Food security challenge a ‘bright side’ of current crisis, says IFAD President
By Rola Al Ghoul
DUBAI, March 31, 2022 – If there is a positive side to the current crises, it is the awareness by each global agenda of the importance of food security challenges, said the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“Food security challenges are high now, and on all the global agendas, this is perhaps the silver lining of the current crisis. However, it is important for us to keep in mind that we, food agencies like IFAD and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have raised this issue which has led to the success of the UN Food Systems Summit pre-summit which was hosted in partnership with the Italian government last year,” Gilbert F. Houngbo told Emirates News Agency (WAM) in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. .
The challenge is quite huge; around 800 million people go to bed food insecure every day, Houngbo noted, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it “very acute”.
“So what is essential for us is to invest in long-term sustainable investments to ensure that each community can increase its production, its productivity and invest in technology. In this way, we can improve productivity and guarantee a better added value to the basic production Finally, use technology for a better access to the market.
“On the one hand, we must encourage in the transformation of national and local production the consumption of local production and at the same time encourage in the globalized economy.”
Asked about the volume of investments to ensure food security, Houngbo said: “The FAO has done a lot of research on this, and we believe that around 200 billion dollars are needed, so it is quite a huge sum. Therefore, we must invest from the national budget with international development assistance and involve the private sector.
He explained that involving the private sector is not limited to financing but also covers the technological aspect and innovation, which he says is “really neat”.
“It is also crucial to keep in mind that we are facing the problem of food waste and loss. We know that 30 percent of production is lost or wasted, so saving that in itself is already a big step forward,” explained the IFAD President.
“I talked a lot about the offer. However, if you look at it from the demand side, I think it will be important for the community to develop better readiness for local consumption,” he said.
Asked about IFAD’s recommendations to the government regarding the provision of food, the IFAD President said that each government should review or revise its own food security policy. “We need more collaboration between governments at regional and international levels.”
“But one of the main challenges is access to finance,” he said. “We really need the government to work with an international financial institution and innovative financing. So far, the agricultural sector is not the most attractive in terms of investment, and we know that official development assistance is almost capped at around 6%. In addition, governments expect farmers to increase financial investment in the sector.
Regarding the organization’s efforts to deal with the repercussions of the current crisis, Houngbo said that IFAD ensures that the countries it serves are based on the particular situation they are going through. “We don’t want one solution to fit all.”
“In some situations, it’s about packing them up to access fertilizers or other countries helping them manage the rising prices. But one thing is certain for IFAD, and that is that we focus on small producers. Our strategy is to invest more to increase their resilience not only in the face of the current conflict, but also their resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change which has led to increased floods and droughts.
“Our responsibility boils down to “a long-term investment in building resilience,” he concluded.