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Smallholders anchor sustainable development at Rio+20

n the eve of his departure for Rio de Janeiro, Kanayo F. Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), calls the Rio+20 conference a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to transform the global agriculture and food system at the speed required by putting the developing world’s 500 million smallholder farms at the heart of action-oriented plans.

“There is no magic bullet that will eliminate poverty and guarantee sustainable food security overnight,” Nwanze said. “But at IFAD, we see the hope of a sustainable future embodied in rural people’s perseverance and endurance to overcome challenges and thrive doing so. More specifically, it is personified in rural women as they are the nurturers and educators of this generation and the next.”

“The Rio+20 conference is a chance to accelerate sustainable agricultural development,” Nwanze continued. “But if we are to be truly sustainable, then we must lift the heavy burden off the backs of rural women and men and replace it with equal access to agricultural resources and climate-smart tools to build their resilience.”

Twenty years after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, world leaders will convene to discuss how to shape a sustainable future for the planet in the face of new and daunting challenges. While over the past twenty years global wealth has increased, so too has there been a rise in the number of hungry people. Climate change, population growth and constrained natural resource – as well as competition for those limited resources – represent huge challenges for food security.

Prior to the Rio+20 conference, Nwanze will be engaged as a principle speaker at several international events such as at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day and the Corporate Sustainability Forum, where he will bring his distinct message about the importance of working with small farmers and recognizing them as entrepreneurs.

“At IFAD, we believe that smallholder farmers are the anchor of sustainable development as they are the primary domestic private sector investor in rural areas,” Nwanze said. “Private sector investment, both domestic and foreign, can be the critical ingredient in achieving sustainable agricultural development and food security. But it has to be clearly directed toward enabling farmers to increase their productivity and incomes.”

As the single largest employer in the world, agriculture remains a critical sector for developing country economies. In most countries, agriculture accounts for more than 60 per cent of employment. IFAD’s experience has been that if given the right support, smallholder farmers can double or triple their production, even in the face of climate change and environmental degradation.

“When you improve small farmers’ ability to feed themselves, you also improve their ability to feed others,” Nwanze said. “They cannot do it alone. It is no coincidence that in countries where agriculture has taken off there have been large investments in research and infrastructure.”

At the Corporate Sustainability Forum, IFAD will host a session called The Sweet Spot: Cocoa’s Promise of Sustainability, Equity and Profitability for Smallholders and Business. During this session, Nwanze will outline how developing country governments should better evaluate the impact of policy decisions on smallholder farmers and their organizations, and create a suitable environment that will entice the private sector to invest more in agriculture.

Leading up to and during the Rio+20 conference, the Rome-based food and agriculture agencies of the UN – the Food and Agriculture Organization, IFAD and the World Food Programme – and Bioversity International, will host several events to promote dialogue and to identify required actions to pave the way for a food-secure future. On behalf of the agencies, Nwanze will give the opening remarks of an event on 19 June, which will focus on how to address challenges to food security on community, national and global levels.

IFAD Press Release

Crédits: AK-Project