IFAD President meets with Nigerian leaders on its agricultural agenda

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Rome, 12 August 2011 – Kanayo F. Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will be in Nigeria to meet with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to discuss how the country is planning to fortify its smallholder farmers in the face of increasing challenges.

This will be the first official visit of IFAD’s President to the country since the new government was elected in April of this year. The visit comes at a time when a crisis looms over the Horn of Africa, where it is estimated that more than 12 million people are at risk of starvation.

“This latest crisis in the Horn of Africa is yet another wake-up call to leaders around the world that rural people are on the sharp edge of food insecurity,” Nwanze said on the eve of his departure. “IFAD hopes that Nigeria has heeded this call to put agriculture on the top of its agenda to build the resilience of its smallholder farmers.”

Nigeria is commonly viewed as an economy driven by its oil wealth, which accounts for 40 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the country is broadening its agenda to bolster the agricultural sector. With about 70 per cent of the country's food produced by smallholder farmers cultivating plots of land of less than 1.5 hectares, the agricultural sector accounts for 33 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Despite this, poverty is still a major problem in the country particularly in the rural areas where social services and infrastructure are limited. Farmers are highly dependent on rain-fed farming, with only 7 per cent of land under irrigation. Last month, several parts of the country were hit by floods following heavy rainfall.

“Climate change does not adhere to geographical borders,” Nwanze said. “We can expect more droughts. We can expect more floods. Smallholder farmers need the right tools to ensure their crops can survive these harsh realities and so we must invest in rural development, and we must invest in infrastructure.”

In addition to his discussions with the President of Nigeria, Nwanze will meet the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Eweala, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbenga Ashiru. Discussions will focus on the new government’s strategies for long-term investment in smallholder agriculture to reduce rural poverty.

The visit will be an opportunity for Nwanze to re-emphasize to African leaders his message that peace, stability and agricultural growth must come from within: “It must be an intrinsic process where developing countries are working with their rural communities to help them to build resilience so that they can feed themselves and their families.”