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World Food Day Events Focus on Finance and Much More

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By INPS* | IDN-InDepthNews Report

MILAN (IDN) - Investment in small-scale farmers can put an end to hunger, Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and senior United Nations officials said celebrating World Food Day at the Milan Expo 2015 ending on October 31.

At an event hosted by the Italian Ministry of Finance and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on the occasion of World Food Day on October 16, Italy’s President said: “Theoretically, the right to water and food is not debatable. Nevertheless, it can be, and in fact is a cause of tension and conflict between countries.”

The event, supported by Borsa Italiana, Italy’s main stock exchange based in Milan, gathered high-level representatives from Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), which provide financing and professional resources for development, the European Commission and the financial and private sectors. Participants shared views and experiences related to boosting investments in smallholder agriculture as a means to achieving food security globally.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked how can leaders “explain having enough money to destroy people and the planet instead of protecting them?” He called for everyone to demand answers saying: “There is plenty of food in our world. There are more than enough resources to support sustainable agricultural development.”

He added: “The question should not be what is the cheapest way to feed people but how can we best promote human health and protect the environment.”

Most poor rural people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods but struggle to meet their own food needs. At the same time, demand for agricultural production is set to rise sharply as the world’s population grows from around 7.4 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050.

Over the past two years, the international community has worked on an inclusive and sustainable development agenda, embodied in part in Global Goals, which form a core part of the 2030 Agenda that was endorsed at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York at the end of September.

Among these Goals, one focus is on hunger, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, and includes a target on boosting investment in the agriculture sector.

The event focused on the need for large investments in small farmers in developing countries ensuring that all marginalized and excluded groups are stakeholders in development processes.

Among the approaches discussed was ensuring that a variety of financing options, from private sector investment to micro-lending opportunities, reaches rural people in order to create the conditions for millions of the world’s poorest people to live in health and with dignity.

Moral obligation and smart economics

Italy’s Minister for Economy and, Pier Carlo Padoan, asserted that “ensuring sufficient, nutritious and accessible food for all is a moral obligation and smart economics.”

Padoan remarked that “we need to focus on the demand for finance” from smallholders and small and medium-sized enterprises because they are key actors and “there is the gap to fill.” He concluded that boosting investment in agriculture for a sustainable future requires innovative financing instruments and “a new partnership among all interested stakeholders.”

According to estimates, most of the more than 2 billion people in the world who lack access to finance reside in rural areas, where agriculture provides the majority of livelihoods.

In reality, smallholder farmers are the primary investors in their own farms and produce around 70-80 per cent of the world’s food. In addition, rural women and men engaged in non-farm activities represent the bulk of operators in the agricultural sector, contributing to employment and value generation in many countries.

IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze said: “The growing global food sector will only meet its promise of ending hunger and poverty if smallholder farmers are treated as partners and not charity cases. At IFAD, we see every day that when policies, technologies and investments are directed towards the financial inclusion of smallholders, the results are impressive – greater productivity, higher incomes and better food security and nutrition.”

Nwanze added that he hoped the event would be a starting point for productive collaboration among the MDBs, governments and the private sector. “Together, we can build on promising innovations in finance and bring them to smallholders and small rural enterprises,” Nwanze said.

Other particpants in the event included: Suma Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Michel Liès, Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Re; Bambang Susantono, Vice President, Asian Development Bank; Fred van Heyningen, Global Manager, Rabobank; Claudio Costamagna, President, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, World Bank; Neven Mimica, European Commissioner in charge of International Cooperation and Development; Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank; and James Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Equity Bank.

Another event celebrating World Food Day focused on the global fight against hunger in an appeal to the international community to speed up efforts on eradicating hunger and improving the way food is produced and consumed.

Participants included, besides the UN Secretary-General, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director at World Food Programme (WFP), and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Complete eradication of hunger

Ban stressed that global leaders must act collectively on fulfilling the recently adopted Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve complete eradication of hunger in the next fifteen years.

“Agenda 2030 is ambitious and achievable. It is integrated and universal. It recognizes that poverty and hunger have complex and interconnected root causes. We made our promise. Now it is time for action,” he said.

This year, World Food Day focuses on the theme ‘Social Protection- breaking the cycle of rural poverty.’ Ban underscored that social protection is a tool to reach the most vulnerable as it prevents people from falling into extreme hardship and provides food and nutrition security.

FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva echoed the UN chief and noted that social protection allows the hungry to “become empowered to escape hunger through their own efforts” leading to a more dignified and productive life.

“India, Brazil and Ethiopia and other countries show us that increasing the power of the very poor to buy food offers an affordable key to hunger eradication. Industrialized countries did the same to end widespread hunger after World War II,” FAO chief added.

For her part, WFP’s head Cousin said: “Just imagine the night in 2030 when no child, woman or man goes to bed hungry…Starting now, each of us must stand up, get involved and do our part to make the changes so we reach Zero Hunger by 2030.”

“Working together, we can all press for the changes that the world needs, including ending extreme poverty, supporting smallholder farmers and ensuring access to nutritious food all year round for the most vulnerable people by investing in social protection programmes,” she declared.

At the event, Ban called for forming new partnerships and creating better ways of working. “We need all partners in this campaign – fashion experts and diplomats, rock stars and athletes, global world leaders and city mayors. Most of all, we need local communities,” he said.

Seven decades ago, countries established the FAO with a ringing promise of ensuring humanity’s freedom from hunger. “Today we continue to aim for the Zero Hunger Challenge I launched three years ago to keep this promise to our world,” said Ban.

Ban further reiterated that to achieve food security for all, the world must collectively start a movement, which will also assist in attaining greater health, economic development and social inclusion for individuals and societies.

Success in achieving the world's new sustainable development goals – and becoming the Zero Hunger Generation – ultimately depends on all people and not just governments, Graziano da Silva said in offering praise for both the Charter of Milan and the EXPO fair's food-centred theme.

*INPS is an acronym for the International Press Syndicate that monitors diverse news and information sources around the world, enabling IDN offer news, features and analyses on topics that impact the world and its peoples.  [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 October 2015]

Photo: ©FAO/Giusepp Carotenuto

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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