IFAD's message to the G8 Summit: Long-term investment in agriculture - a must

On Friday, 10 July 2009 IFAD's President addressed G8 and other 30 Heads of State or Government gathered in the Italian city of L'Aquila, during a session on Food Security. He reminded the leaders of the world's industrialized nations that smallholder agriculture is vital to beating back poverty and hunger and that agriculture must regain its central place on the development agenda, particularly in this time of crisis.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Nwanze said: "You cannot ignore food aid but you cannot resolve the world's food security without long-term investment in agriculture." Nwanze made a passionate call to world leaders and policymakers to recognize the fact that long-term investment in agriculture is key to overcoming rural poverty and reducing dependence on food aid.

Nwanze recognizes the challenging situation G8 leaders face – of finding the right balance between food aid and long-term agricultural investment – and argues that too much aid could flood African agricultural commodities markets which could, in turn, starve local agriculture. The resulting low investment in agriculture could mean that farmers die before they can harvest their first crop.

In Africa, long-term investment in agriculture helps to focus on creating a dynamic smallholder sector. IFAD will be advocating for the summit's final communiqué to include strong support for increased investment in agriculture to enable this potential to be tapped.

Most African countries are still predominately rural societies and smallholder farms are responsible for as much as 80 per cent of their agricultural production. When smallholder farmers are at the heart of that growth, the impact on a country's economy and food security can be dramatic.

Smallholder farmers would not only enhance world food security, but would make a significant dent in poverty. Leaving them out of the equation will push many into greater poverty and hunger.

There is a vast, but as yet untapped, potential in African agriculture. The amount of arable land available in sub-Saharan Africa could be increased four to fivefold with judicious use of irrigation and fertilizer.