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For a more stable and prosperous world, we must invest in long-term rural development, IFAD President tells member states

Languages: Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish

Rome, 13 February 2018 – To break the cycle that links fragility, hunger and poverty, there needs to be greater investment in long-term rural development, Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), told government representatives gathered today for the opening of the 41st Governing Council.

“Fragility creates hunger, poverty and migration,” Houngbo told the audience of development leaders and IFAD Governors. “But hunger and poverty can also lead to conflict and instability.”

Houngbo reminded the audience that 2017 was marked by multiple humanitarian crises and conflicts, record levels of forced displacements and migration, extreme weather events, and an increase of world hunger figures after a decade of decline. As world leaders set their sights on ending hunger and poverty by 2030 as part of their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said understanding the relationship between fragility, poverty and hunger is essential.

“Fragility can prevent us from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and wipe away decades of development,” he warned.

According to the OECD, in 2016 an estimated 1.6 billion people were living in fragile situations - 480 million of them in extreme poverty. Fragile situations are generally characterized by instability, conflicts, the lack of appropriate governance, weak institutions and the inability to bounce back from adverse climate and economic shocks. 

Rural areas are particularly affected by fragility which can disrupt livelihoods, increase poverty and hunger, and lead to distress migration or situations of forced displacement.

“Transforming rural areas into dynamic economies has an enormous potential and can greatly contribute to ending hunger and extreme poverty, and offer an alternative to migration.”

Houngbo called for a boost in inclusive and long-term investments in rural areas. “We need to be ambitious and we need to redouble our efforts to end poverty and hunger. The rural world is calling out to us,” he said.

Long-term investments in rural areas are fundamental to create the conditions for stability. IFAD-financed activities, for example, help smallholder farmers increase their production and incomes, as well as access to markets, technology and finance. From 2010-2015, IFAD-supported projects moved 24 million people out of poverty – 17 million of whom were living in fragile situations.

Today, 768 million people live in extreme poverty and 815 million people suffer from hunger. About 75 per cent of them live in rural areas.

To scale up its efforts to address global challenges, Houngbo said IFAD is embarking on an ambitious transformation to increase the Fund’s impact and lift more people out of poverty and hunger, and transform rural areas. In particular, he said IFAD is exploring new funding sources and new ways to leverage its resources and act at as assembler of development finance. IFAD will also enhance its work on nutrition, gender, climate change and youth.

IFAD’s mandate, to invest in rural people, has long involved working in fragile situations. During its next funding cycle (2019-2021), IFAD will spend about 25 to 30 per cent of its core resources in countries with fragile situations.

Participants at this year’s Governing Council will discuss how investing in sustainable rural livelihoods contributes to peacebuilding and social stability around the world. The Governing Council is IFAD's highest decision-making body. It consists of all of IFAD's 176 Member States and meets annually.

Press release No.: IFAD/11/2018

IFAD has invested in rural people for 40 years, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided US$19.7 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 474 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.