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IFAD: When food security matters

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THE number of hungry people around the world continues to rise and it is now estimated by food agencies that there is an estimated two billion people facing food insecurity globally at a ‘moderate or severe level’.  

In Zimbabwe, years of poor rainfall, crop pests and livestock diseases have undermined the population’s food security.

Topping the list of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals is Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2), which is, ending global poverty and hunger.  

But is this shared ambition achievable?

According to Gilbert Houngbo, president of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): “It will only happen if the world finds the right balance between meeting rising food demands while simultaneously preserving the environment and building community resilience…a man-made travesty that will only worsen as agriculture is increasingly affected by climate change.”

IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo

Due to climate change, environmental degradation, deforestation, mining and other man-induced global environmental ruin, 22 percent of cultivated land areas will suffer impacts by 2050; agricultural production will shrink and rising ocean temperatures and acid levels will lead to a decline in fish stocks.  

At the same time, as urban populations grow, demand for food will more than double.  

As a result, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that 60 percent more food will be required by 2050 to sustain the rapidly-growing world population.

In 2018, Houngbo, while speaking to global leaders at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum, elucidated on the tenuous balance between feeding the world, protecting the environment and the role of the poorest most marginalised families. 

The EAT Stockholm Food Forum attracts more than 500 top global leaders each year, from science, politics, business to civil society to share knowledge and best practices, and co-ordinate action across sectors and disciplines to tackle the interrelated challenges of the global food system. 

The food forum also exposes the threats rural communities face as climatic changes impact on essential ingredients used in their traditional foods and daily meals. 

During the same forum, Alessandro Demaio, the CEO of EAT, said: “How we switch food from being a driver of many of our greatest global health and environmental challenges to instead becoming a powerful tool for tackling them, is one of the most critical questions of our time. 

Just as these challenges are intimately intertwined, our actions to address them must be integrated across sectors, disciplines and continents. 

As such, the work of international organisations such as IFAD is critical. 

Decisive contributions toward the urgent food transformation is needed to meet the 2030 Agenda.”

The International Fund for Agriculture Development is an international financial institution and a specialised UN agency based in Rome, Italy.  

It was established in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the World Food Conference held in 1974, in that city, which has become the UN food and agriculture hub since 1948 when an international conference on agriculture was held in 1905, that ultimately led to the creation of the International Institute of Agriculture – now FAO. 

Through agriculture development, IFAD “…works for a world without poverty and hunger…,” a vision shared with Sweden, a founding member of the Fund. 

Together, they also share ‘a commitment to increasing sustainable inclusive investments in agriculture and rural development’, a traditional focus for Swedish development co-operation, not least because Sweden used to be an agrarian country. 

Since its establishment in 1977, IFAD has dedicated over 40 years to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.  

Its local level operations keep IFAD in continuous and direct contact with the rural poor.

Headquartered in Rome, Italy, IFAD operates 40 country offices across the developing world.  

Its work tackles the root causes of poverty and contributes directly to the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The international fund tackles poverty not only as a lender, but also as an advocate for rural poor people. 

Its multi-lateral base provides a natural global platform to discuss important policy issues that influence the lives of rural poor people as well as draw attention to the importance of rural development in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals. 

Working with the rural poor, governments, donors, NGOs and many other partners, the development agency invests in rural communities by focusing on country-specific solutions with an emphasis on poverty reduction in rural areas where 80 percent of the world’s poorest people live, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen their resilience. 

Ninety percent of member-states’ contributions are invested by IFAD) in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, including 30 percent in fragile situations and 50 percent in Africa. 

About 40-to-50 percent of IFAD’s resources are channelled to sub-Saharan Africa for development projects that cover North Africa, West and Central Africa, East and Southern Africa.

The Fund’s investment not only helps rural women and men to produce more food, but also initiates businesses.

Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD works in partnership with governments to develop and finance programmes and projects that enable rural poor people to overcome poverty.  

Issues that shape IFAD’s work are food security, climate change, water and natural resource management, land tenure, gender issues in agriculture and natural resource management, indigenous peoples, rural finance, remittances and knowledge management.  

IFAD provides finance for agricultural development projects primarily for food production; agricultural technology, monitoring and evaluation, research and development, training, architecture and design, financial services, anti-poverty and social justice, economic policy and project support as well as facilitate rural poor peoples’ access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources. 

The nine major areas supported by IFAD are agricultural development, financial services, rural infrastructure, livestock, fisheries, capacity and institution-building, storage/food processing/marketing, research/extension/training and small and medium scale enterprise development.  

To build broad local ownership of the programmes it sponsors, the Funding Agency works in partnership with others like borrowing governments, poor rural people and their organisations and other donor agencies.

It has designed and implemented projects in very different natural, socio-economic and cultural environments; many of which have been in remote areas. 

IFAD helps rural poor people to sustainably manage their natural resources and participate actively in decisions that affect their lives through better governance, improved access to land and water for productive and domestic use, as well as environmental services.  

Through the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme, IFAD also works with farming families to adapt to the very tangible impacts of climate change in their communities. 

Its focus on local development has given the International Fund a role in bridging the gap between multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors on one side and civil society, represented by NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs), on the other.

Since operations began in 1978, IFAD has provided over US$20 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached approximately 476 million people.  

Dr Tony Monda is Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst-consultant. He is currently conducting veterinary epidemiology, agro-economic and food security research in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa.

For views and comments, email: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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