#ifadgc leitmotif: Transformative partnerships

 By Cheryl Morden
If the theme of this year’s Governing Council (GC) focused on smallholders and sustainable agriculture, a central leitmotif was surely partnerships.  The issue was with us from the start when the President, in the opening session, described partnership as IFAD’s modus operandi and underscored that our most important partners are the farmers themselves.  

The need for partnerships was often cited when GC panelists and participants talked of the complexity of effective poverty-reducing, health-sustaining, and planet-protecting agriculture and rural development.  “Effective solutions require enormous coordination,” said one delegate.  As an example, Pamela Anderson, Director General of the International Potato Center (CIP), told of an initiative in Peru that brought together diverse actors to generate new ideas for marketable agricultural products.  The idea of making potato chips from native potatoes drew the interest of Pepsico and their engagement resulted in a doubling of potato prices at the farm gate and a doubling of smallholder productivity within four years.  This illustrates the kind of  transformative partnerships that can help smallholders move from subsistence to market-oriented production that were called for earlier by Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Much of the GC discussion pointed to the importance of getting on the same page regarding the appropriate, value-adding role of each of the many actors involved in agriculture and rural development.  The critical role of the private sector was emphasized repeatedly by representatives from farmers organizations, governments, NGOs, and the world of research.  

A host of private sector business opportunities were cited, from financial services to transportation to technical assistance to marketing and processing.  Bruce McNamer, President of Technoserve, challenged us to look for these opportunities further down the value chain – “crowding in” profit-making activities at each link in the chain.  

Governments have an equally critical role to play within the transformative partnerships that we seek.  Both Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, Akin Adesina, and Mexico’s Ambassador, Miguel Ruiz-Cabañas, insisted that national governments must lead the process, providing enabling strategies and investment in essential public goods and research.   Governments may also need to provide investment that catalyzes private sector involvement that benefits smallholders, such as instruments for risk mitigation.

And the role of IFAD?  Among other things, IFAD can be a broker to help foster relationships and collaboration among disparate actors.  And, suggested the Turkish Agriculture Minister Mehmet Mehdi Eker, at a global level, it can join with others in the UN system to provide leadership that creates the necessary support for the efforts of member states and, most importantly, for farmers.

Our new Partnership and Resource Mobilization Office is gearing up to help IFAD more fully realize its partnership and leadership potential.  The Governing Council meeting has provided ideas, energy, and inspiration to accelerate our own contribution to transformative partnerships to feed the world and protect the planet.