Canada announced today that it will be the first country to pledge funds to a new facility set up by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to help prevent a food crisis in some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized rural communities in the wake of COVID-19.
The Rural Poor Stimulus Facility was launched in April by IFAD’s Goodwill Ambassadors, Idris and Sabrina Elba to support small-scale farmers and rural producers to grow and sell food at a time when restrictions in movement and trade threaten to turn the health crisis into a food crisis in high-risk countries.
“We would like to thank Canada for its commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people and for taking on this leading role to commit to the Facility,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD. “With this support, more rural farmers, particularly women, can have the timely access to the inputs, information, markets and liquidity they need to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not escalate into a bigger humanitarian disaster.”
“We must act quickly to address the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable communities, and Canada is responding to the severe food security needs brought on by the pandemic,” said Minister Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development. “Our investments will be helping to maintain food production and distribution, and protect the world’s poorest from the loss of their livelihoods and the serious health consequences of malnutrition.”
Announced at today’s meeting of the Group of Friends on Food Security and Nutrition, Canada will commit CA$6 million to the Facility, on top of a $150 million highly concessional loan for climate-focused activities to the Fund earlier this year.
According to the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition released yesterday, the emerging global recession could disrupt the functioning of food systems, with the risk of a global food emergency if immediate action isn’t taken. The vast majority of the world’s population rely on local markets for their sustenance, which is often highly susceptible to disruption.
With their movements restricted in many places to contain further spread of the virus, many rural small-scale producers are unable to access markets to sell products or to buy inputs, such as seeds or fertilizer. Closures of major transport routes and export bans are also likely to affect food systems adversely. As entire production chains are disrupted and unemployment rises, the most vulnerable include daily labourers, small businesses and informal workers, who are very often women and young people.
The Facility is part of the UN’s broader socio-economic response framework and it will focus on ensuring rural producers have access to inputs, markets, financial services and digital information to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on food production and rural employment. IFAD has already committed US$40 million in seed money and aims to raise at least an additional $200 million from governments, foundations and the private sector.
About 80 percent of the world’s poorest and most food-insecure people live in rural areas. Around 135 million people were recently categorised as facing acute food insecurity and malnutrition. It is estimated that this number could nearly double before the end of the year due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Canada is a founding member of IFAD and has committed more than US$463 million to the Fund, with a particular focus on women’s rights and climate adaptation to better support sustainable agricultural production and access to markets. In 2012, Canada was the first donor to IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) to channel climate finance to rural small-scale farmers. Canada recently partnered with IFAD in Mali to promote access to financial services in rural communities, particularly for women and young people.