Statement by IFAD President to the opening session of the Thirty-fifth Session of the Governing Council

Madam Chairperson,
Distinguished Governors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of everyone at IFAD – here at headquarters and in the field – I warmly welcome you to the thirty-fifth session of our Governing Council.

Thank Members
In this period of economic uncertainty for so much of the world, at a time when global financial crisis is hitting so many national budgets, we are grateful for your unwavering support.

You have proven that you have the perseverance, the determination and the patience to invest in long-term growth when you decided on a substantial increase of IFAD's programme of work for the ninth replenishment.

We are grateful for the faith you have shown in IFAD and your belief in what we do. Not only did we receive considerable support from our traditional development partners, we also received significant contributions from middle income countries, emerging economies, and from countries that are more often aid recipients than contributors.  

The environment and climate change
The theme of this year's Governing Council is "Sustainable smallholder agriculture:  Feeding the World, protecting the planet".

It was chosen in support of the upcoming Rio Plus 20 conference, and reflects the impact of environmental degradation on agriculture and smallholder farmers, which climate change is magnifying at an alarming rate.

In recognition of this, and to help implement IFAD's  environment policy and climate change strategy, we have developed a ground-breaking initiative:  the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme –- or ASAP – which will help channel finance into climate-smart, sustainable investments in poor smallholder communities.

Highlights of 2009-2011
Climate change is just one of the challenges that we will face head-on in the years ahead. But thanks to the transformations that have occurred over the past three years, IFAD stands ready to deliver on its promises.

When you elected me three years ago to lead IFAD, I promised to consolidate and deepen the change and reform process. I promised to make IFAD an ever-stronger ally for poor rural people. And I promised to keep agriculture at the top of national and international agendas.

Today, IFAD is a transformed institution. We are delivering more results, reaching more people. We are more efficient, more effective and more transparent than at any other point in our history.

The numbers speak for themselves. We have surpassed our efficiency targets for IFAD8.

Our efficiency ratio, a measurement of the administration budget against spending on loans and grants, will drop to 12.5 per cent in 2012. Our target was 13.5 per cent.

Today, 67 per cent of our workforce is assigned to programmes. Our target was 65 per cent. 

And projects are being implemented more quickly, with less time from approval to first disbursement. In turn, our project participants are reached faster and their lives transformed more quickly.

Our organization has been strengthened, restructured and revitalized.

Our new office of Strategy and Knowledge Management is a powerful tool to ensure that our work is guided by state-of-the-art thinking.

Our new office for Partnership and Resource Mobilization will help us promote agricultural development and enlist the participation of other institutions.

Our new Ethics Office is helping us adhere to the best ethical practices of international financial institutions.

Financial oversight
As an international financial institution,  we are aware of the importance of strong financial oversight.

Last year, we established a separate Financial Operations Department, headed by a Chief Financial Officer. We reorganized the Controller and Financial Services Division and strengthened our Treasury Services Division.

We have adopted a results-based budgeting system. We are conducting mid-year budget reviews, and our medium-term plan will further improve our accountability.

We have further improved our financial oversight by bringing in new external auditors for the first time in IFAD's history.

And last year, also for the first time, our replenishment consultations were headed by an external chair.

We have also continued to expand our country presence, with the number of staff in country offices reaching 64 by the end of 2011. At the end of last year, IFAD was financing 240 programmes and projects in 94 countries and one territory.

Consider that four years ago, only 18 per cent of the projects we financed were directly supervised by us. By July 2011, this had risen to 93 per cent.

Direct supervision at the country level has helped us deliver a larger programme of loans and grants. It has helped us reach more people and it has strengthened the quality of our work on the ground. It has also deepened our policy dialogue with governments. We have found that countries with IFAD country offices perform better than countries without.

IFAD's ability to scale up means we are reaching more people, changing more lives. In 2010, 43.1 million people obtained services through IFAD-supported projects, compared with 29.2 million in 2007.

External assessment
All of these measures have made us more agile, more effective and more consistent in our ability to deliver results. This is not simply our judgement. It is also the judgement of IFAD's Independent Office of Evaluation, and of reviews and assessments by third parties, including the Australian, British and Swedish governments, the Brookings Institution, the OECD/DAC, and the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network [MOPAN].

The work we have been doing to make IFAD an effective instrument for leveraging resources is paying off. For every dollar contributed to IFAD during our Eighth replenishment, we mobilized another six dollars for rural development programmes.

I would like to take a moment to thank all IFAD staff, here at headquarters and in the field. They are our greatest and most precious resource. It is their dedication, their commitment and their professionalism that have made the dramatic changes at IFAD possible. And it is their commitment and professionalism that will allow us to deliver on our more ambitious programme of work in the years ahead.

Wherever you are: In Brazil, India, Kenya, Senegal, Viet Nam or here in Rome, I salute you all!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have stayed true to IFAD's mandate and mission; we have stayed true to IFAD's values. We have stayed true to IFAD's modus operandi of partnership, and working from the bottom up. Our efforts enable poor rural people to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and manage their own lives.

The changes we have introduced will allow us to do more and to do it better. They will allow us to scale up, and to be more effective and more efficient at the same time. They will allow us to help in transforming more lives.

In demand
This is an exciting time to be working in rural development, and to be working at IFAD.  
Our growing programme of work has made us a significant player in rural and agricultural development.

