Brazilian President: IFAD is ‘doing essential work’

Lula addresses high-level conference on food security and South-South Cooperation in Brasilia

In this week’s Brazil-Africa Dialogue on Food Security, Fighting Hunger and Rural Development, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), along with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), are essential for food security in the developing world.

The President went on to say that IFAD is well position to help local programs ensure that smallholder farmers have access to credit and land titles. In his panoramic speech, Lula also called for increased knowledge sharing between Africa and Brazil, and a line of credit to help Latin America and Africa modernize their agricultural technology.

Technology, of course, is something that Brazil does not lack. After all, the national agricultural research institution Embrapa has some 8000 employees, more than 2000 with PhDs, and the nation invests around 1 per cent of GDP into agricultural research each year.

But aside from the technology Brazil can share with Africa – advanced crops, new seeds, better planting techniques – Lula acknowledged that with his country becoming a donor nation, Brazil has to put money into its budget to work toward food security in places like Africa.

“Tackling poverty is only possible if… we address it as a priority issue for every country,” said Lula, adding that Brazil has weathered the world economic crisis well in large part because the nation’s poor are integrated into the economic machinery. “The ability of poor people to consume – especially in the North-East of the country – helped Brazil withstand the world economic crisis.”

IFAD-funded projects in the North-East state of Bahia may also have helped smallholder farmers withstand the battering winds of the economic crisis.

“The Rural Communities Development Project targets the poorest rural municipalities of Bahia – an area where agricultural productivity is very limited,” said Josefina Stubbs, Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division. “Being a semi-arid region, most smallholder farmers struggle to cultivate the land at a subsistence level and are forced to migrate to urban areas during the dry season. With this in mind, we are funding projects that aim to improve management of water resources and, of course, improve productivity and environmental stewardship.”

But IFAD’s contribution to South-South Cooperation extends well beyond the Brazilian countryside, and in her address at the conference, IFAD Vice President Yukiko Omura said that the organization is well-positioned “to serve as a key partner, mediator and facilitator for South-South Cooperation,” also noting that South-South trade has intensified in recent years.

“Brazil, along with China and India, is leading this trend as its trade volume with Africa rose from US$5 billion in 2002 to $19.9 billion in 2007,” Omura said in her address. “Part of the reason for this positive trend is the fact that the infrastructure sector has become a priority for development. We must not forget that without them, trade – and rural development – is difficult if not impossible. In the end, water, energy, roads, ports and telecommunication are essential elements to development and growth. Further, without infrastructure of any magnitude – from small feeder roads to large ports and highways, water for irrigation, energy for automation and telecommunication for access to market information – food security will not be achieved.”