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Statement by the Nigeria Governor to IFAD and the Head of the Nigerian Delegation, Prof. Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah, Oon, Fnim, Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development on the occasion of the 34th session of the IFAD Governing Council

Mr. Chairman,
Fellow Governors and Delegates,
The President of IFAD,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

First your Excellencies, allow me to extend the felicitation of the President and Commander in Chief of Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR and that of Nigerian farmers to the entire members of the Governing Board and to commend IFAD for the good arrangement put in place for the meeting.  The secretariat also deserves commendation for the high quality documents placed before us for consideration.  The clarity with which the issues have been articulated and presented will go a long way in enhancing the quality of our deliberation and the conclusions to be drawn therefrom.  The session is coming at a time when the 9th replenishment of IFAD resources is being put together for a renewed fight against poverty.  The session will no doubt afford the Governing body a rare opportunity to dialogue incisively on the issue at hand – the development of a new Generation of Successive Farmers.

The choice of a specific round table discussion topics around young women and men, particularly those living in the rural area is timely, if we are to replace our ageing farming population with new generation of successor farmers.  These specific and well thought-out topics will guide our deliberation during our two-day interaction.  It will no doubt help keep our discourse on the subject matter in sharp focus and also help us draw conclusions that will send a strong message to the International community at the highest level of political leadership.

Although poverty with all its attendant consequences still persists intractably especially on the continent of Africa, at least the issue of rural poverty today occupies a centre stage in the International Development Agenda.  IFAD must take a substantial part of the credit for the global reawakening to the realities of our time.

My delegation believes that IFAD should continue to double up its effort to contribute to global efforts to reduce poverty and to promote food security.  IFAD has the comparative advantage in the world today over any organization. 

  "Like slavery, poverty is not natural.  It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.  And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity.  It is an act of justice.  It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.  While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."These preceding words of the African sage Nelson Mandela painfully painted the wicked picture of poverty in the world today. 

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, the key to achieving the MDGs is clear and simple for everyone to see: progress in Agriculture/rural development. Without increased agricultural productivity, production and income, achievement of the MDGs will continue to be off-track.  I therefore seek this opportunity to call on all Member Nations to support the ninth Replenishment of IFAD, the planned work programme during the replenishment period, by contributing generously to its success.

Nigeria is committed to the ideal and ideas of IFAD.  Our pledge of US$15.0m and subsequent payment to the eighth Replenishment is a strong and clear demonstration of our commitment to enable IFAD use its full potential to fight poverty and enhance food security.  IFAD since its establishment, has consistently demonstrated its strength and capacity to contribute to global efforts to reduce poverty and promote food security. 

On behalf of over one billion hungry and poor people around the world, the smallholder farmers, fishers, herders, landless and above all, poor rural women who, tragically account for majority of the poor that look unto IFAD for succor, I wish the Governing Council a fruitful deliberation.

For IFAD to do more, and to do better in area of our comparative advantage i.e. fighting poverty, I believe we must move forward on three major fronts.

First, we must expand our resources so that we can reach more people.  In a rapidly changing environment, I would like to see our programme of work and Project Development to include ways and means of accommodating components that will mitigate the effect of climatic change which has now become a reality and staring at us. 

Second, we must emphasize in our programme design and development the value chain approach of Production, Storage, Processing and Marketing, if we are to generate the much needed employment for our teeming youths that form over 20% of our population.

Third, to ensure effective/quality drawdown of resources and programme performance in line with programme design, we must ensure higher percentage or in some components one hundred percent financing plan by IFAD.  This will go along in addressing the current chronic problem of counterpart funding by most countries.

In addition to the three (3) on-going IFAD Projects, Nigeria is currently implementing a comprehensive value chain Commercial Agricultural Development Programme (CADP), in the major sub sectors of Agriculture namely; Crops, Livestock Fisheries and Rural Development as a way of developing the new generation of successor farmers.  It is our hope that the preparation of the IFAD supported value chain programme will soon be completed to enable project implementation to commence as soon as possible.  The current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR in his effort to the provision of gainful employment for our youth, is committed to massive investments of resources for the provision of infrastructure in our rural areas to improve the standard of living and reduce poverty.

On this note, I wish the Council a fruitful deliberation.

Thank you for your attention

19 February 2011