President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo F. Nwanze (on screen), addresses the agency’s annual Governing Council in Rome 18 February 2016. Photo: IFAD
President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo F. Nwanze (on screen), addresses the agency’s annual Governing Council in Rome 18 February 2016. Photo: IFAD

Describing rural development as a “moral obligation,” Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), made his final appeal to governments on behalf of poor rural people across the globe at today’s opening of IFAD’s 40th Governing Council.

Speaking to development leaders and IFAD’s governors, Nwanze, who ends his term of office on 31 March, emphasised the need for continued rural investment in order for countries to meet their commitment to ending poverty and hunger by 2030, outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“For nations genuinely committed to the 2030 Agenda, investing in rural areas is not a choice; it is a necessity,” said Nwanze.

Describing rural development as “a moral obligation,” he continued by saying, “When people face the prospect of dying in poverty and hunger, they migrate to cities and beyond. For them, no ocean is wide enough, no fence will ever rise high enough, no border will ever be impregnable enough to keep out desperate women, children and men.”

In her opening statement, Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius, spoke of the crisis unfolding on the ground in many African countries.

”Sub-Saharan Africa remains the locus of poverty, with too many of our fellow citizens living below the poverty line. Today nearly two in five children are malnourished and one in eight women is underweight,” said Gurib-Fakim. “In the absence of a flourishing agricultural sector, the majority of Africans will be excluded from the rising tide of prosperity,” she added

Maurizio Martina, Minister of Agriculture, Italy, also spoke during the morning’s inaugural session. He reminded government representatives of how far the international community has come in rethinking its goals and objectives in tackling poverty and hunger.

“Up until a few years ago, we spoke of simply reducing the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition, to reduce extreme poverty,” he said. “Today, we can rightly say that there is no such thing as an acceptable number, we are working for rural development that will bring us to one target – zero hunger.”

Martina added, “Hunger and poverty, especially in rural areas are often the first link in a chain of factors that bring conflict, instability, humanitarian emergency and migration.”

During the two-day conference, member states will appoint IFAD’s new President. Three women are among the list of eight nominated candidates who collectively represent Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Togo, Turkey, Dominican Republic and Switzerland. The Governing Council is IFAD’s main decision-making body and the President is the most senior position with responsibility for leading the organisation.

Nwanze was appointed IFAD President in February 2009 and has served two terms, the allowed maximum. Of his many achievements, Nwanze will be remembered for the changes he has brought to IFAD’s operating model, ensuring that poor rural people are at the centre of IFAD’s work and that farming is seen as a business no matter how small scale. In his keen interest to bring the organisation closer to those it’s meant to serve, he has increased the number of IFAD offices in developing countries from nine to 40.

In September 2016, Nwanze was awarded the Africa Food Prize for his outstanding leadership and passionate advocacy in putting Africa’s smallholder farmers at the centre of the global agricultural agenda.

Over the course of his presidency, the value of IFAD’s ongoing investment portfolio has increased from US$3.4 billion to $5.9 billion, due in part to his vision of a more flexible financial model which has included sovereign borrowing and other mechanisms to leverage resources.

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Lady MJ Santos is the Founder/CEO of The Santos Republic Systems. Her professional background is political and media strategy, asset and credit enhancement, international trade and development and public speaking. For two consecutive years, she was awarded by Silicon Valley's TRIPBASE as their favourite "writer to be revered and respected" of all the world politics blogs from across the internet for "displaying knowledge and temerity in her approach matched only by her success in the political and managerial circles".

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