Africa: Partnerships Between Smallholder Farmers, Business and Government Are Key to Revitalizing Rural Communities

press release

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
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Rome — At closing of annual meeting Nwanze tells delegates IFAD is most direct channel for investing in small family farmers

Speaking on the final day of the Governing Council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Unilever said that businesses are a part of the global food chain, and consequently must be a part of the solution to poverty reduction and malnutrition.

At the annual meeting's centre-stage event, Polman said that "We are all in this together, and increasingly businesses understand that."

In recognition of the International Year of Family Farming, the theme of this years' Governing Council was "Investing in smallholder family farmers for the future we want."

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze, in his closing remarks, urged delegates to join the Fund in keeping smallholder farmers at the top of the agenda in the days and months ahead. "Their request to us was clear," he said. "They want more from IFAD because IFAD, unlike others in agricultural development, specifically targets funding to smallholders, working with them in a consultative process so that our interventions truly meet their needs."

In closing, Nwanze said, "I trust we can agree on one message. That IFAD is your most direct conduit to channel investments to smallholder family farmers. IFAD belongs to you. When you fund IFAD, your money goes to smallholders and other poor rural people."

At a panel discussion, Small farmers=Big business, Polman outlined how best to link up multinationals, small- and medium-sized enterprises and smallholder farmers, in productive and reciprocally beneficial ways. Andrew Rugasira, CEO of Good African Coffee, a Ugandan social enterprise that brings quality coffees, roasted and packed at source to the global market, joined Polman and speakers from various regions.

There was consensus in the panel that partnerships, which include business, smallholders and government are key to gaining greater access to markets for small farmers so that they can increase their incomes.

They also discussed the need to improve farmers' access to credit, investment in women, infrastructure and the need for businesses large and small to build trust with small farmers and understand local contexts.

Panelists unanimously agreed on the critical role IFAD could play in facilitating a mutually beneficial relationship between smallholder farmers and the private sector.

"IFAD could help the private sector decrease the transaction costs of working with those small farmers at the bottom of the pyramid," said Adolfo Brizzi, Director of IFAD's Policy and Technical Advisory Division. "IFAD can have an organizational role in terms of helping small farms go to scale with their own organizations and become a more attractive market for the private sector."

Immediately following the dynamic panel discussion, Nwanze and Polman signed a public-private partnership agreement between IFAD and Unilever, aimed at helping to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers around the world.

The five-year global agreement - the first of its kind by IFAD with the private sector - aims to help improve food security through: raising agricultural productivity, linking farmers to markets, reducing risk and vulnerability, improving non-farm rural employment and making agriculture more sustainable.

At a high-level round table, Investing in smallholder family farmers: Sharing experiences, more than 40 Governors - principal representatives of the Fund's Member States - stressed that it was essential to encourage young people to see farming as a dignified profession and a viable career path. Steps needed to be taken by all partners in development to ensure that smallholders benefit from investment in agriculture.

Governors also called for greater focus on issues such as climate change, land tenure, financial inclusion, rural women, partner cooperation including producers, and a genuine commitment from governments.

Kevin Cleaver, IFAD Associate Vice-President, Programmes, led a discussion among the agency's country programme managers for Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Haiti and Kenya.

Stories from the field: Investment in the transformation of rural people's lives provided an overview of IFAD-funded work in nearly 100 developing countries. The Fund has 260 ongoing projects and programmes, of which about 80 per cent successfully meet their objectives.

Cleaver emphasized that IFAD-financed projects and programmes are managed by local institutions such as government, private sector, and farmers' organizations, which are an important factor for ownership and sustainability. He concluded by saying that scaling up successes - to the national level and beyond - is a priority for the Fund.

Subsequent to the election of the Governing Council Bureau, the outgoing Chair, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas Izquierdo, called upon the elected Luc Oyoubi, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food Security of the Gabonese Republic, to take the chair for a two-year term.

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