Agriculture drives developing countries’ economies, says top UN official

26 January 2010 – Agriculture spurs economic growth, a senior United Nations official said today, ahead of this week’s gathering of the world’s business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, where he hopes to give voice to smallholder farmers from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum, which kicks off tomorrow, is “Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild.”

The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), headed by Kanayo F. Nwanze, has been invited to the five-day gathering for the first time.

Mr. Nwanze pointed out that there is a growing recognition that smallholder farmers and rural communities are a crucial element of the solution to the challenges posed by food insecurity and poverty.

IFAD has found that a healthy agricultural sector acts as a multiplier in local economies, spurring higher incomes and increasing access to markets.

“Agriculture, irrespective of the size of the farm, generates business, and every entrepreneur, whether it is a smallholder farmer or a large commercial farmer, needs or wants to make money” Mr. Nwanze, the agency’s President, underscored. “We have the responsibility to transform smallholder agriculture into smallholder businesses.”

He also stressed that the private sector is becoming increasingly important in driving economic growth in the developing world.

High on the agenda at the Forum will be Haiti, which was struck by a devastating earthquake two weeks ago.

With people in cities – including the hard-hit capital, Port-au-Prince – scavenging for food and fleeing urban areas, there will be increasing pressure on the rural economy and greater strain on areas already grappling with meager resources.

IFAD, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is moving swiftly to set up a scheme to rebuild and restore economic activity in rural parts of Haiti.


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