By Bernadette Mukonyora
IFAD's 36th session of the Governing Council was opened today by eminent guests and speakers who stressed the importance of IFADs role, particularly in the current context of the global food and economic crisis. The session was chaired by Minister Jesee Jacobs of Luxembourg, who stressed that the challenge of trying to do more with less. Minister Jacobs echoed the Rio+20 discussion in her opening remarks - the future that we want is one which enables us to free men and women from poverty in an environmentally sustainable manner. Speaker after speaker commended the institution’s unwavering commitment and dedication to a very unique and specific mandate. The centrality of the agriculture sector for economic growth was reiterated throughout the segment.
Archbishop Dominique Marbeti, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See shared an inspiring statement from the Pope. The message from the Holy Sea focused on the importance of agriculture in economic growth and the coherence between IFADs approach and the church doctrine. The importance of social order, collectivism, new technology (with the required prudence) to boost production and productivity are among the mutually shared principles.
Food is the source of survival for mankind. Agriculture is the foundation of economic growth, said Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Hui Liangyu. He also shared lessons learnt by the country in its journey towards reducing massive numbers of poor (250 million over 3 decades); i) keep agriculture and poverty reduction at the top of the development agenda, ii) provide active support to farmers households, iii) persistently improve agriculture production systems, iv) step up efforts to support and protect agriculture through appropriate policies, v) consider the wellbeing of the rural poor. His message to developing countries was to ensure strategies, policies and fiscal support for agriculture.
The delegates were reminded by the Italian Minister of Economic Planning, His Excellency Vittorio Grilli, that the (food and economic) crises are not over - much more needs to be done. To mitigate the challenges, agriculture has a role to play. Food production must double to meet the global food needs of a rising population ( expected to reach 9 billion by 2050). Large scale and smallholder agriculture are part of the solution. Both the private and the public sectors have a role. Government leadership is crucial to create an enabling environment and social protection and moving from ‘aid dependent to business minded farmers’.
More partnership means more impact. In his keynote address, the President of IFAD Kanayo Nwanze, highlighted the key achievements of the organization during the IFAD 8, among them an increased programme of work (by 50 percent), reaching an estimated 40 million people, expanded field presence (38 country offices in 2012) and direct supervision by IFAD. Up to 93 percent of projects are directly supervised by IFAD. In the context of these positive results, he also spoke of the increased level of co-financing of IFAD projects with other development partners, which demonstrates the Power of Partnerships.
President Nwanze acknowledged that the challenges for development today have since changed and we need to gear up to the new realities. The SKM Department was developed to ensure adequate country and global policy dialogue and strengthen learning systems in IFAD. Innovations in the Budget Unit and human resources functions would help to increase efficiency. The treasury services would also manage the Fund's overall assets and liabilities to ensure the institution is well protected.