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Statement by Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD at World Food Day 2018

Location: Plenary Hall, FAO

16 October 2018

Her Majesty Queen Letizia of Spain,

His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho,

Honorable Ministers,

Honorable Mayor, Virginia Raggi, from the city of Rome,

Distinguished Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues from the UN system,


I think we have heard from the distinguished speakers earlier about the troubling findings and the global situation, and our challenge in terms of zero hunger including the obesity.  

Although food insecurity and malnutrition is in all its forms is spread over all the regions of the world – I would like for once, to focus my remarks on Africa, where the prevalence of undernourishment is worse than anywhere else in the world, with one-in-five people undernourished – compared with just over one-in-ten for the world as a whole.

Let me also highlight some facts behind these statistics.

The irrigation intensity in Africa is the lowest in the world, at around five per cent of cultivated land. This compares with 41 per cent in Asia.

On average, African farmers apply less than 13 kg of fertilizer per hectare, compared with more than 100 kg in South Asia.

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 20 to 40 per cent of food is lost after harvest because it cannot be safely stored.

We could feed an extra 48 million people just by stemming these losses, and these numbers are only for the wheat alone.

Agriculture is also the backbone of many African economies, contributing sometimes up to 25% of their GDP. And this, we know, in comparison to 1 or 2 per cent in OECD countries.

Yet today, we know also that Africa, the whole continent,  imports US$70 billion a year in food. And out of those $70 billion, $35 billion are for sub-Saharan Africa. And it is estimated that it will go to $110 billion by 2025.

My point here is that, for us to fight for Zero Hunger for African agriculture to reach its potential, we need investment.  Not just in higher productivity and profitability, but also investments in infrastructure, in research, and in policies as Director Graziano has said before, focusing on the different steps of the value chains, particularly focusing as well on women and youth.

Shall I recall that in sub-Saharan Africa, 50% of the labour force are women.

Unfortunately, we also know that they face a gender-based discrimination. In every region of the world, women are more likely to be food insecure than we, the men. They have fewer rights to the land they farm, and less access to the financing and inputs they need to farm more successfully.

In Africa, over 60 per cent of the population is currently under the age of 25. Every year 10 to 12 million, according to ILO statistics, young Africans enter the job market; the majority of them are still in rural areas.

And we know that many of these young people live and work in rural towns. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, it will be difficult for urban economies to absorb all these young people into waged employment.

Youth are more likely to be unemployed than older adults.  And, other factors being equal, young people are more likely to migrate.

A 2016 report estimated global demand for smallholder finance at about US$200 billion. Yet supply was estimated to be no more than US$50 billion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

My point is: The challenge for hunger requires more resources, and innovative thinking. We all want to reverse the trend of rising hunger. To do so, we need to do more in the field and bring our action to a greater scale.

We need the political will, we need the commitment from a budgetary perspective but most of all: My point today is to transform the critical challenge we have into opportunities. Opportunities in creating and financing small agribusiness for our youngsters and we shall make it.

Thank you.