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Farmers unite at IFAD to address climate change challenge

Representatives of farmers and rural producers have gathered in Rome for the Fourth Global Meeting of the Farmers’ Forum

Attendees at the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) Italian headquarters represented the voices of millions of smallholders, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers who face serious climate-change challenges every day. The forum took place in conjunction with IFAD’s annual meeting, the 35th Governing Council, and focused on the links between overcoming poverty and food insecurity, and improving sustainable agriculture development.

“The sea is empty, which means that our nets and our plates are empty as well,” said Herman Kumara Wijethunge, General Secretary of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement and the World Forum of Fisher People, at the opening of the meeting. He then emphasised that institutions like IFAD help facilitate policy dialogues and that the Farmers’ Forum is a key vehicle to attract attention to the needs of fishers.

All 92 farmer leaders attending the forum agreed on the need to jointly address the global challenges of food insecurity and climate change. They highlighted the important role of IFAD in placing the needs of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishers on the international agenda.

“Partnerships are central to IFAD’s work,” said IFAD’s President, Kanayo F Nwanze. “And farmers from developing countries are our most important partner of all. They are the experts and the agents of change in ensuring enough food for an ever-growing population. We need them and their knowledge to do our job – to help grow more food and increase the resilience of smallholder farmers worldwide who currently feed one-third of the global population.”

Smallholder farmers in developing countries suffer most from the changes in climate patterns and the degradation of natural resources. They live and earn their livelihoods in the most ecologically and climatically vulnerable landscapes, relying on weather-dependent natural resources. Increasing volatile and uncertain weather patterns, water scarcity, soil erosion, declining soil fertility and salinisation of arable land are all undermining agricultural production in many parts of the developing world.

“Solutions to climate-related challenges and the enhancement of environmental sustainability are not only a question of technology, but also one of the right policies,” said Jean-Philippe Audinet, who leads IFAD’s work with the Farmers’ Forum. “Farmers’ organisations play a central role in representing smallholders in policy dialogues to ensure that policies respond to their needs and realities.”

The Farmers’ Forum was initiated in 2005, with the first meeting taking place in 2006, to institutionalise the continuous dialogue between smallholders and rural producers, IFAD and governments of its member states.