The World Economic Forum is being held this week in Davos, Switzerland. This year’s theme is “Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild.”
Among the issues being discussed are global food security and poverty.
For the first time, the U.N. rural poverty agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has been invited to attend.
IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze told delegates that an opportunity exists to link smallholder farms to the private sector.
“My message is very, very, very simple,” he says, “that smallholder agriculture is crucial to the economic growth of developing countries.”
“From our experience, we know that smallholder farmers produce the majority of food that is consumed in the developing world…and that access to inputs and access to markets are essential. And this is where the private sector has a key role to play,” he says.
Nwanze says smallholder farms do what big commercial farms don’t.
“Smallholder farmers are the farmers that produce the food in rural areas. Big companies do not go to rural areas in the developing world. Thirty percent of the population lives in rural areas, where they have little or no infrastructure. These are the farmers that feed those populations.”
It’s important for smallholder farmers to organize and have access to seeds, fertilizers, tools and financing, he says.
“Today, people are preoccupied with the emergency assistance to Haiti, which is good. That is what we need immediately. What happens tomorrow? What are the medium- and long-term solutions to Haiti’s sustainable development?”
It’s done, he says, by ensuring rural Haitian farmers can produce food with the right support and infrastructure. “This is where the big companies are not players.”
Last year, the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy pledged $20 billion for agriculture.
“We were so gratified and happy during the G8,” he says, “when the world community recognized the role of smallholder agriculture in global food security…. I’m happy to tell you that today the United States is taking leadership with the establishment of a global fund for agricultural development.”
The fund will operate through auspices of the World Bank. Besides the U.S. commitment, Nwanze says Canada and Spain have already given support.
Africa will be the primary focus of the fund at the outset.
“So there is hope that we will begin to see changes in the way developing countries support themselves in producing their own food,” he says.
The head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development says major changes could be seen within the next five to 10 years. But he adds it will take long-term domestic and international investment.
“We also need to have the political will and the political leadership of these countries to be committed to put their own resources in and to be able to leverage additional resources from the international community,” he says.
In that happens, he says, more progress will be made toward reaching the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015.