Suvendrini Kakuchi interviews YUKIKO OMURA, vice-president, International Fund for Agricultural Development
BUSAN, South Korea, Nov 28 , 2011 (IPS) – Rising food prices, natural disasters and an energy crisis that is turning wheat into ethanol instead of bread have raised the spectre of inadequate global food supply that hits the poor. This grim reality has finally turned the spotlight on agricultural aid and its link to development effectiveness.
For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa the agriculture sector employs 65 percent of the labour force and generates 32 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, GDP growth coming from agriculture has proven to be two to four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people as compared to other economic sectors.
Looking to Busan, venue for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, starting Tuesday, Yukiko Omura told IPS correspondent Suvendrini Kakuchi that she is supportive of a global development model that encompasses multiple stakeholders based on the 2003 Paris Declaration.
Omura says the steps taken in Busan will provide the much awaited platform to push ahead with better aid coordination and aid efficiency among donors and multilateral lending institutions â€“ a survival move against the current squeeze on global funding.
IFAD, an international financial institution based in Rome, works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their lives.
Since 1978, IFAD has given about 13.2 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries.
Excerpts from the interview follow:
Q: What are your expectations from Busan?
A: A development model that boosts collaboration between donors, vulnerable countries, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the private sector is good news, particularly for IFAD that stresses the concept of country ownership being at the heart of effective aid. Collaboration will pave the way for efficiency and accountability and protect the local famer. We must move ahead with scaling up development aid.
Q: What would you consider to be a good example of how HLF-4 can strengthen the work of IFAD?
A: An apt example is the IFAD project in the northern highlands of Peru. We work in Chachapoyas to help small-scale farmers to become better entrepreneurs. IFAD extends financial and technical assistance for new business initiatives supporting participatory and innovative approaches. The project is based on collaborative work between the government, local civic organisations and private sector support. Key activities include teaching the farmers methods to enhance their natural resource management skills through such projects as land-tilling, then helping to develop a market for their products through the promotion of their links with urban markets in nearby small and medium-sized towns. This is just one example of how different stakeholders can work together to reduce poverty. The Peru government enacts the policies, the local government works with CSOs to provide knowledge sharing and administration support and the private sector represents market access for farmers.
Q: How does this collaborative style work with the emergence of non-DAC (Development Aid Cooperation) donors?
A: I am very positive about new donors entering the aid field. We work closely with the Gates Foundation and big corporations as well based on the reality that resources are critical for the expansion of the agricultural sector. IFAD is now about to launch into its ninth fund replenishment programme, from 2013 to 2015.
Indeed, IFAD views farmers as private sector entrepreneurs who must be linked to the value chain. This process is aimed to make the agricultural sector sustainable and to encourage youth to take up the profession. We must reverse the current situation where demand exceeds supply.
Indeed, by reforming agriculture and with the message from Busan to push for a multi-stakeholder approach, donors, whether DAC or non-DAC will be dealing with empowered farmers and that will ensure sustainability.
Q: Why have lenders ignored the plight of the millions of poor farmers in developing countries?
A: Agriculture has not been the buzzword in the development world. Now facing severe threats such as climate change bringing floods and drought affecting food production, natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami that have wiped out agricultural land, the traditional pattern of treating farmers as second class is changing.
Still, the new green revolution must take up these concerns and support farmers to empower their capacity to not only produce but also be able to enter the market through the production of quality and competitive goods. Agriculture must become a viable enterprise that can beat subsidised farm products entering the global market. I support a liberalised agricultural market.
Q: What are the IFAD projects that raise the status of rural women farmers?
A: Gender equality is a landmark goal in our funding that serves poor farmers who are mostly women. A major feature in IFAD projects is microcredit funding that has changed the lives of women farmers. We have seen good results in Bangladesh, for example, where female farmers have borrowed to start dairy or livestock projects, making them economically independent and respected by their husbands and community. Women are enterprising and have proved to be the better results of our funding.