IFAD to host high-level conference on innovative approaches to financing for rural development

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IFAD to host high-level conference on innovative approaches to financing for rural development

©IFAD/Michael Benanav

Women pastoralists gather in Gujarat, India. Two-thirds of rural inhabitants depend on roughly 500 million small and family farms for their livelihood.

16 January 2017 – IFAD is joining forces with the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Brookings Institution and the University of Warwick to host an international conference in Rome aimed at advancing global efforts to end extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 through greater investments in rural development and innovative financing for smallholder agriculture that benefits the rural poor.

On 25 to 27 January, the first-ever Investing in Inclusive Rural Transformation: Innovative Approaches to Financing conference will bring together a diverse cross section of government, public and private-sector stakeholders for three days of lively and thoughtful discussions on facilitating investments in rural development and improving access to finance for investment by smallholder farmers and rural small and medium enterprises.

"In all regions of the world, poverty and food insecurity are highest in rural areas, where three quarters of the extremely poor reside,” says Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD.

“This conference comes at a critical time. Eradicating poverty and hunger will not happen by 2030 unless we step up development financing in rural areas and work together to collectively transform rural economies and societies," Nwanze continued.

Nobel Laureate Professor Eric Maskin, the Adams University Professor at Harvard University; Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution; Jean-Michel Severino, President, Investisseurs & Partenaires and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India will be on hand to deliver keynote addresses.

They will be joined by a number of top experts in development, finance, agriculture and academia. Award-winning journalist Zeinab Badawi will also be on hand to moderate a panel discussion during an inaugural event hosted at the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance on 25 January.

Small farmers facing a number of urgent global challenges

A paper prepared for the conference by the Brookings Institution, confirms the urgency for new development finance models. There are 3.4 billion people living in rural areas in the world today. Two-thirds of these rural inhabitants depend on roughly 500 million small and family farms for their livelihood. These farmers face significant constraints in accessing resources and technology.

Many face transport, information and financial barriers that limit participation in input and product markets. As a result, they do not use modern farming technologies, their crop yields are low, and much of their diet is limited to what they produce themselves. Many suffer from hunger and malnourishment.

Italian President Mattarella speaks about the importance of agriculture on World Food Day in 2015. The Investing in Inclusive Rural Transformation: Innovative Approaches to Financing conference contributes to work done in 2015 when IFAD and the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance co-hosted the high-level event on Finance for Food: Investing in Agriculture for a Sustainable Future during World Food Day celebrations at Expo Milan. ©IFAD/ AndreaFrazzetta

Italian President Mattarella speaks about the importance of agriculture on World Food Day in 2015. The Investing in Inclusive Rural Transformation: Innovative Approaches to Financing conference contributes to work done in 2015 when IFAD and the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance co-hosted the high-level event on Finance for Food: Investing in Agriculture for a Sustainable Future during World Food Day celebrations at Expo Milan. ©IFAD/ AndreaFrazzetta

A focus on rural development and investment in agriculture – crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – is needed to end poverty and hunger and bring about sustainable development; however, experts suggest that achieving SDG 1 and 2 (eradicating poverty and ending hunger) will require an increase in investments towards inclusive and sustainable rural and agricultural development.The 2030 Agenda — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit — recognizes that governments can no longer afford to look at food, livelihoods and the management of natural resources separately.

“When you invest in small farms you invest in the future, not just of farming and food systems, but also the non-farm rural sector, including many unemployed young people,” says Nwanze.

This conference contributes to work done in 2015 when IFAD and the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance co-hosted the high-level event on Finance for Food: Investing in Agriculture for a Sustainable Future during  World Food Day celebrations at Expo Milan.

Key priorities include:

  • Advancing understanding about opportunities and challenges in mobilizing finance for inclusive and sustainable rural transformation;
  • Identifying new, effective and efficient instruments and partnerships to finance smallholders agriculture development and rural SMEs;
  • Laying out a country-differentiated, evidence-based policy and institutional agenda to move forward in boosting financing for inclusive rural investments.

As an outcome of the conference, President Nwanze and Enrico Morando, Deputy Minister, Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, will announce efforts to create a Smallholder Agricultural Finance and Investment Network that will serve as an ongoing, multi-stakeholder forum to deepen knowledge and strengthen the positioning of smallholder and rural SME finance and investment on the global agenda. 

“We know that inclusive rural transformation – the kind of development that boosts local economies and reduces poverty – requires enormous investments in smallholder agriculture, supported by enabling policies and institutions,” says Nwanze.

“This is the kind of urgent action and long-term thinking needed to impact millions of lives.”

For the latest conference proceedings and to follow the sessions online visit www.ifad.org/ruraltransformation and join the conversation on social media at #ruraltransformation.