Rome — In his address today to the 36th Governing Council, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), made the case for advancing rural economic development by focusing the Fund's work on rural youth, resilience to climate change, and fragile states in the coming year.
"Vibrant rural areas can ensure a dynamic flow of economic benefits between rural and urban areas so that nations have balanced and sustained development," Nwanze told a gathering of representatives from IFAD Member States.
This is a particularly critical message this year, he noted, as the international community undertakes work to set out the world's post-2015 development agenda.
"Structured reforms have transformed IFAD into a more agile, efficient agency, better able to respond to a rapidly changing environment," he added. "This has been crucial to improving IFAD's effectiveness at a time when new challenges are constantly reshaping the physical and geo-political landscape where we work."
Nwanze emphasized that working in partnership is the best way to achieve food security and eradicate poverty in an "ever changing world" faced with financial instability, volatile food prices and climate change.
"To put it simply, more partnership means more impact," he said, adding that "IFAD is determined to work with its partners to make the most of agriculture's poverty-fighting powers."
Highlighting the increase of domestic contributions to IFAD programmes and projects, which have been consistently higher than the amount generated by external cofinancing, Nwanze said that it signals developing countries' commitment to rural development. He stressed its importance as "experience shows that development is most effective when it is self-driven."
Citing the specific challenge of expanding rural development in the face of climate change, Nwanze highlighted the need for action now. "How we respond to today's challenges will determine not only the shape of food systems in the near future, but also the health of ecosystems and the distribution of the world's population," he said.
Nwanze emphasized that the Fund is already playing a critical role in helping smallholders adapt to a changing climate and safeguard the natural resource base through its innovative Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme.
He underscored the need to create opportunities for young people who, "without prospects, have nothing to lose and are more easily swayed by extreme rhetoric." Nwanze also stressed the importance of women, who shoulder a heavy workload in rural areas. IFAD has long recognized that there will be no substantial progress in poverty reduction unless there is greater investment in women, who are one half of humanity.
Just after the opening session, the Governing Council, the highest decision making body of IFAD, appointed Nwanze by acclamation to a second term to continue to lead the rural poverty agency for another four years.
Nwanze, under whose leadership IFAD has increased its presence in the countries where it works, said the Fund will create the conditions to enable 80 million people to escape poverty, and will bolster its work with additional country presence.
In 2009, IFAD had 25 country offices By the end of 2012, there were 38, with a 36 per cent increase in the last year alone. IFAD staff on the ground have risen steadily to around 15 per cent today, enabling IFAD to be more engaged in policy dialogue and to better support the Fund's partners.
In his acceptance remarks, Nwanze promised to "work to mobilize additional resources to benefit smallholders," adding that by working together in partnership, "we can make rural areas an engine of growth, providing food, jobs and a decent income for the 3 billion women and men of the rural world."