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A small army of social reporters covered IFAD’s 2012 Governing Council of UN member states last week, attracting unprecedented online attention to the meeting at the agency’s Rome headquarters. This robust virtual presence supplemented regular media coverage of the high-profile gathering, which featured heads of state and other top officials and policy makers, as well as one of the world’s leading philanthropists.

The GC convenes annually to guide IFAD’s strategic investments in smallholder agricultural development and poverty reduction. Its theme this year – ‘Feeding the world, protecting the planet’ – emphasized the need to make rural livelihoods more viable and environmentally sustainable in an era of population growth and climate change.

Concurrent with the GC this year, IFAD’s biennial Farmers’ Forum also filled the agency’s conference rooms and corridors with representatives of small-scale producers’ organizations around the globe.

Throughout the meetings, the social reporters blogged, tweeted, and posted photos and videos on IFAD’s various social media platforms. In total, the GC and Farmers’ Forum produced some 5,900 tweets (under the hashtags #ifadgc and #fafo12), which appeared in Twitter feeds with millions of followers worldwide. The main speakers and panels, plus many side events, were also webcast live.

To review all of the GC and Farmers’ Forum posts, check the ‘blog archive’ links in the lower right column of this web page. Links to a small sampling of individual blog posts follow.

IFAD President looks ahead.  In the run-up to the GC, the President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze, shared his high expectations for the 2012 meeting in a brief video interview.

‘Youth in Agriculture.’ At a Farmers’ Forum pre-meeting held on 18 February, about 30 delegates from rural youth organizations developed action plans to help make agriculture a viable option for young entrepreneurs in developing nations.

‘The future is in our hands.’ The Farmers’ Forum kicked off on 20 February with a grassroots focus on the challenges faced by smallholder farmers and fishers around the world.

Smallholders and Rio+20. On the second day of the Farmers’ Forum, a working group on the upcoming Rio+20 conference reflected smallholders’ perspectives on climate change and agriculture, and their determination to be heard by world leaders.

Governing Council opens. As the GC began on 22 February, there was a palpable sense of anticipation about the presence of two heads of state, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who delivered keynote speeches that day.

Meeting women farm leaders. After the opening speeches at the GC reaffirmed the central role of women and youth in smallholder agriculture, a Farmers’ Forum side event on women’s leadership got down to the nitty-gritty of development work and gender equality.

‘What will Rio herald for agriculture?’ At this compelling GC centre-stage event, Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, called for decision makers to put farmers first and allow them to produce food sustainably.

The role of remittances. The immense development potential of rural investments by communities in the diaspora catalysed an animated discussion at this GC side event, organized by IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances.

Gates at centre stage. On day two of the GC, following a keynote address by Italian Minister for International Cooperation Andrea Riccardi, philanthropist Bill Gates offered his views on a different future for smallholder agriculture. Another take on the Gates event is here , and a blog post about the expanding partnership between IFAD and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is here.

By the time the GC and Farmers’ Forum wrapped up, participants had been informed, inspired and challenged by these discussions and many more. And IFAD, through its social reporting network, had captured that excitement and shared it with interested and influential people worldwide.