Togolese Gilbert Houngbo elected new IFAD boss amid food crisis in Africa

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on Tuesday elected a new president amid increasing demand for rural agricultural development funding in developing countries

The fund, which is a specialized United Nations agency and international financial institution that invests in eradicating rural poverty in developing countries around the world, elected former Prime Minister of Togo Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo.

His election comes at a time when many developing countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya included are experiencing food shortage due to climate change effects.

Speaking after the election, Mr Houngbo pledged to ensure more agricultural projects are funded across the world to eradicate poverty.

Mr Houngbo said with growing global demand for food, increased migration to cities and the impact of climate change, investments in agriculture and rural development will be essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty and hunger.

“We have to keep our ambition and at the same time be realistic and pragmatic. We have to demonstrate that every dollar invested will have the highest value for money,” he said

The IFAD has contributed in various activities across the world since its establishment in 1979 among them 19 funded agricultural projects.

Currently, there are four ongoing projects in Kenya, according to the outgoing IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze.

Last year, Kenya received a Sh13.2 billion grant from the organisation under a strategic partnership of European Union to address the food deficit in the country.

The fund targets small scale farmers to improve food security. In Kenya, smallholder farmers produce over 60 per cent of our food crops.

Mr Houngbo was among eight candidates nominated to succeed Mr Mwanze who has ended the fund for eight years.

Other candidates were, Bambang P.S. Brodjonegoro (Indonesia), Paolo De Castro (Italy), Ismahane Elouafi (Morocco), Rasit Pertev (Turkey), Josefina Stubbs (Dominican Republic) and Pio Wennubst (Switzerland).

Mr Houngbo election comes at a time when the world, especially countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, are being threatened by changing climate leading to hunger.

Changing government priorities and more immediate needs of humanitarian crises like natural disaster, conflict and refugees are also threatening to divert the funding away from the long term development.

In his final speech, Mr Nwanze said continued rural investment for various countries across the world will meet their commitment to ending poverty and hunger by 2030, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

“For nations genuinely committed to the 2030 Agenda, investing in rural areas is not a choice; it is a necessity, when people face the prospect of dying in poverty and hunger, they migrate to cities and beyond,” he said.

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