More investment needed for resilience — New IFAD head


THE current global food crisis could become a regular occurrence, if measures are not taken to boost the resilience of small farms, the new head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Alvaro Lario, has warned.

He said an investment towards the resilience of smallholder farmers could greatly help to improve food productivity, improve their livelihoods and not leave them at the mercy of external shocks.

“Resilient means that when you have a shock to your income – like currently, with inflation – when you have a shock coming from extreme climate, you’re not going to fall from the brink of poverty into poverty or food insecurity,” Mr Lario said in media release on his first day in office.

In his first week on the job, the new head of the UN’s agricultural finance fund admits he has no small task ahead, and warned that the current food crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, would happen again – and soon – unless world leaders addressed decades of underinvestment in how food was grown and delivered.

More investment

He said hundreds of billions of dollars was needed to be directed towards small farms by investing in water and soil conservation, offering low-interest loans, access to markets, and boosting productivity.

“What we’re seeing is that they are currently not even able to actually produce their own food, many of them have to sell their assets … because they don’t have enough to feed themselves.”

“The impact of the war in Ukraine had disrupted shipping of key crops for months and caused fertiliser prices to jump, exacerbating existing problems as 150 million people had fallen into hunger before the war.”

“If we do not invest right now, in terms of tens or hundreds of billions, even if we resolve the Ukraine war soon, in two to five years we will be in the same situation,” he said.

According to him, in the short term, the world had experienced a lot of climate shocks, droughts and flooding that have also made it much worse.

He said that generally, the fact that little attention had been paid to how food is produced, how food is distributed, how food is stored, and the creation of jobs in many of these rural areas, was at the forefront of the crisis.

Promoting food security

The IFAD is a Rome-based UN financial agency that works with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), as well as the private sector, to promote food security through sustainable agriculture by providing grants and cheap loans to farmers in developing countries.

Global food prices reached their highest recorded levels in March after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, while they have since dropped, they remain eight per cent higher than a year ago.

There is concern too about the continued high price of fertiliser affecting agricultural productivity, with sanctions limiting shipments from Russia, the world’s largest exporter of fertiliser, as well as a reduction in the amount coming from China and the overall low fertiliser production in Europe.

Mr Lario said these heightened prices were hard for farmers to pass on to consumers, which was why the international community needed to finance farmers who did not receive assistance from their governments, unlike farmers in richer countries.

“The way of actually tackling poverty, of tackling food insecurity, of tackling the financing of food systems, needs always to start with this long-term rural transformation and bringing small-scale producers to the table,” he said.


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