President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert F. Houngbo was reappointed for a second four-year term- press photo
CAIRO – 18 February 2021: President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert F. Houngbo was reappointed for a second four-year term due to his successful efforts to achieve long-term rural development despite the global challenges of coronavirus pandemic and climate change impacts.
The re-appointment took place during the 44th session of the IFAD Governing Council, which comes under the name “Rural development: a prerequisite for global resilience.”
His second term would continue focusing on technological solutions, innovative financing models and new pprivate-sectorpartnerships, besides tackling hunger and poverty and address the devastating impacts of climate change, youth unemployment and most recently COVID-19. His second-term strategy would also give more attention to the importance of helping the indigenous people to “ensure no one is left behind.”
“IFAD has to grow. We have to transform IFAD to transform rural areas,” said Houngbo in a speech he gave during the first day of the two-day conference.
“With the pandemic still devastating rural areas and the projections for increased poverty and hunger, the need for IFAD to scale up is more urgent than ever. Today it is COVID, yesterday it was a tsunami, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The threat from climate change and extreme weather will not diminish, and we should prepare. No rural woman or man should ever be in a position of having to sell his or her meager assets – or be forced to migrate – in order to survive,” he added.
In terms of eradicating poverty and hunger to millions of people under his leadership, IFAD will double its efforts to ensure 40 million people per year increase their incomes by at least 20 percent by 2030, which is double what IFAD currently achieves.
For achieving this goal, Dr. Houngbo called upon the donors to significantly contribute to the IFAD for carrying out a comprehensive program with at least US$11 billion from 2022 to 2024, for better economies that can face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
Addressing the devastating impacts of climate change and reversing the decline of biodiversity, IFAD launched last month the Enhanced Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+), which could mobilize $500 million and help more than 10 million people adapt to an unpredictable climate, he added. Despite their disproportionate vulnerability to climate change, small-scale farmers currently receive only 1.7 percent of global climate finance, he continued.
Another of Houngbo’s goals is to address the major challenges rural young people face in finding decent employment, which has an enormous impact on instability and migration. In Africa, 60 percent of young people live in rural areas and between 10 and 12 million young people enter the job market every year. With increased investments in agripreneurs and rural small and medium-sized enterprises.
Over the past four years since Dr. Houngbo has been elected as IFAD president in 2017, IFAD targeted 36 percent more poor and vulnerable people. At the end of 2019, 132 million people in more than 90 countries benefited from IFAD’s investments.
However, in his speech, Houngbo recognized the huge financing gap threatening the world’s ability to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.
IFAD approved $1.67 billion last year, which is the highest ever, to target 20 million people a year helped with 20 percent increase in income, Houngbo said, adding that the first direct investment by IFAD in the private sector was Nigeria last year.
In mitigation of the effects of the COVID-19 on the rural areas around the globe to maintain the sustainable production and food system, IFAD adopted a four-level response strategy. Firstly, it is working on repurposing the ongoing projects in 70 countries upon their requests to face the crisis. Secondly, it offered some countries to use IFAD’s unspent allocations for coronavirus-related issues.
Thirdly, the United Nations organization has launched the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility with $40 million as an additional fund for the small farmers. Fourthly, IFAD has received requests of debt deferment. The organization was working on debt deferment in cooperation with other concerned financial institutions.
In 2020, IFAD was the first UN fund to receive a credit rating, with both Fitch and Standard and Poor’s announcing AA+ ratings, he added in his speech.
Houngbo also spoke about the importance of food to rural people. As the majority of them work in agriculture, food is not just critical for sustenance, but also for their livelihoods. He stressed the need for investing in sustainable food systems that enable rural populations to earn decent incomes, have nutritious diets, and to lead dignified lives, and the key role IFAD will play in putting this on the global agenda during the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit.
Small-scale farming systems produce half of the world’s food calories, but these farmers are often the ones that go hungry. IFAD is the only multilateral organization focused solely on addressing hunger and poverty in rural areas where three-quarters of the world’s poorest and most food-insecure people live. Decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many as 150 million people could fall into extreme poverty by 2021 and an additional 136 million people are expected to go hungry.
More action needed to overcome COVID-19 impacts
“My conviction remains intact. We can achieve a fairer and more equitable world, a world without abject poverty, a world without hunger,” Houngbo said. “But the pandemic and the effects of climate change are forcing us to radically rethink the way we produce and eat.”
“The developing countries need $4.3 trillion to recover from the coronavirus and achieve sustainability,” said Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan in his speech at the session. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis should drive home the message to all – rich and poor, weak or powerful – that their destinies are intertwined. We will perish or survive together […] We need a common plan and strategy for global recovery and the survival and prosperity of all humanity,” he said.
In his speech, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, President of Angola said “International cooperation, both bilateral and with development organizations, was crucial for our struggle for post-war reconstruction and it continues to be necessary so that together we can tackle the effects of the crises we are facing.”
The Angolan President said that food imports down 24 percent last year and part of this due to replacing products with homegrown produce. He added that it is important to agree on the involvement of farmers' associations in the recovery of the economy post Covid19.
One in 10 people in the world is hungry. An additional 132 million more people may also go hungry due to the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Extreme poverty also looks likely to increase for the first time in decades.