Statement by IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo at the 2nd Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference Partnering with Africa for sustainable development
Location: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome, Italy
25 October 2018
I would like to thank the government of Italy, for convening this conference for a second year.
Italy was a founding member of IFAD and has been an important and valued partner for more than 40 years.
Italy and IFAD have always shared a conviction that smallholder farming is critical to food security, to nutrition, youth employment and to poverty reduction.
We also share a commitment to zero hunger and to inclusive development in Africa -- where we have worked together to promote food security and reduce poverty in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
And, of course, Italy has given IFAD – and our sister UN agencies – a home here in Rome since our foundation.
In August, I was able to see the benefits of our collaboration when I visited the Dargué grain collection center in Niger. This is part of a project that Italy and other partners are generously supporting. It building market facilities, and contributing to 230 kilometers roads, linking farms to markets.
The farmers say that having access to better roads and storage has changed their lives. They were earning more, had more time for their families, and the family diet and health had improved.
The project underscores the connection between infrastructure and development.
Better roads, storage and warehousing help rural producers and food processors connect to urban markets.
At the same time, better infrastructure improves the quality of rural life, and makes migration to the city less enticing for rural youth.
But when it comes to basic infrastructure – sub-Saharan Africa ranks lower than other developing regions in the world.
- Only one-third of rural Africans live within two kilometers of an all-season road¹.
- That it costs 5 times as much to transport a tonne of rice in parts of Central Africa as it does on major routes in Pakistan.
- That only around five per cent of cultivated land in Africa is irrigated, compared with 41 per cent in Asia.
- And that only 19 per cent of rural Africans have access to electricity, compared with 63 per cent in urban areas.
1/ Compared with 65% in other developing regions. http://infrastructureafrica.opendataforafrica.org/okjwesf/better-access-to-roads-in-rural-areas-is-critical-to-raising-agricultural- productivity
What are the consequences?
Low road density makes it more difficult and costly to get produce to market.
Low road density and high transportation costs also make inputs expensive, and difficult to get. For example, farmers in sub Saharan Africa pay four times more for fertilizer than farmer in Europe².
It is little surprise that farmers in sub Saharan Africa apply only around one-tenth the amount of fertilizer used in the rest of the world.
Expensive or inaccessible electricity mean that farmers do not have refrigeration. Poor post- harvest storage affects the quality and quantity of what is available for the market.
An estimated 20 to 40 per cent of crops in sub Saharan Africa are lost after harvest to pests, disease and spoilage.
Simply stated, for agricultural trade to flourish in sub Saharan Africa, governments and their partners must focus on the region’s continued infrastructure gaps. Because if a farmer cannot profitably market the surplus, there is no logical reason to produce more than their family can store or consume.
New roads, irrigation systems, processing plants and warehouses must be planned and designed with the key players in African agricultural markets in mind.
These key players are smallholder farmers. In sub Saharan Africa, 98 per cent of all agricultural holding are 10 hectares or less; accounting for 80 per cent of agricultural land. And more than half of Africa’s farmers are women.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Investment in rural infrastructure matters because investment in African agriculture matters – both for Africa’s food security and for the continent’s economic development.
The agricultural sector employs between 40 to 65% of Africa’s working population. Africa has 25 per cent of the world’s arable land, but generates only 10³ per cent of its
Yet today, Africa imports as much as US$70 billion in food annually, and this is rising.
If we want investment to drive economic growth that reduces poverty and improves food security and nutrition – then we must invest in infrastructure that reaches smallholders working in remote rural areas, connects them to value chains, and reduces transaction costs for major staples.
Donors and the private sector both have important roles to play in creating inclusive, modern value chains. And so do governments, in putting in place the policies and regulatory frameworks that de-risk agriculture for smallholders and private sector partners alike.
On behalf of IFAD, I would like to reiterate my thanks to the Italian government for its Africa-Italia initiative.
We stand ready to work with all partners gathered here to unlock the potential of millions of smallholder farmers to contribute to a world without poverty and hunger, that leaves no one behind.