a six fold increase our purchase by the second quarter of 2010. 

Also, in almost all projects WFP works with its Rome based sister agencies, each of us emphasizing our comparative advantage, FAO focuses capacity building on post-harvest handling, and technical assistance in the construction of silos and provision of equipment; IFAD provides the credit and WFP offers the concrete market opportunity to local producers and traders.

In Tanzania, WFP is committed to support Kilimo Kwanza initiative (Agriculture First - towards a Green Revolution). Through local procurement and supporting the establishment of a warehouse receipt system, smallholder farmers are able to deposit their commodities in a certified warehouse in return for a receipt that can be exchanged for cash at a local financial institution. These efforts will have multiplier effects for farmers, communities, nations and regions, increasing food security, and building a foundation of prosperity from the ground up, rather than the top down. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the support of the Belgium, and together with the Government, we develop markets by increasing surpluses and market sales for 4,000 smallholder farmers in Katanga province, producing mainly maize and beans.

In Mozambique, our project facilitates direct purchase of maize and beans with training activities on improving post-harvest management and direct provision of equipment and credit. 

Beyond Africa, we work in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and support the establishment of networks of farmer organisations in Afghanistan.

Malawi President Mutharika in his African Union inaugural address last month reminded us that food security is available in our lifetime and challenged "Africa to feed Africans" saying that in "five years no children would go to bed hungry or be malnourished."

That was a bold statement, but one that can be achieved – and must be achieved if we are to achieve the first, and most foundational Millennium Development Goal.

Thank you.

17 February 2010