People in rural areas who largely depend on agriculture for their livelihoods are grappling a changing climate and unpredictable weather that are putting an additional strain on food production and increasing food prices, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert F. Houngbo has said.
He made the remarks at a press conference attended by Perrance Shiri, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement in Harare today.
“I am visiting Zimbabwe at a peculiarly challenging time in the history of the country, especially for people in rural areas who largely depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. A changing climate and unpredictable weather are putting an additional strain on food production and increasing food prices,: Houngbo said.
IFAD targets the poorest and most marginalised populations, and uses investment to create opportunity so that they can lift themselves out of poverty.
The IFAD Chief said investing in smallholder agriculture means investing in a sustainable, food-secure future. Tied to that, smallholders are central to reducing poverty and hunger in the rural areas of the developing world.
“As elsewhere, in Zimbabwe we are determined to accompany the country during its rural transformation process. The reason is not far-fetched because if 70 per cent of the population depends on agriculture, then investing in this sector is critical.”
During his visit, Houngbo met with the President Mnangagwa, Government Ministers, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, representatives of other UN agencies and multilateral and bilateral donors. They discussed the challenge of climate change, the need to increase access to financial services for rural people, issues of food security and nutrition, and providing opportunities for youth employment. These are all areas where greater investment is needed in order to contribute to rural transformation and national – as well as global – development goals.
He revealed that since 1983, IFAD has co-financed six rural development programmes and projects in Zimbabwe at a total cost of US$266.9 million, with an IFAD investment of US$95.6 million. These programmes and projects have directly benefited 1,168,000 rural households country-wide.
The UN official visited two sites of an irrigation scheme that was co-financed by IFAD and still in operation, thanks to smallholder farmers and the relevant authorities who have worked together to sustain the gains made during the period of IFAD support.
“Meeting with project participants of the Nyaitenga and Chitora irrigation schemes, I saw first-hand how the project has helped improve the lives of the smallholder farmers, especially young men and women. The programme has benefited about 43,000 smallholder farmers.”
IFAD is also supporting a new Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP), which started in January 2018. It will revitalise 6,100 hectares in 152 existing smallholder irrigation schemes and benefit 148,750 smallholder farmers in the provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland South and Midlands. This is in pursuit of bringing opportunity to Zimbabwe’s rural areas and thus make a marked contribution to the country’s agricultural and rural transformation agenda.