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Ban highlights UN role in improving agriculture, boosting food security

Ban highlights UN role in improving agriculture, boosting food security

Farming in Madagascar
The United Nations system must play its role in ensuring that farmers can increase their production, at a time when the global financial crisis is compounding the impact of the food crisis, making the challenges facing the world’s most vulnerable all the more difficult, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“We know that world poverty cannot be reduced without improvements in agriculture, especially smallholder agriculture,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the 32nd session of the Governing Council of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which opened today in Rome.

The two-day annual meeting of IFAD’s Governing Council comes against a backdrop of volatile food prices and deepening global recession. The agency says that despite efforts to boost agricultural production in response to the commodity price rises of 2008, most of the increase in yields has been in developed countries. Agricultural production in developing nations has risen by less than one per cent overall.

“Poor farmers can raise their productivity, and double, or even triple, their output,” noted Mr. Ban. “The United Nations system must play its role in ensuring they do so.”

The Secretary-General stressed the need to address the immediate needs of the world’s hungry, as well as contribute to longer-term global food and nutrition security by building resilience to challenges and crises, including climate change, that endanger the hard-fought development gains already achieved.

“IFAD is a crucial ally of the world’s smallholder farmers,” he added, noting in particular the way the agency’s membership has responded to the effective reforms the Fund has undertaken during the recent difficult times and recognized the Fund’s crucial role by agreeing to the largest replenishment of resources in IFAD’s history – a 67 per cent increase over the previous replenishment.

As a result, over the next four years, IFAD will provide some $3.7 billion in financing for agricultural programmes and projects in developing countries, with a total cost, including co-financing with other partners, of about $8.5 billion.

IFAD President Lennart Båge, addressing his final Governing Council meeting, underlined the need to re-engage with agriculture, where investment has declined steadily over the past two decades. He stressed that boosting production “requires increased political attention and much greater investment in the whole agricultural value chain.”

He added that the food and fuel price volatility today presents an ongoing challenge for the world’s most vulnerable peoples. “The stark fact is that long-term supply is not keeping pace with demand,” he said, emphasizing that “bad weather in any major producing area, or other temporary factors, will easily lead to a spike in food prices.”

In addition to addressing issues of food price volatility, climate change and access to land, the 165-member Governing Council is also tasked with electing a new President for the agency, whose mandate is to help rural people pull themselves out of poverty.

The Council chose Kanayo F. Nwanze of Nigeria, who is currently Vice-President of IFAD, as its next President.

Mr. Nwanze, who takes up his post on 1 April, stressed that achieving concrete results and impact on the ground with the agency’s projects and programmes will continue to be at the core of IFAD.

“Our challenge will be to make agriculture the central focus of Governments, reduce poverty and hunger and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he added, referring to the globally agreed targets aimed at slashing poverty, hunger, infant and maternal mortality, and lack of access to health care and education, all by 2015.