The real possibility of eradicating global hunger and poverty in our lifetime is dependent upon the international community getting more serious in supporting smallholder agriculture – a sector that supports nearly 2 billion people and produces most of the world’s food.
Tomorrow Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima will address the 38th annual Governing Council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the invitation of IFAD President Kanayo F Nwanze. The Governing Council is IFAD’s highest decision-making body, made up of 176 Member States from developing and developed countries.
Speaking to heads of state, ministers and policy makers at IFAD’s Rome headquarters on 17 February, Byanyima will say that governments must get better at focusing on “quality” investments that promote sustainable and equitable growth in the sector, by regulating private investments, aid and state budgets. In addition, she will say governments and investors must better tackle key obstacles to smallholder farmers’ livelihoods, including climate change, inequality and discrimination against women farmers, and the lack of political voice that smallholder farmers face in making their own choices.
“We need to move past a ’productionist mindset’ that focuses primarily on crop yields without considering how quality investment needs to improve farming incomes and jobs. We need agricultural investment policies to be more clearly and heavily biased in favor of smallholder farmers,” she said.
In his opening speech at IFAD’s annual meeting, Nwanze underlined the enormous challenges facing the world, including that of inequality, referencing the latest Oxfam report that shows 48 per cent of the world's wealth is in the hands of just 1 per cent of the population.
“The gap between rich and poor is primarily a gap between urban and rural,” Nwanze said. “Small-scale farmers produce up to 80 per cent of the food in developing nations, but the cruel irony is that often they are the ones who go to bed hungry, Three-quarters of the world's poorest people live in the rural areas of developing countries. We must invest in our rural areas -- so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. So that our nations can have balanced growth -- and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfil their potential.”
Byanyima said that Oxfam has seen how a blinkered drive solely for economic growth – especially in the $2.4 trillion agricultural sector – can leave the poorest behind.
“We need to promote collective producer organizations – and their political voice – and specialized enterprises that help small-holder trade. Aid needs to kick-start small rural businesses. We need to unlock the problems that cause the market system to fail poor farmers and knock down the specific barriers that women face in the sector,” she said.
“IFAD’s meeting is an important step this year in helping to define a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that could bring the tantalizing prospect of a world free from hunger and poverty a giant step closer,” she said.
Notes to editors
IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, IFAD has provided about US$16.3 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 438 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.
For media interviews and briefings:
Katie Taft, IFAD Senior Management Communications
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Maria Teresa Alvino, Oxfam Media Manager
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Read the blog: Rural transformation: Key to sustainable development