President of Ghana and King of Tonga call for greater investment to transform rural areas

Rome, 16 February 2015 – Development leaders and heads of state and government representatives gathered for the opening of the 38th Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to call for additional investments towards the transformation of rural areas, which are key to the world’s food supply.

In his opening statement John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, said that his vision for the country is “to transform the rural areas of Ghana in order to create a more diversified, better integrated, and modern rural economy. One that closes the gap between urban and rural areas in terms of access to services, opportunities, living standards, and prosperity.”

In Ghana, progress has been made, Mahama said, but only because benefits of development programmes “are tilted more to my farmers than to the bureaucrats.”

Mahama warned the international community that “neglect of the rural space can have dire consequences” and that “a strong connection between the rural and urban space cannot be taken for granted.”

HRH Tupou VI, the King of Tonga, conveyed his support to this year’s Governing Council theme, ‘Rural Transformation: Key to sustainable development’, and said that to make this transformation a reality there needs to be an increased focus on building the risk management and resilience capacity of rural people to manage a changing environment. Specifically, he called for increased access by rural communities to climate finance.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze said that “we are paying the price of inaction” and neglect of rural areas, citing the devastation facing Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the Ebola crisis, which has so far claimed more than 9,000 lives and sickened close to 23,000 people. “Food insecurity and hunger are looming as a second crisis,” he said. “And all because, for 40 years, Ebola was a disease of the forgotten world, the invisible world, the rural world.”

He called on Member States “to address income inequality, to address chronic childhood malnutrition, and to prevent their terrible consequences” by investing in rural areas “where poverty runs deepest.”

Nwanze said that already an estimated 98.6 million people are benefitting from IFAD’s services, however, the Fund would continue building partnerships and “going beyond aid” by seeking out new sources of financing for additional investments in rural people.

Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister for Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic, underscored this point in his address at the Governing Council, IFAD’s highest decision-making authority. He said that  2015 will be “a pivotal year for development.”

“IFAD, with its strong performance, is concretely contributing to reduce poverty in rural areas,” Padoan said. “In the financing for development, multilateral development banks and funds have an important role to play. IFAD is among them. Urgent action is also required to mobilize vast private resources to complement official assistance and deliver on development objectives.”

In his opening address, Nwanze welcomed three new Member States, Montenegro, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau, bringing the total membership to 176 countries.

IFAD’s Governing Council meeting concludes on Tuesday 17 February with a new lecture series launched by an address on the future of aid by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International. In addition, an event focused on the empowerment of rural women will include Hanaa El Hilaly, of the Social Fund for Development in Cabinet of Ministers, Government of Egypt, and Qazi Azmat Isa, Chief Executive Officer of the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund.

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