By Panagri Reporter, March 17, 2023, In his first official visit to Madrid, the Spanish president of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Alvaro Lario, highlighted Spain’s potential to “become a world leader in the fight against hunger and poverty at this crucial time,” when high food prices are “putting millions of people on the ropes” and threatening global stability.
“Although tragic, the multiple crises we are experiencing are also a great opportunity to seek structural and durable solutions,” said the IFAD President, referring to the need to prioritise medium and long-term strategic support to rural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Eighty per cent of the world’s extreme poverty is concentrated in rural areas.
Lario praised Spain’s commitment to international cooperation and multilateralism, especially through climate action. The new Spanish cooperation law, which makes it mandatory for 0.7% of the Gross National Income to be directed to Official Development Assistance by 2030, represents a new opportunity to expand cooperation between Spain and the only specialised UN agency dedicated to rural development, especially in their joint action to help the most vulnerable adapt to climate change and prosper in their places of origin.
“The current food security crisis is one of our greatest concerns, in addition to the energy and cereal supply crisis derived from the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. These crises require sustaining and promoting food security efforts, which is core to IFAD’s programmes. To tackle these crises, Spain has contributed 5 million euros in 2023 within the framework of the 12th IFAD Replenishment, and we have actively participated in the consultation process,” said José Manuel Albares Bueno, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, after his meeting with the President of IFAD in Madrid.
“Spain is a strategic partner for IFAD because of its ability to build bridges around the world due to its geographic location, and thanks to its cultural, historical and linguistic ties,” said Lario.
The IFAD President’s visit is part of the IFAD13 triennial replenishment campaign. For every euro IFAD receives from member states, the Fund is able to generate up to six euros of investment, thanks to its ability to attract co-financing.
Member state contributions form the basis of IFAD’s programme of highly concessional loans and grants to low- and middle-income countries. The main objective of the programme is to empower small-scale farmers, vulnerable communities and marginalised groups to be the architects of their own destiny.
According to the Rome-based UN Fund’s impact studies, its investments are the most effective for rural development; investments in agriculture are estimated to generate two to three times more economic growth than in other sectors. Between 2019 and 2021, IFAD’s investments (US$8.1 billion), improved the incomes of 77.4 million people by at least 10 per cent.
According to IFAD’s president, this level of efficiency and impact is not enough when compared to the 828 million people suffering from hunger in the world. “We need to take our work to a much larger scale, and we rely on Spain’s commitment and collaboration to do so,” Lario insisted.
The President of IFAD also took advantage of his official visit to warn of the threat of a global debt crisis, in view of data from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the latest IPES FOOD report. A total of 21 countries are approaching catastrophic levels of debt and food insecurity.
“Some governments in the poorest countries are going to have to choose between feeding their people or paying off their debt,” warned the President of IFAD, which is also an international financial institution.
Food production and a resilient agricultural sector are key to emerging from the multiple interlocking crises, especially in the poorest countries. Many small-scale food producers in these countries spend more than half of their income on food. When prices rise suddenly as in this crisis, they are simply unable to cope and have to stop farming in order to eat.
With its investments in sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation, IFAD promotes local food production and connects small-scale farmers to markets and applies an inclusive approach to gender and youth. The creation of decent work opportunities in the most marginalised rural areas of the world, where IFAD works, is key to curbing involuntary migration.
During his official visit to Madrid, the IFAD President also met with the Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Pilar Cancela, and the President of the International Cooperation Commission of the Congress of Deputies, Roser Maestro Moliner, in addition to other meetings with civil society organisations, such as the World Rural Forum, and academia.