By Rola Al Ghoul
DUBAI, 31st March, 2022 (WAM) — If there is any silver lining to the current crises, it is the realisation by every world agenda on the importance of food security challenges, said the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“The food security challenges are now high, and on every world agenda, this is maybe the silver lining of the current crisis. However, it’s important for us to keep in mind that we from food agencies like IFAD and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have been raising this issue which has led to the success of the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit that was held in partnership with the Government of Italy last year,” Gilbert F. Houngbo told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
The challenge is quite huge; about 800 million people go to bed everyday food insecure, Houngbo noted, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it “very much acute”.
“So what is essential for us is investing in sustain long-term investment to ensure that every community can increase their production, productivity, and invest in technology. This way, we can improve productivity and secure better value addition to the basic production. Finally, using technology for better market access.
“On one hand, we need to encourage in national, local production transformation consumption of local production and at the same time encourage in the globalised economy.”
Asked about the volume of investment to ensure food security, Houngbo said, “FAO has done a lot of research on that, and we expect that around US$200 billion are needed, so it’s quite a huge amount of money. Therefore, we need to invest from the national budget together with international development assistance and bring in the private sector.”
He explained that bringing in the private sector is not limited to financing but also covers the technological aspect and innovation, which he said is “really neat”.
“It is also crucial to keep in mind that we have the food waste and loss challenge. We know that 30 percent of the production is lost or wasted, so already saving that in itself is a big step forward,” the IFAD President elaborated.
“I’ve been talking a lot about the supply side. However, if you look at it from the demand side, I think it’s going to be important for the community to develop better readiness for local consumption,” he said.
Asked about the IFAD recommendations to the government to provide food, the IFAD President said that each government need to look at or revisit its own food security policy. “We need more collaboration amongst the government at the regional and international levels.”
“But one key challenge is the access to finance,” he said. “We really need the government to work with an international financial institution and innovative financing. So far, the agriculture sector is not the most attractive in terms of investment, and we know that official development assistance is almost capped at around 6%. Also, the governments expect farmers to step up the financial investment in the sector.”
Concerning the organisation’s efforts to encounter the repercussions of the current crisis, Houngbo said that IFAD ensures that the countries it servs are based on the particular situation they are going through. “We don’t want to have one solution fitting all.”
“In some situations, it is a matter of wrapping them to access fertilisers or other countries is helping them manage the hike of prices. But one thing is for sure for IFAD is that we’re focusing on the small scale producers. Our strategy is to invest more to increase their resilience not only to the current conflict but also their resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic and to climate change which has led to increasing floods and drought.”
“Our responsibility is summarised by “long-term investment to develop resilience,” he concluded.