USUN Rome participated in the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) 35th Governing Council held in Rome February 22-23. The conference theme was, “Sustainable smallholder agriculture: feeding the world, protecting the planet.” There were powerful voices who spoke out in support of smallholder farmers: United States Ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agencies, Ertharin Cousin; IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze; His Excellency Mario Monti, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic; and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
These leaders shared the view that smallholder agriculture remains a key source of livelihood and that ‘every farmer counts.’ All urged the international community to target support and increase investments in smallholder agriculture with the goal of reducing global poverty. IFAD President Nwanze promised “to make IFAD an ally of poor rural people.” Mr. Nwanze further stated that, “expanding partnerships with the private sector will make smallholder farmers more visible.” He closed with stating “together, we have the ability to create a better future.”
Prime Minister Mario Monti emphasized that, “food security must remain a priority” and that the international community “needs to find innovative and bold solutions” to make this happen. Mr. Monti explicitly encouraged IFAD to continue its focus on empowering women in rural areas, stating “a policy for women is a policy for growth, for empowering rural women can lift millions out of hunger.” He further emphasized that the partnerships of the Rome-based food agencies (WFP, FAO and IFAD) are critical and must be at the forefront of ensuring success with the Committee on World Food Security. Mr. Monti stated, “we cannot have strong action on food security without strong global institutions.”
The United States Mission to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome (USUN Rome) plays a critical role in fostering stronger partnerships among the Rome-based food agencies, WFP, FAO and IFAD. In addressing the Governing Council, Ambassador Cousin urged IFAD to work closely with WFP and FAO and other relevant bodies as it seeks to expand its footprint. Ambassador Cousin noted that the priority the United States places on food security is evident in “our actions”, namely, the creation and funding of the Feed the Future initiative and financing of multilateral programs for IFAD, FAO, WFP and the Global Agricultural Food Security Program (GAFSP).
Mr. Bill Gates echoed this sentiment of effective and efficient coordination among WFP, FAO and IFAD. Mr. Gates aptly summed up the conference theme by firmly stating that if we “put the right tools in farmers’ hands, the results are magical.”