I am pleased to send greetings to the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and all those working to empower rural producers. We cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals and ensure sustainable food security without supporting small-scale agriculture.
But, no matter how great our progress towards the MDGs, considerable challenges await. Extreme poverty and hunger will persist, an added injustice in a world where there is enough food for all. As we define a post-2015 development agenda, we must learn from recent experience – including the food, fuel and economic crises – and ensure a central role for food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture.
The world has to change. My “Zero Hunger Challenge” presents a roadmap to a future where all people enjoy their fundamental right to food and where production systems and livelihoods are resilient to a changing climate. A core component of the Challenge is to double smallholder farmers’ productivity and income while creating decent employment. These farmers, who are predominantly women, produce most of the world’s food. Improving their well-being will reduce poverty, increase the food supply and stabilize prices for everyone.
Governments, farmers, scientists, civil society, businesses and consumers must all join this effort. It is therefore timely that the emphasis of this meeting is on the power of partnership. IFAD – itself a unique partnership – has over the past 35 years demonstrated its ability to act as a strategic catalyst in uniting diverse collaborators in service of its mission to empower rural people to overcome poverty.
When world leaders gather in New York this September to discuss progress on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda, I will urge them to focus on strategic partnerships that promise the most impact. I will count on IFAD and its partners to shine a global spotlight on the powerful potential of investing in smallholder farming systems as a contribution to sustainable development.
I commend you for your efforts thus far, and I send my best wishes for a productive meeting.