By Henry Umoru
ABUJA â€”Â PRESIDENT, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze, arrived the country yesterday to among others, discuss issues concerning global food security especially as it affectsÂ Nigeria.
Meanwhile, in a statement from IFAD Office yesterday, the International Fund has financed nine rural development and poverty reduction programmes and projects in Nigeria since 1985, with a total loan commitment of $187.5Â million.
During his stay in Abuja, Nwanze will meet President UmaruÂ Yarâ€™Adua; the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Sayyadi Abba Ruma; the Minister of Finance, Mansur Muhtar, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, to discuss issues of common concern including strategies for long-term investment in smallholder agriculture. Nwanze will also meet representatives from farmersâ€™ organisations, UN officials and IFAD project managers.
Nigeria government, according to the statement, has invited IFAD to participate in its new Commercial Agriculture Development Programme, which aims to strengthen food security, increase employment opportunities and boost agriculture as an engine for broad-based economic growth in the country.
The Fund is currently developing its country strategy for investments over the next five years, which will focus on smallholder farmers and rural poverty reduction.
Nwanze, a Nigerian, is in the country for the first time since assuming office as the President of the UNâ€™s rural poverty agency on April 1.
IFAD works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes, and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$11 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering some 340 million people to break out of poverty.
IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome â€“ the UNâ€™s food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Part of the statement reads, â€œOn the eve of his two-day visit, referring to the G8 leadersâ€™ promise to advance the implementation of the Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security and the pledge of US$20 billion over the next three years, Nwanze said, â€œWhile such support is critical, developing countries, particularly in Africa, also need to put the right policies in place to support agriculture and smallholder farmers. They need to renew their commitment to put their political and economic houses in order, as this is an essential foundation for long-term poverty reduction and development.â€™â€™
â€œNigeria, an OPEC member country with a population of 150 million people and plentiful resources, is one of the largest countries in Africa and has a fast growing economy. The agricultural sector dominates economic growth, contributing 40 per cent of GDP. The sector also has great potential for growth.
Despite this potential, poverty is still a major problem in the country particularly in rural areas where social services and infrastructure are limited or non-existent.
â€œAbout 70 per cent of the countryâ€™s food is produced by smallholder farmers cultivating plots of land of less than 1.5 ha. These farmers are highly dependent on rainfed farming and lack access to inputs â€“ fertilizers and quality seeds â€“ technology, credit and markets.
â€œWomen, who make up 72 per cent of the farmers and play a major role in the production, processing and marketing of food crops, face greater difficulties than men. They have less access to resources and less input to decision-making.
â€œThe Government of Nigeria and IFAD are working to support agriculture by fostering public-private partnerships and investing in research and development, as well as in infrastructure creation to increase agricultural production and productivity, and to enhance market access.