The fight against hunger has been one of the constant calls in the leaders’ speeches throughout this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. From the first speech, that of Brazil and its president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In three years in which the effects of the pandemic were compounded by the natural disasters generated by climate change and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, this problem became even more pressing: food insecurity, which had been reduced In previous years, it skyrocketed again and today more than 700 million people are not guaranteed to eat. But this crisis also served to increase awareness among countries, considers Spaniard Álvaro Lario, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the UN and international financial institution.
“Since 2019 we are seeing an increase in poverty rates and food insecurity, as has not occurred in the last two or three decades,” acknowledges Lario, in an interview given to EL PAÍS during the celebration of the Latin America forum, Spain. and the US in the global economy this week in New York. But the problem has served, in a certain way, as a wake-up call: “It has made many countries, both rich and developing, realize the importance of investing in local production, in diversifying a good part of the food in the global chains and to focus on food security as an issue of national security, which is what happens in the United States or Europe but not so much in developing countries.
From their institution, one of the three food and agriculture agencies based in Rome together with the FAO and the World Food Programme, they have confirmed that “more priority is now being given to this type of investments in development, which change and “They transform realities, and it is not only given to humanitarian assistance, which is necessary in the short term because it saves lives but in the medium term it does not transform situations.”
In its case, IFAD hopes that this change in the focus of priorities among leaders can lead to an increase in the replenishment of its funds by Governments. This “will allow us to increase the millions of people whose income and access to markets we can increase,” says Lario.
Among the countries that have announced an increase in the replenishment is Spain, whose acting head of Government, Pedro Sánchez, promised this week at the summit on the sustainable development goals in New York 20 million euros for IFAD “to continue reinforcing food security.” The President of the Executive has indicated that he expects Spain to be among the top ten donors, with contributions to the Trust Fund for special purposes and the regular budget of United Nations agencies between 2024 and 2027.
“This increase in replenishment allows us to interact, above all, with low-income countries that need very specific subsidies and projects,” explained the senior international official. Spain’s declared willingness to increase its contributions to development cooperation “is great news, especially for small farmers in developing countries, for whom this will allow them, above all, to have alternatives to forced migration, having to return to poverty.”
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Among the initiatives that IFAD proposes to combat poverty and food insecurity is a $10 billion action program over the next three years, with which the fund aims to enable more than one hundred million small farmers throughout the world. world can increase their income by 10% to 20%, and increase their access to markets. “It is important not only that they produce, but that they be able to sell their products at prices that allow them decent lives,” says Lario.
“We want to talk not about subsistence agriculture, but about agriculture as a sector that generates wealth, that generates employment and that allows people to decide in rural areas if they want to stay and have a decent life,” so that they are not forced to migrate, either to urban areas or to other countries. The number of people forced to leave their homes due to the economic situation, disasters or wars increases every year, with the consequent increase in humanitarian and living costs. “It is unacceptable, we cannot let it happen,” emphasizes this senior official.
One aspect of these plans will be to integrate the private sector in a good part of these investments, he adds. “How can we support micro and small businesses so they can create more jobs. How can we include more women and younger people in a good part of these value chains, not only in production, but also in distribution, in storage, in sale, in export,” she points out.
In their opinion, food insufficiency has a gender component. “Because we have proven that it is relatively possible to increase the community’s income for women and that often has an impact on better nutrition in the family, so that children can go to school. They make decisions for the community and for the benefit of the community.”
But it’s not just about increasing your income, he acknowledges. “What we see as most difficult in the transformation of a good part of our programs and public policies is for these same women to have access to land, access to productive assets, access to decision-making,” she points out. “That is why it is not enough to just invest or increase income. It is also necessary to build dialogues and on the ground to be able to talk about what the role of women is; “How can we make her have greater access to decision-making and also to assets.”
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