EU and IFAD Collaborate for Sustainable Food Systems
Amid a worldwide food crisis exacerbated by the Ukrainian conflict, escalating climate change, and the financial vulnerability of several nations, Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, and Alvaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), have signed two agreements to provide a combined total of €70.7 million.
The funding aims to enhance the sustainable production of locally grown, nutrient-rich food as well as strengthen the capacity of small-scale farmers to withstand economic and climate-related disruptions in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
Urpilainen stated that the "Global Gateway," which is the EU's affirmative proposal, represents an investment in the strategic independence of our partner nations. The objective is to aid them in constructing their food systems via sustainable production, resulting in greater resilience. The funds will empower small-scale producers to provide sustainable nourishment for their families and communities.
Small-scale farmers account for approximately one third of the world's food production and up to 70% of the food in low- and middle-income countries. In recent years, the cost of energy and food has soared to unprecedented heights, particularly since the start of the war in Ukraine, leading to elevated food inflation in many regions.
Furthermore, small-scale farmers are among the groups most severely affected by climate change and frequently bear the brunt of more frequent and severe extreme weather events.
Lario emphasised that investing in developing productive, sustainable, and resilient local food systems is a crucial prerequisite for achieving long-term sustainable food security. It is essential to invest in empowering small-scale producers to provide sustainable nourishment for their families and communities, gain access to financing and productive resources, adapt to climate change, and build shorter and local food value chains.
Under the Investing in Livelihood Resilience and Soil Health in ACP countries programme, the European Union is providing €52.5 million to IFAD. This initiative aims to promote sustainable agricultural practices and agroecology to improve and maintain soil fertility.
It will focus on enhancing the efficient use of synthetic and organic fertilisers, ensuring sustainable water management to enable soils to use nutrients fully, developing local bio-fertilisers, using biodigesters, and facilitating small-scale producers' access to inputs suited to local agroecological conditions. The project will be executed in Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, and Niger, with the possibility of adding additional countries over time.
In addition, the European Union is contributing a grant of €18.2 million to the Global Programme for Small-scale Agroecology Producers and Sustainable Food Systems Transformation. The Kingdom of Belgium is also contributing an additional €5 million to the programme. The initiative seeks to expand agroecology practices and support small-scale farmers by improving their access to knowledge, support services, technologies, and market outlets.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that extreme weather events are likely to occur more frequently and with greater intensity in the near future. This poses a greater risk of disruption to global food systems, leading to supply shortages and increased prices during each crisis. Additionally, climate change and overuse threaten ecosystems and soils.
Agroecology offers solutions to help small-scale farmers adapt to climate change, manage natural resources more efficiently, preserve biodiversity, and reverse land degradation. This approach provides an alternative to synthetic fertilisers and increases production.
The number of individuals experiencing acute food insecurity has increased dramatically, from 135 million in 2019 to 345 million in 2022. In 2022, around 828 million people were estimated to suffer from chronic undernourishment, while nearly 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet.