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Twenty-Seventh Session of IFAD' s Governing Council: Building up steam on the ‘twin track’ approach to halving hunger

Message of Mr. James T. Morris, Executive Director
of the World Food Programme delivered on his behalf by Mr. Jean-Jacques Graisse, Deputy Executive Director

IFAD Governing Council
Rome, 18 February 2004

It is a great pleasure to address you on behalf of Jim Morris, our Executive Director, who regrets not being here in person for this important meeting. Let me begin by paying tribute to the wonderful work done by IFAD, and to thank those of you who make it possible through your hard work, and your donations.

Two years have now passed since IFAD, FAO and WFP proposed a ‘twin track' approach to halving hunger. The idea, proposed in Monterrey in 2002, you will recall, was to provide short-term investments in food aid to prevent lasting damage from malnutrition and longer-term investments in agricultural production so people in the poorest countries can feed themselves.

Since then, the partnership between the three Rome-based agencies has strengthened considerably. Together, we have taken our advocacy message to the corridors of power. In the field, in regional offices and in headquarters, the three agencies are working more closely than ever. The number of projects undertaken jointly with IFAD has increased by 50 percent since 2001, and now totals 21. And the effects are being felt by the people who count most – our beneficiaries.

Allow me to give you an example. In Burkina Faso, WFP and IFAD are working together with rural communities to improve water resource management and soil conservation: both crucial to the sustainability of agriculture in the Sahel. In 2003, IFAD provided technical support, equipment and finance; WFP provided cooked meals to labourers in the communities while they worked on ways to better manage water resources and conserve soil. In a region where 90 percent of people rely on rain-fed agriculture for survival, that's critical.

In fact, Burkina Faso is one of the bright lights on our horizon. This year's harvest in the eastern Sahel has been extraordinarily good, some 30 percent better than average. We plan to purchase roughly 63,000 tons of food in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger this year, a small portion of which will be used in other countries in West Africa such as Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and northern Liberia.

Purchasing locally is an integral part of our efforts to help farmers gain control of their lives and livelihoods. Not only is WFP the largest supplier of grant assistance to Africa in the UN system, we are also by far the largest purchaser of food and other items. In 2003 alone, we purchased $213 million worth of goods on the continent: some 26 percent of all purchases worldwide. That included 840,000 metric tons of food grown and bought in Africa, again, representing more than a quarter of WFP's food purchases globally.

The Sahel region is also a very good example of collaboration with the highest level of policy makers in government. The "Alliance for the Sahel Declaration", signed in September 2003 in Dakar, sets forth a remarkable pledge to promote school feeding, health and basic education for the Sahel. This solid commitment is exactly the kind of investment in people that helps power the engine of the ‘twin track' approach, and is most likely to achieve sustainability in the longer term.

Other high-level advocacy efforts among the Rome agencies include the International Alliance Against Hunger. IFAD, FAO and WFP issued a joint statement on World Food Day. We came together with 25 non-governmental organizations from Italy to discuss ways to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. And, together, the Rome-based agencies will work more closely than ever with NEPAD to support agricultural development and poverty reduction.

Last year was a record year for the World Food Programme, on almost all fronts. We reached the largest number of people in our history – 110 million in 82 countries. We raised the largest amount of money -- $2.6 billion plus $1.2 billion from the Oil for Food Programme in Iraq. We moved the largest amount of food – more than 6 million metric tons. We also worked alongside the largest number of partners – some 200 international and more than 1,000 local non-governmental organizations. While that may sound like fanfare, and we are proud of having done a good job, what it actually means is that so many more people required our assistance last year, and regrettably more of it was directed to emergencies, than ever before.

Notwithstanding the dedicated work being done by the three Rome-based agencies, in greater concert than ever, FAO reported last year that the number of hungry people actually increased by 18 million in the second half of the 1990s. The investments that we have all been advocating for – food aid for short-term hunger, investments in agricultural development for long-term sustainability – are simply not coming quickly enough.

Last year, WFP saw another record, though not one that we celebrated. Only 9 percent of overall contributions to the programme were directed to our programmes that assist people who are chronically hungry. It is not the percentage we would like to see. Nevertheless, it still represents $238 million for development in 2003. So while on the one hand we are doing our best to collaborate with IFAD and FAO, the funds available for these activities make up an ever-decreasing share of our resources. And while one or two major donors have significantly increased their investment in agricultural development, according to the OECD it still represents just 9 percent of overall ODA1.

Allow me to return to the Sahel. This year is a boom year for much of the region, with Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali producing more than 3 million tons of cereals each. However many of these countries' citizens will not reap the full benefits, since they lack the infrastructure, feeder roads and markets to get their bumper crops to consumers. And worse, if the rains are not as generous this year as they were last year, many of the region's farmers will again find themselves in a tight spot. The very basic elements of the region's agricultural sector need to be bolstered, if we are to hope for sustainability and real progress towards halving hunger. We need to bring subsistence farmers into a viable, market-oriented agricultural economy.

China is a remarkable example of how reforms in agriculture can dramatically reduce poverty. By introducing a market approach to its agricultural sector in the 1980s, China not only became more self-sufficient in terms of food, it also kicked off the greatest single wave of poverty reduction in history: 220 million people were lifted out of poverty, according to the government. Today China is one of the world's largest, fastest growing commercial markets, with the UN forecasting that China and the US will lead global economic recovery in 20042.

China is also one of the best examples of WFP's collaboration with IFAD. Together, WFP and IFAD have helped six million beneficiaries since 1995, through micro-credit and food for work. WFP's food-for-work activities improve the rural infrastructure. Food-for-training is used to help poor farmers to get maximum benefit from IFAD's micro-credit scheme. WFP's Vulnerability, Assessment and Mapping (VAM) targeting is used by IFAD for identification of its project intervention areas.

A few weeks ago, our regional bureau for Asia organized its yearly meeting of country directors in Bangkok. One full day of this three-day conference was devoted to a workshop of all country directors together with a handful of colleagues from IFAD headquarters to review the successful experience in China, so as to use this example as a model for other countries in Asia. The outcome of that workshop will now be disseminated to the other five WFP regional bureaux, and we trust that this will generate a considerable number of new activities to be undertaken jointly by WFP and IFAD around the world.

The ‘twin track' approach launched with such optimism in Monterrey two years ago has now built up some steam, with the three Rome-based agencies working together much more closely than before, and advocating on a joint approach to halving the percentage of the world's population that lives in hunger. But the twin track foresaw investment, and that investment is much too slow in coming. For each day that passes without more national and international investment in agriculture, too many lives are lost and opportunities squandered. Let us not forget that while we – IFAD, FAO and WFP -- can provide the rails, the locomotive for reducing hunger has to be the governments and the people of the countries most affected. For only they have the power to carry hundreds of millions of people out of hunger and poverty.


1/ OECD, ‘Trends in Agricultural ODA Allocation', Meeting of Povnet sub-group on Agriculture, Room Document 2, Paris, 9 December 2003.

2/ UNCTAD, World Economic Situation and Prospects 2004, January 2004.