- “A Brighter Future Depends on Getting Our Crisis Response Right Today”
“A Brighter Future Depends on Getting Our Crisis Response Right Today”
As the poorest and most marginalized people are unfortunately the most affected by the current global crises, they must come first in our response
The third decade of this millennium started with a global pandemic with all of us being confined to our homes. It has brought devastating climate shocks like we never saw before. And violent conflict. Thus far, it has been a decade of crises.
The poorest and most marginalized people are unfortunately the most affected by these crises. They must also come first in our response.
Eighty percent of the world’s extremely poor are rural people, who mainly rely on food systems for their livelihoods and food security. Small-scale farmers, who produce up to 70 percent of the food consumed in low-and- middle-income countries are often excluded from financing, social services, electricity and even paved roads. At the same time they are on the front lines of climate change.
Their work is critical for providing affordable and nutritious food for billions of people across the world. They can help us to change a reality that sees at least three billion people globally unable to afford healthy diets – many of them small-scale farmers themselves. But, in the midst of multiple crises, they need our support now more than ever.
However, I do not want to draw a bleak picture of the present – rather, I would like to share a sense of hope for a better future. How we respond to the crises of today will shape the world of tomorrow. With the right investment in rural people that future can be a bright one – one where communities thrive, where youth have hope and where people everywhere can satisfy their most basic need: to eat.
A “polycrisis” results from the interplay of geopolitical, environmental and socio-economic hazards. These hazards undermine markets, societies and natural ecosystems. They deepen vulnerabilities and erode positive development gains. At IFAD, we are facing many cases of fragility. The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan and the situation in Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Syria are just some of the examples we deal with every day.
In fragile situations, IFAD’s engagement is guided by a “triple nexus” approach, which emphasizes the need for humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to work together to find solutions for women and men whose lives and livelihoods are under threat. Interventions in fragile and conflict-affected situations must promote stability, build resilience and support sustainable rural development.
This means working with farmers in some of the most delicate contexts in the world. In Yemen, for example, we met with local farmers to ask them what they needed to strengthen the viability of their activities. As a consequence, the farmers decided to focus on four crops that required little water, had a short growth period and were in high demand in local markets: tomato, pepper, papaya and courgette. IFAD gave the farmers inputs and training, covering topics such as fertilizer, growing cycles and common crop diseases. The ongoing activities have resulted in increases in income and production among many of the poorest rural households targeted by the project, in turn strengthening their resilience to shocks. Most beneficiaries reported having become more food secure, while others highlighted that they were able to access health and education for their children that they would not have been able to afford without project support.
Finding ways to make food production resilient in conditions of scarce and irregular rainfall is a focus of many of our activities in the region. Last year, Morocco suffered its worst drought in 40 years while Somalia was hit by a fifth consecutive failed rainy season.
Climate shocks are becoming more aggressive and droughts which used to happen once a decade now occur every two years. Considering the relationship of fragility with climate change, we find that investments in climate resilience have often played a crucial role in building resilience beyond climate shocks. In particular, investing in climate-resilient agriculture and natural resource management can lead to greater stability and peace by reducing the risk of conflict over limited natural resources.
To ensure that the rural people get the support they need, we should start by unlocking more finance and investments in agriculture and food systems – because it decreases poverty 2-3 times more than any other sector. In addition, reshaping food systems could limit global warming and help regenerate natural ecosystems.
Somalia is a good example of how partnerships and international cooperation can create solutions, especially where the needs are greatest. Last February, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Relief Trust Fund and the governments of Belgium, Germany, Italy and Sweden worked together with IFAD to solve an issue of debt arrears that had limited the scale of IFAD’s work in Somalia. Now, IFAD and the government of Somalia are finalizing designs to unlock US$41.9 million of donor co-financing through the Adaptive Agriculture and Rangeland Rehabilitation Project, which aims to enhance the resilience of poor households through sustainable natural resources management.
This is in addition to potentially mobilizing millions of dollars of funds which will go directly into livelihood and food security projects that will help build resilience of communities against famine and climate shocks. They will improve the availability of water for irrigation and livestock, including building sand dams to enable farming throughout the year. And they will empower rural women and communities by improving access to rural finance.
RELAP In Palestine
The Resilient Land and Resource Management Project (RELAP) supports the acceleration of economic growth in rural areas of Palestine’s West Bank by expanding the area under cultivation and increasing the productivity and profitability of rural production, as well as expanding marketing opportunities for smallholders and landless rural poor people. The project improves livelihoods and increases climate resilience by fostering adaptive agricultural practices and enhanced governance and management of land and water.
It supports climate-resilient land development, investments in agricultural roads and market links, soil improvement and rainwater-harvesting facilities. It supports the aggregation of agricultural products at village level by creating climate-resilient, income-generating activities and entrepreneurial opportunities on and off the farm. To date, more than 2,500 Palestinians benefitted from the project including 1,280 females and 1,100 youth.
Profile: Dina Saleh
Dina Saleh is the Regional Director of the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division (NEN) at IFAD. Before that, she was based in Cairo leading IFAD’s Middle East and North Africa Hub as sub-regional Director. Saleh has over 20 years’ international experience in development projects and programmes in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. She also served as the Regional Portfolio Adviser for the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division. Prior to joining IFAD in 2007, Saleh worked at the United Nations Office for Project Services in Nairobi, Tunis and Rome and with private sector companies. She holds an MSc from the University of London in Development Finance and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from United States International University.
Dina Saleh: IFAD and the OPEC Fund
“IFAD’s partnership with the OPEC Fund is one of our most valuable and is crucial for our work responding to crises in the region. Since its establishment, the OPEC Fund has co-financed more than 120 projects with IFAD for a total amount of about US$1.03 billion. Overall, the IFAD-OPEC Fund partnership has been highly successful. I would like to highlight two examples.
“Last year saw the closure of the Infrastructure and Rural Finance Support Program (IRFSP) project, which owed much of its success to a US$25 million contribution from the OPEC Fund. IRFSP was designed to generate income growth and sustainable employment opportunities by strengthening agricultural production systems and linkages to value chains for cash crops through rural finance, investments in water infrastructure, awareness-raising and capacity building and supporting them in program management. The project supported over 200,000 households, including 90,000 rural women.”
IFAD and the OPEC Fund share an understanding that, to respond effectively to crises and to fragility, we need to put the most vulnerable first – among them small-scale farmers and other rural people. But success depends not on charity but on finding long-term solutions to enabling these women and men to carry out their crucial work in feeding and nourishing people, communities and countries. This is key to a brighter future, a future free of hunger.