Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a privilege to be with you today as part of this Agrobusiness Forum. The Russian Federation’s support of this Forum, now in its 17th year, reflects Russia’s commitment to agriculture.
This year’s meeting comes soon after the launch of a bold new development agenda, the 2030 Development Agenda within which are embedded the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs aim to eliminate poverty, malnutrition and inequality in the next 15 years. And they aim to do so in ways that will not do harm to our planet.
At the same time, there is growing demand for food and resources from a growing population. It might seem logical, therefore, to look for a large-scale solution. In other words big, mechanized farms.
And yet, this would be a false conclusion. Because evidence shows that small and medium-sized farms can make a big contribution to a global stable food supply. In fact, they already are.
Here in Russia, the evidence is clear. Although smallholders (less than 3 ha.) cultivate just 20 per cent of agricultural land, they account for 50-60 per cent of total Russian agricultural production.
But consider that three-quarters of the world’s poorest and hungriest people live in rural areas. To eliminate poverty, hunger and under-nutrition, we must put rural people, and in particular smallholder farmers, front and centre. Not just to meet their needs, but to draw on their potential.
The SDG agenda therefore represents a big opportunity for smallholders—and for us, because with the right support these farmers can not only exit from poverty and vulnerability. They can help feed the world.
Achieving our ambitious goals will require stronger and more inclusive partnerships with agricultural producers and the public and private sectors. Governments can provide national strategies and an enabling environment. The private sector lends expertise and market access.
Together, we can build equitable relationships between small-scale producers and private companies, supporting inclusive and sustainable food systems.
Smallholder farmers are key players because farming, at any scale, is a business, and agriculture in much of the world is small scale.
Indeed, in BRICS countries smallholder farmers already make a major contribution to agricultural production and food security. These smallholders are key to ensuring that these countries can fulfil their enormous agricultural potential in the future.
But to do so, small farms need what other businesses need: roads, clean water, electricity, Internet connection, markets, access to finance, knowledge and information. But often they don’t have it. That’s why IFAD invests in rural people – so that farmers can farm more efficiently, so that they are more resilient, and so that rural life provides viable options for young people.
What does this mean in BRICS countries?
- Brazil: 11 projects, total cost US$825 million with IFAD financing of US$260 million and directly benefitting 365,400 households.
- China: 28 projects, total cost US$21 billion with IFAD financing of US$819 million and directly benefitting 4.3 million households
- India: 27 projects, total cost US$2.6 billion with IFAD financing of US$929 million and directly benefitting 4.3 million households.
- And in the immediate region: In 11 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Tajikistan, we have 55 projects with IFAD financing of US$755 million and directly benefiting 1.5 million households.
Given the co-financing figures I have mentioned, it is clear that this must be done in partnership. And what do inclusive partnerships look like? Let me give you some examples.
In Armenia, an IFAD-supported programme provided a loan to the SIS Natural fruit juice company to buy hygienic bottling equipment and train staff. The programme also invested in a winery, fish farming, sheep and poultry production, and a milk-processing plant.
As a result, employment by the companies has risen 35 per cent. Incomes of households selling to the companies is up 53 per cent.
In Tajikistan, poor rural families who raise angora and cashgora goats are improving their breeding stock and learning better ways to process fibres. As a result, rural women in Northern Tajikistan have more than doubled their incomes and are starting to sell to markets in Europe and the United States.
IFAD’s role is not just to invest but to help share knowledge and best practices. We also broker mutually beneficial relationships among governments, the private sector and smallholders.
More than a decade ago, IFAD partnered with the Government of China to pilot a biogas digesters that would turn methane from animal waste into household fuel. Burning the methane made it less damaging to the atmosphere, and with the freedom from spending hours gathering firewood, rural women had time for other economic activities.
Today, this technology is spreading in Asia and Africa. Kenya and Rwanda are scaling up a new generation of low-cost portable biogas systems that save rural women hours and provide "bio-slurry" for crop cultivation. Not only is household income rising, but better sanitation is reducing the burden of disease. This is truly knowledge-sharing in action, and successful South-South cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In places as varied as Azerbaijan, Ghana, Tanzania and Thailand, experience has shown that smallholders can contribute to food security and lead agricultural growth. But they need investment and they need an enabling environment to do so. Our actions today will have a major effect on whether we can feed the future.
By ensuring that no region is forgotten and no person marginalized, we can build resilience and stabilize supply. It is our best, indeed our only hope of feeding every person on the planet.