Upholding local knowledge and a partnership approach to building resilience

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI   
Listening to keynote speakers; Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, Kanayo F. Nwanze, the IFAD President, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP and Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn, during the inauguration of the IFPRI 2020 Conference on resilience was an inspiring reminder that the rural poor are our clients, who we must work with in close partnership – they understand the local context best and must drive approaches for building resilience. Success can be achieved through a partnership approach with smallholders at the forefront, including women, and be driven by strong national leadership.  
The IFAD President Kanayo F Nwanze drew focus on developing the resilience of the rural poor. “Investing in the resilience of smallholder farmers is investing the resilience of food systems, the resilience of communities and the strength of nations,” he said.  Outlining examples from countries that have based their economies on small holder farming such as Japan, Korea, Norway, Thailand and Vietnam, the IFAD President emphasized the need to link resilience to agriculture & nutrition.  Agriculture and rural development are essential for building resilient food and nutrition security, and he gave some hard-core facts - that there are 500 million smallholder family farms that provide for 80% of global food produce, making smallholder farmers’ key contributors to growing economies. Growth in small holder farming can drive balanced and sustainable development by transforming rural areas; particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where growth in the agriculture sector is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth generated by any other sector. 

Challenging past development approaches “conceived by experts miles away” the IFAD President  emphasized that it is important that we build partnership-based approaches that elevate local knowledge to facilitate smallholder farmers to turn farming into a business by engaging in global value chains and markets for their benefit.  “Development is not something that we do for people, Development is what people do for themselves” was a statement that evoked much debate after the speech. Ertharin Cousin and the President of IFAD also brought the need for Gender equity in all stages of programming to the table. In the words of Ertharin Cousin, women are the “world’s frontline agriculture and nutrition workers,” we cannot succeed without their ownership and engagement in resilience approaches. 

All three keynote speakers commended Ethiopia for its strong national leadership that has successfully committed to build a resilient agricultural system by dedicating 15% of the GDP to agriculture to obtain their collective vision to become a middle-income economy that is green and climate resilient. Ethiopia was able to survive the 2011, Horn of Africa crisis, which was the worst drought in 60 years. This was because of its commitment to raising the productivity of smallholder farmers, strengthening agricultural marketing systems and bringing more land under irrigation, ensuring to reduce land degradation and adopt soil and water conservation measures. Ethiopia was able to mitigate the impact of the drought on the rural poor through Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme. Ethiopia is amongst various countries that have made a serious commitment to build food and nutrition resilience and building on research based policies and these ongoing successes, Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, stressed that it is possible to end hunger by 2025, and the resilience approach “can help us tackle issues that run across the entire agriculture, food, nutrition and environmental system.”

On the side lines of the conference, the IFAD President also met with research centres that are a part of the Consortium Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIARs) to discuss ongoing partnership to increase food productivity in developing countries through the application of research-based technologies. The CGIAR centres expressed their growing relation with international organization such as IFAD, to ensure that research based policies and solutions/programmes to develop sustainable agricultural systems that are climate sensitive and develop food and nutrition security, are up scaled and implemented to create impacts to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor. 


Kanayo F Nwanze, the IFAD President, with high level representatives from research centres forming the Consortium Group on International Agricultural Research at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia