IFAD President at the African Union to support development of action plans to reach 2015 Millennium Development Goals and beyond

Rome, 26 March 2012 - As the deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comes ever-closer, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will join African ministers at high-level meetings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to plan concrete actions to push growth in the continent by ensuring that agriculture is at the top of their agendas.

The 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set by the United Nations (UN) in 2000. These goals establish quantitative benchmarks to tackle extreme poverty in all its forms by 2015. With only three years left, Africa is reporting mixed progress in achieving the goals.

“Increasing investment in agriculture is essential to achieving the MDGs,” said Nwanze, prior to leaving for the Ethiopian capital.

Investments in agriculture are more effective in lifting people out of poverty than investments in any other sector. They not only drive economic growth and set the stage for long-term sustainable development, they pay high dividends in terms of quality of life and dignity for poor rural people.

“The experience of IFAD has shown that agriculture is a business, and our business is to make sure smallholder agriculture is profitable so that rural communities can thrive,” Nwanze emphasized, adding that “to accelerate progress in meeting the MDGs, agriculture must be viewed as the main engine of economic growth.”

The challenge today is to help build the capacity of smallholders and their organizations so that they can become viable rural businesses, particularly for women and young people who shoulder the future of African smallholder farming.

“Young people under the age of 14, now make up 42 per cent of Africa’s population. It is encouraging to see that enrolment and completion rates for primary and secondary schooling is improving in nearly all countries, for girls as well as boys” added Nwanze.

The Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the UN Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development  will focus on how to plan post-2015. Nwanze will address the ministers on his vision for ensuring smallholder farmers are at the centre of any plan for post-2015.

At the Addis meetings IFAD will speak on behalf of the continent’s smallholder farmers, who represent 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa and contribute up to 90 per cent of production in some countries.

“Climate change is already impacting sub-Saharan landscapes, and is expected to further exacerbate land degradation and compromise productivity gains and food security,” Nwanze said. Although the impact is global, wealthy nations have the means and know-how to adapt, but an African small farmer’s ability to cope with crop and livestock losses, drought or dust storms is infinitely less. In Africa, big swings in rainfall distribution in past years have meant severe droughts in eastern and southern Africa and serious hunger crises.

Africa has always been a major focus of IFAD’s work, and has traditionally received a large share of the Fund’s resources. In 2011, for example, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for about 43 per cent of IFAD funding. “We have also seen the miracles that can occur when local people are involved from the start, for example for restoration of degraded land” said Nwanze. Transformation must start from within Africa. The continent’s development must be made in Africa, by Africans, for Africans.

Press release No.: IFAD/26/2012

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested about US$13.7 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries through projects empowering about 405 million people to break out of poverty, thereby helping to create vibrant rural communities. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the United Nation’s food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 168 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).