IFAD Urges African Gov’ts to Focus More on Production

IFAD President, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo

June 22, 2018//-The President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert Houngbo has urged African governments to focus more on production that will be much more of high value to benefit small-holder farmers.

According to him, majority of the farmers in Africa are small-holders who are mostly in rural areas so governments must put the right measures in place ensure maximum use of arable lands.

Mr. Houngbe, who made this known in an interview,  said this could be done by making extension services available, some strategic choices, also to project for the future and to encourage the production that will be much more of high value to benefit the producers.

“It is quite important because you know in our part of the world about 80% of production come from small-holders so it is important that those farmers are at the center of our development strategy when it comes to agriculture.”

IFAD projects

IFAD currently has about five or more projects including supporting the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana to ensure that small-holders can also add value to their basic production in five major crops including coffee, cocoa, cashew and corn, he noted.

Adding these are specific targets that the Ghanaian government wants to lift up across the country and IFAD is working with the government on that.

On Africa on a whole, he said IFAD is really spending a lot on the continent as half of activities worldwide have 50% of it in Africa, Mr Houngbe added.

“In 2017, the total loan provided to the continent was more than $700 million and on the average we provided our loan $30-35million in Asia and in Latin America and some Eastern European countries”, he stressed.

Speaking on how well IFAD monitors its projects to see if the funds trickle down to the beneficiary communities, he stated there is a global set-up where mid-term review and independent assessments are done. This he said is part of IFAD’s project cycle and before a loan facility is approved all that is embedded into it.

Again, there is a report on impact assessment on what has been financed. “We know very well that nowadays the taxpayers expect the money to be best used so things are done in a very transparent way, impact assessment done by independent experts and make those reports available to everybody.”

Highlighting on operations of IFAD, he said, it has been in operations for over 40 years providing highly concessional loans to the government to invest in the rural areas, in farming and non-farming activities.

IFAD targets remote communities and the women in the remotest places, the poorest communities in the poorest country.

“We really go down there to because we fully believe that unless we really bring them up we don’t believe that we can really make that changes unless we focus on those small-holder, I am talking about less than two hectares on average per family”, he noted.

Speaking on how rural-urban migration is affecting agriculture, he observed that, all the countries in Africa struggles with migration from rural to cities so Ghana is not immune from that.

He however believes Ghana has been making strides in poverty alleviation pointing out the recent report from the World Bank. “It is important to recognize those efforts.”

Ghana has moved out from low-income country now to lower-middle-income country and there have been a lot of positive stories that is important to recognize that, even though the global citizens will keep expecting the government to do more which is normal, he added.

“One is to always press the government to do more but also recognize positive thing that have been achieved in the past years”

Key gov’t projects

Giving his take on the government’s agric flagship programme -‘Planting for Food and Jobs’,  it should be embraced by all to achieve the set goals, he urged.

He said: “I honestly will not say I know all the details about that strategic choice by the government but I honestly believe that today, in most of the African countries where 80% of the production is coming from small-holders in the rural area where two-third of our population lives in the rural area despite the urbanization fact clearly the youth stimulating production at the rural level is the way to go.”

On One-Village-One-Dam project as to whether it was feasible, he quizzed as if he was startled “One dam for the water for the irrigation? You know I will not be in the position to judge, who am I to make a judgment on a government?  But what I will say though, it is important to have an ambition, “if they say so, the population should give them the benefit of the doubt and at the same time try to make sure how they are executing it and at the appropriate time there will be an assessment on what they have done. “I will be happy to see how it has been materialized” .

He pressed on Ghanaians to support the vision of the President, saying “To have an ambition and to work hard towards achieving it we all should encourage that”.

Progress made to attract investors

Mr. Houngbo, commended Ghana for the progress made to attract investors for agriculture, he however recommended that social cohesion and creating conducive environment will attract more foreign investors.

He observed that, usually some of the challenges are general when it comes to agriculture due to risk that are typically associated with it such as perils link to the weather conditions and its impact on production.

However, he was optimistic that,it was doable, “The more one can find a way to deal with what we call the first loss the better it is to encourage.”

The IFAD boss also stressed on the need to have Public-Private Partnership (PPP) approach and creating conditions that are favorable for companies come on board.

By Maame Agyeiwaa Agyei






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