Africa is a world leader in poverty and hunger due to a lack of committed leadership and rampant corruption, said Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in his address to the APPG on 7 December.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has 25 per cent of the world’s arable land but generates only ten per cent of its agricultural output,” Nwanze told group. “Why is this? Lack of leadership, lack of national pride and a blind eye to greed and corruption.”
Nwanze said that Africa’s leaders are failing the continent due to their lack of investment in smallholder agriculture.
“Smallholders can be agents of change, but they need the assurance of markets,” he said. “Then they’ll produce.”
Women farmers are particularly important in building rural agricultural economies, he added.
“When you invest in a rural woman, you invest in a community,” he said.
Dr Nwanze was awarded the inaugural Africa Food Prize in September 2016, and will be leaving IFAD at the end of his two terms later in 2017. His address to the APPG was an opportunity to reflect on decades of experience in addressing the issues of hunger, nutrition and rural livelihoods, and he singled out governance as one of the key issues.
"There's a lack of national institutions that survive politicians," he said. "We have leaders who become institutions. Smallholders are the backbone of rural transformation. But transformation takes time, and the political system is short sighted."
The meeting was also attended by DFID Minister of State Rory Stewart, who echoed the need to empower smallholder producers to engage with governance within their own countries.
"The fundamental thing is not just technical skills but how they challenge government and organise themselves, because often these communities are at a disadvantage," the Minister said.
"There may be challenges of literacy and they will be faced with intimidating bureacracy and legal structures. So one of the challenges is working out how we as an international community might facilitate that conversation."
The United Kingdom is a founding member of IFAD and shares it’s objective of combating extreme poverty and hunger in the world’s poorest countries. It has contributed more than $730 million to IFAD’s investments in smallholder farming and rural development in developing countries.