IFAD will protect the world’s rural poor from the shocks of war in Ukraine

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As the war in Ukraine drives food, fuel and fertilizer prices to record highs, jeopardizing the food security of many of the world’s poorest countries, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) United Nations today launched a crisis response initiative to ensure that small-scale farmers in high-risk countries can produce food over the coming months to feed their families and communities while reducing the threat for future harvests.

“The disruption of global markets is profoundly undermining food systems,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD. “This is particularly alarming for countries already grappling with the impacts of climate change and COVID-19, where more people are at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty and hunger. IFAD’s new initiative will help protect livelihoods and markets so that the most vulnerable people can continue to feed their families and communities, and thrive for a better future.”

IFAD is asking its Member States to contribute the significant resources needed to cover all 22 countries listed in the Initiative as needs-based priorities. The Netherlands announced at the launch of the initiative their contribution of 10 million euros, paving the way for IFAD to start immediately allocating resources to the 3 priority countries, including Somalia, but this is only a start and much more is needed now.

“IFAD’s role is critical in mitigating any shocks to food systems and, in doing so, protecting long-term development progress. The international community must anticipate the deep and disturbing destabilizing consequences of this war in Europe by supporting the most vulnerable,” Marteen Brouwer, Dutch Ambassador to Kenya, told a press conference in Nairobi.

The repercussions of the war are felt hardest in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, but other countries and regions are increasingly affected by the day. Many countries are vulnerable to price shocks due to their heavy reliance on food and energy imports from Russia and Ukraine. Other countries, particularly in Central Asia, are experiencing a deterioration in trade associated with a significant reduction in remittances.

Vulnerable rural populations are being hit hard by rising prices for essential agricultural inputs, especially now that they are starting a new planting season. Smallholder farmers, for example, struggle to pay for fuel for machinery, fertilizer costs and transport to reach markets, and most lack the capacity to absorb price increases.

In Somalia, one of the highest priority countries for IFAD’s Crisis Response Initiative, electricity and transport costs have skyrocketed since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Small farmers who depend on irrigation powered by small diesel engines have been affected. This shock compounds the worrisome prospect of famine amid a severe drought.

“Most of the local farmers are unable to buy fuel and as a result they have incurred losses. We are now feeling the spiral effect in the cost of transport, food and all other essentials,” said Fawzia Salah Mohamoud, a Somali farmer.

“Rising food and energy prices could eventually lead to social unrest and destabilize countries, especially fragile states. Long-term stability is at stake,” said Donal Brown, Associate Vice-President of IFAD’s Program Management Department.

IFAD’s response to the crisis

The objective of IFAD’s Crisis Response Initiative is to protect the livelihoods of small producers and the development gains made in recent years by responding to the urgent needs caused by the crisis.

Building on IFAD’s recent experience in the response to COVID-19, the Initiative aims to ensure that smallholder farmers have access to key agricultural inputs, fuel, fertilizers, financing for immediate needs and access to markets and market-related information. The Initiative will also contribute to reducing post-harvest losses by investing in small-scale infrastructure.

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