Speaker challenges Conference participants to "take action"

Published: 28 October 2015
| KATHY MACLEAN. October 27, 2015


Why do we wait for a crisis to hit before we take action? Has "prevention is better than a cure" lost all its meaning?  Two important questions, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, put to attendees at the Public Lecture launching the 8th McGill Conference on Global Food Security: Current and Future Challenges for Sustainable Food Security.

Nwanze challenged the audience to move beyond words, meetings, reports, commitment and pledges, adding "we know what works and what does not, we need action - sustained evidence-based action" if we are going to meet the sustainable development goals and targets set out by world leaders in the UN's  "Agenda 2030" signed last month.  Nwanze added, "transforming rural areas in developing countries is key."

According to Dr. Nwanze, there are four major obstacles to meeting 2030 objectives.

Firstly, we need to change to change our mindsets and "see farmers in the developing world as people just like you and me;" people who are doing their best to provide their families with food, shelter and an education.  Farming is their business and they want to make a profit.  They need access to inputs, financial services, infrastructure, training, secure tenure to their land, access to water and other resources.

We then need to understand that development is something people do for themselves, not something we do for them. We can however listen, facilitate, catalyze, encourage, support and create the right conditions for development to take place. The impact of the effort must be quantifiable and measurable and the tools for self-development must reach the hands of rural women, for when we invest in rural women, we invest in the whole community.

There is no "one size fits all" approach to the problem.  We need to understand the social context of the people we want to help; what works in one place, may not work in another. Research does have a role to play and must meet the needs of poor farmers.  This includes research into existing methods that are easily affordable and accessible to poor people. It is time to revolutionize smallholder agriculture through digital technologies.

The greatest challenge? Getting developing countries to take ownership of their own development. Many developing countries have immense domestic resources.  “The World Bank and others have calculated that cumulatively domestic resources of the developing world are at about $7 trillion.” To achieve the 2030 Agenda, countries in the developing world need to invest in themselves. They will need responsible governments, transparency, accountability and visionary leaders. This is the dawning of a new era; with commitment at the highest levels by all partners, we can ensure that everyone is nourished.

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