Statement by Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), at the G77 & China October meeting

IFAD's role in achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals

27 October 2017
FAO HQ, Rome, Italy

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two years ago the international community came together and took the bold step of committing to an ambitious agenda for sustainable development, one that would "leave no-one behind." This promise is at the core of the 2030 Agenda, in both humanitarian and development terms. By virtue of this promise, the Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals embody a commitment not only to eliminate hunger and poverty, but to overcome inequality and marginalization.

Nowhere is this more important than in rural areas, where three quarters of the world’s poorest and hungry people live. 

The root causes of many of today’s development challenges can only be addressed through a comprehensive approach. Conflict, drought, political instability and increasing forced migration all can be seen as somehow related to the impoverishment and neglect of rural areas. And underlying these challenges are deeper causes like competition over natural resources, environmental degradation and the effects of climate change, social exclusion, lack of resilience of food systems, and youth unemployment.

The transformation of rural areas is therefore critical. Prosperous rural areas and resilient rural livelihoods could be at the heart of stable, peaceful societies in which young people can thrive, women are empowered, healthy children are adequately nourished and educated, with economic benefits for all.

So, how do we create these vibrant communities and inclusive economies? By investing in rural women and men to promote a transformation that will increase prosperity, advance food security and nutrition, and create decent jobs for greater human dignity.

That is our humble ambition in IFAD. Since 1978, we have provided US$19 billion in grants and highly concessional loans to projects that have reached about 470 million people.

Agriculture is the main business of rural areas, and rising demand for food should mean greater opportunities for rural people to increase their incomes and food security. Agriculture can also drive economic growth that leads to other livelihood opportunities in farming and off-farm activities.

However, there are numerous gaps. Without adequate infrastructure, finance, training and access to markets, smallholder farmers have little prospect of benefitting from modern value chains. There also needs to be a policy framework in place, for example on land tenure, securing their rights to productive resources and providing an enabling environment.

With the right kinds of investments —providing not just money but know-how and technology -- we can unblock the situation.

Let me give you a concrete example of what I mean. IFAD has seen that with access to new technologies, training and finance, rural youth can build livelihoods for themselves without having the urge to migrate. They can simultaneously contribute to the food security and long-term prosperity of their communities and nations.

In the Niger Delta, IFAD is supporting a project through which university graduates are acting as intermediaries between small-scale market-oriented farmers, and large-scale agro-industries and wholesalers. These young “agripreneurs” provide business development services to young people interested in agro-based activities, including not just farming but small-scale processing, input supply and marketing. As a result, almost 100,000 jobs have been created in areas previously prone to violence and crime.

In another initiative to create opportunity in rural areas and alternatives to migration, IFAD is planning to launch the Smallholder and SME Investment Finance Fund (SIF), which will  mobilize private sector resources for investment in rural SMEs. The SIF will also include a particular focus on promoting youth agripreneurship and financial inclusion. And it will provide a vehicle for direct finance of youth enterprises.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In addition to prioritizing youth, IFAD is also committed to women’s empowerment. In fact, gender is the most comprehensively monitored dimension in IFAD's results system.

Gender is a crosscutting issue that relates to all of the SDGs, including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. It has been estimated that agricultural output in developing countries could be increased by 2.5 to 4 per cent if women farmers had the same access to productive inputs as men.

Investing in women is an investment in families, food security, education and equality. But at this point, rather than report these results, I’d like to show them to you with a short film, and let you hear from project participants themselves.

{show “Zanzibar: equality through education”}

What you have just seen illustrates what we mean by “transforming lives and livelihoods”. It includes not only expanded production and incomes, but better nutrition, education and gender empowerment.

In addition to mainstreaming gender and youth in our portfolio, we are also integrating the  cross-cutting issues of climate resilience and nutrition into our investment projects. We aim to reach 100 per cent climate mainstreaming by 2018.

The vulnerability of food production to climate change was recognized in the Paris Agreement on climate change. Before that, IFAD had created the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme in 2012. Today, ASAP is the largest global financing source dedicated to supporting the adaptation of smallholders to climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We know that at current rates of investment, if we continue with “business as usual” we will not achieve the SDGs. This is underscored by the disturbing finding of the 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, that the number of undernourished people has increased to 815 million.

Against this background, and with demand for IFAD financing increasing from its Member States, we are sharpening our strategies and business model to deliver more and better results. We are also aligning ourselves with the ongoing UN Reform process, which is specifically aimed at increasing the whole system’s coordination, efficiency and ability to support achievement of the SDGs. And despite mounting pressures on Official Development Assistance, multilateral institutions must continue to play a pivotal role in supporting action on a global scale to address the world’s most pressing issues.

But to deliver more, we also need more resources. Therefore we are proposing to increase IFAD’s programme of loans and grants to US$ 3.5 billion for the period 2019 to 2021.

To reach that goal we are adopting a new financial strategy to diversify and expand resource mobilization. IFAD is becoming more and more an assembler of development finance, in addition to being an investor itself. We are leveraging official development assistance to generate new resources for rural transformation, and to help countries reach their development goals.

The 2030 Agenda is country-led and country-owned. We are adopting strategies to increase both domestic and international cofinancing of projects. IFAD is also pursuing a plan for decentralization to expand our presence on the ground and to get closer to our borrowing countries and the communities we are serving. We have seen that this country presence leads to better results.

We are also placing stronger emphasis on policy engagement and partnerships to help build government capacity not only to expand investment in the agriculture sector, but also to sustain it over time. We are also targeting increased domestic cofinancing of projects we support.

IFAD works in some of the most remote areas of the world, where few development agencies venture. It goes without saying that all our projects are directed toward the poorest communities in our borrowing countries. Investing in rural transformation is particularly important in least-developed countries where a high percentage of the population lives in rural areas. Rural investment needs to be at the heart of their national development strategies.

Enhancing a focus on results and innovation across its operations is at the heart of IFAD's efforts to achieve the SDGs. A new Development Effectiveness Framework, drawing on the experience of IFAD's innovative Impact Evaluation initiative, is improving the focus on results and key SDG 2 targets such as increased production, doubling productivity and smallholders' incomes, and enhancing access to markets and increasing resilience.

We are also stepping up our approach to South-South and Triangular Cooperation SSTC and strategic partnerships, including with the other Rome-based agencies and a range of private and public actors. SSTC initiatives ensure that the knowledge generated from IFAD-supported operations has wider impacts outside individual projects, through the sharing of lessons learned and successful approaches.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Around 3 billion of the world’s people live in the rural areas of developing countries. They include most of the world’s poorest and hungriest; thus, poverty and hunger are predominantly rural issues.

IFAD was created to serve these populations —with long-term investment to change economies and communities so that, once banished, hunger and poverty do not return.

Our goal has always been sustainability. Investment in rural areas can help farmers and other poor people become rural entrepreneurs.

Revitalized smallholder agriculture can be the basis for new jobs and new industries along the length of the agricultural value chain. Such transformation can make rural areas places where the youth of today, and the children of tomorrow will want to live.

Thank you.