Roughly 80% of people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas where they often harvest crops and tend livestock for subsistence, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a global financial institution and UN agency.
With precarious access to water, electricity, and financial support, it’s a challenging living arrangement even in the best of times. Routine disruptions such as a few days without rain, a slight increase in the price of fertilizer, a slow day at the market, or a vehicle that needs repair can cause chain reactions that leave people hungry, prone to illness, and deeper in poverty.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, rural communities around the world immediately felt the impacts. Food production and distribution networks were shut down to accommodate restrictions on movement and gatherings. Workers abandoned crops, harvests withered without attention.
Soon hunger began skyrocketing around the world. By the end of the year, an additional 132 million people could face extreme hunger, the sharpest annual increase in recorded history, according to the World Food Programme.
“COVID-19 is deteriorating food security as it threatens to double the number of people experiencing crisis levels of hunger,” Aksel Jakobsen, Norway’s state secretary of international development, recently told Global Citizen. “We just have to intensify our action to provide food to the most vulnerable in the fight against poverty. The World Bank has found that nothing is more effective in the fight against poverty than investments in agriculture, and especially in the 500 million small scale farmers.”
For countries and communities to move beyond the growing food crisis, smallholder farmers — the people who grow and harvest food — need to be supported and allowed to thrive.
At the African Green Revolution Summit from Sept. 8 to Sept. 11, leading voices in governmental, corporate, and humanitarian spaces will be focusing on this very challenge.
“We need food systems that are equitable, sustainable, resilient, and capable of meeting the global challenges of malnutrition, poverty, and climate change, as well as be responsive to emerging and unforeseen challenges — such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Agnes Kalibata, president of AGRA and special envoy to the 2021 UN food systems summit, said about the summit. “We must not relent in our effort to transform food systems for the benefit of everyone.”
IFAD, which will be participating in the event, is key to realizing this dream. The organization is currently engaged in its next replenishment campaign to support smallholder farmers, improve agricultural productivity, and combat climate change in the years ahead.
The organization aims to double its impact by 2030 with a $30 billion development program.
Investments in rural agriculture and development help to reduce poverty, improve food and nutrition security, and increase resilience to shocks. IFAD is the only specialized global development organization exclusively dedicated to transforming agriculture, rural economies, and food systems to make them more inclusive, productive, resilient, and sustainable.
The organization launched a $200 million campaign in April to provide a safety net of sorts to rural communities as the ongoing pandemic disrupts economies. IFAD’s new COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) will “supply equipment, seeds, and cash assistance to rural farmers, help with crop storage and transportation, support livestock and fisheries, provide timely information on weather and markets, and help out with loans.”
The campaign has been championed by IFAD ambassadors Idris Elba and and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, along with heads of state, and everyday Global Citizens, from signing petitions to dance videos.
"IFAD needs more assistance to carry on the work that is desperately needed to keep food systems operating in rural areas if we are to come out of this crisis together and avoid needless hunger and suffering," Idris Elba said in a statement.
Most recently, Sweden pledged $4.6 million to the RPSF.
“In the midst of the pandemic, we need to support sustainable food production to reduce poverty and achieve zero hunger by 2030," said Carin Jämtin, the director-general of Sweden’s International Development Cooperation Agency, in a statement. "Small-scale farmers are in the frontline and they need assistance now."
This is ultimately in support of IFAD’s broader replenishment goals.
World leaders, impressed by IFAD’s track record, have urged governments to increase their investments in the organization, “the only development organization focused on agricultural development and rural transformation,” according to Gambian President Adama Barrow in a letter to world leaders.
“The case for investment in IFAD is clear: Poverty and hunger are heavily concentrated in rural areas and the livelihoods of most poor people depend on agriculture,” Barrow wrote. “At the same time, Africa’s agricultural potential is immense and there is strong evidence that investment in agriculture is highly effective in reducing poverty. As the pandemic sweeps across the world, it is evident that when crisis strikes, it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most.”
This call-to-action was recently echoed by thousands of Global Citizens who raised their voices in support of IFAD.
”Please join in the fight against rising global hunger by pledging to IFAD because with hunger that means the poverty rate is high and as such, no meaningful development can be achieved,” Abdullahi Ali Buhari from Nigeria wrote to world leaders.
“IFAD’s business model promotes strong country ownership and crowds in significant domestic and international co-financing, increasing investment in isolated rural areas that otherwise risk being left behind,” he wrote.
”Please join in the fight against rising global hunger by pledging to IFAD because investing in rural communities and farmers ensures that the state of our agriculture is improved,” Alex Grantoza from the Philippines added.
"Please join in the fight against rising global hunger by pledging to IFAD because Earth has enough food and resources to end world hunger, we just need to take action,” Satchi Ogilvie from Australia wrote.
You, too, can join the effort to support more than 100 million farmers worldwide and end world hunger by calling on world leaders to join the IFAD replenishment.