Our experience and knowledge, based on almost 35 years of working in remote areas where few development partners and International Financial Institutions have ventured, sets us apart from others in our field.

Our voice – and the voice of poor rural people around the world – is growing louder. 

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, at G8 and G20 meetings and at the Durban climate change conference last December and the Rio Plus 20 conference this summer – we have continually raised the issue that is close to our heart.  Smallholder farmers can feed themselves and they can help feed the world.

And our message is being heard. The time has come for smallholders to play their rightful role in contributing to economic growth and food security.

Simply stated, agriculture is a growth industry. With the world population expected to pass 9 billion by 2050, demand for food is  guaranteed to rise in the coming years.

Our job is to make it possible for small farmers, and everyone living in rural areas, to be part of this growth industry by realising their potential. As more people migrate to the cities, those who stay behind will become even more important, because agriculture is primarily a rural activity.

When these farmers are recognized as small entrepreneurs, when they have access to better resources and incentives, and when they have access to markets and an enabling environment, they can transform their communities, their own lives, and indeed the world. We should remember that some 2 billion people live and work on the world's small farms.

View from the field
Let me give you three quick examples – and what I am going to tell you is not what my staff has reported back to me, but what I have seen myself.

In Kenya, I met Jane Njaguara who is able to send her children to school thanks to the profits from her dairy business, that started with just one goat. She now employs others, providing income and opportunities for her community.

And in the South Gansu province of China, an area that suffers from frequent drought similar to the harsh conditions in many parts of Africa, farmers are able to feed themselves and their families. And they are also increasing their incomes.

In the village of Jiao He, I met a farmer named Li Guo Chin whose income was less than $2 a day in 2006. Today, his gross income has risen to about $35-a-day.

And in Guatemala I met Pedro Tun. Mr Tun is a smallholder farmer and president of a producers' association.

With the backing of an IFAD-supported project they were able to buy irrigation equipment, build a new storage facility and work with private-sector partners to bring their produce to new markets. Today, they sell to some of the biggest retailers in the world, including Wal-Mart of the U.S.

These are the people we work with. Small agricultural activities have made it possible for them to feed their families, buy medication, educate their children, rebuild their homes and invest in their businesses.

What has impressed me the most in all of the programmes and rural communities I have visited, is the resilience of the people; the desire, the commitment and the ability of people to transform their own lives.

Looking ahead
What does the future look like?

The IFAD9 consultations have given us a road map to 2015, and we are already heading down the road.

We will consolidate our country presence. And we will consolidate our institutional reform, especially of Human Resources.

Our job audit will strengthen the alignment between jobs and IFAD's strategic objectives.

Our corporate-level efficiency review – which I believe is the first of its kind for any IFI or UN agency – will allow us to provide our Members with even more value for money. 

With a significantly improved Results Measurement Framework we will demonstrate our commitment to delivering results. We will be able to provide a broader and more in-depth assessment of development impact – in particular, the number of people we lift out of poverty. 

And we will sharpen the focus on IFAD's scaling up objectives.

We will also be expanding our partnerships with the private sector, making smallholder farmers more visible business partners in their efforts to feed the world.

The Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme will make IFAD a leader in climate-smart funding for smallholders.

And we will expand our presence in fragile states and the remote areas of developing countries where IFAD has always worked.

Contributing to the MDGs
The period of our Ninth Replenishment coincides with the final years of the global campaign to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The work that we do in the coming years will contribute directly towards meeting the first goal, of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger. We expect to reach 80 to 90 million people by the end of IFAD9, in 2015.

It will contribute to the third goal of gender equality and the seventh goal of protecting the environment. And it will contribute indirectly towards most of the other MDGs, because poverty and hunger are at the root of so many of the world's problems.

At every forum, at every conference, every meeting and every summit, we will continue to be the voice of the smallholder farmer, fisherperson, pastoralist, the landless farm worker, and of women and youth. 

In virtually all rural societies, women are the primary caregivers. But they are also, increasingly, the farmers and the agricultural workers. They will be our primary target.

We must also look to the needs of young people. We must harness their tremendous energy and provide opportunities for them, particularly in rural areas.

We will need the young people of today to be the farmers of tomorrow. And by creating a range of employment options for young people in rural areas, we can help stem the exodus of people to cities, and abroad.

As we work to implement our IFAD9 goals, we will do so in partnership.

Those of you who attended the Farmers' Forum earlier this week will have had a chance to meet some of our most important partners – farmers from developing countries. Our biennial Farmers' Forum brings together leaders of farmers' organizations from around the world to network with each other and with IFAD staff and partners.

We will also continue to forge stronger bonds with our sister agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), here in Rome.

I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues -- José Graziano da Silva at FAO, and Ertharin Cousin when she moves to the World Food Programme in April.

We will capitalize on our strengths and synergies along the continuum from humanitarian assistance to development, as we work together to improve food security and eliminate poverty and hunger.
I know the year ahead will not be easy. The economic uncertainty that plagued so many countries last year looks set to continue. I know that many of our Members have pressing short-term domestic needs.

But I am confident that you will continue to have the determination to continue to invest in the long-term.

Agriculture and rural development is essential for lasting food and nutrition security. It is a pathway to employment, wealth creation and economic growth. It is the basis for social cohesion, gender empowerment and equality. It is the foundation for global peace and security.

Together, we have the ability to create a better future for millions of people. Let us prove that we have the perseverance and determination to make a difference.

Thank you.

Rome, 22 February 2012