For over 37 years, IFDC has helped improve food security and stimulate economic growth in many of the world’s poorest countries by addressing both supply- and demand-side issues to increase agricultural sector performance. Agriculture remains the economic growth engine in much of Africa along with numerous countries in Latin America, Asia and the central Asian nations that were previously part of the former Soviet Union.
IFDC programs help develop competitive markets and expand trade because improved agricultural production systems and agribusiness development are inextricably linked. Therefore, IFDC programs address both agricultural input and output issues. In addition, broad-based stakeholder participation and training/technology transfer are priorities in all IFDC development initiatives.
The world’s ability to feed its growing population is a looming and serious challenge, and solutions will be difficult to achieve. Moreover, the global energy/food/fertilizer crises of 2007-2008 echo those that had worldwide impact in the 1970s. A number of factors exacerbated these issues, including drought, rising energy and production costs, population growth, increased demand for bio-fuels, and ironically, income growth in China and India. Hitting developing nations hardest, the crises impacted those who must buy much of their food – both the urban poor and the poorest rural dwellers. The lingering global recession slowed these crises. However, since their underlying reasons did not disappear, the crises may reappear as the world economy slowly improves or as natural disasters strike.
The worldwide challenges of food security and poverty also received more attention. In 2000-2001, the United Nations identified eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to spark global development. In particular, recent events emphasized MDG 1 (“Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty by 2015”). With the deadline less than five years away, few believe the goal will be reached. But collectively we must work toward hunger and poverty eradication, and if we do not reach the goal by 2015, perhaps it can be reached in the near future.
In a critically important development, world leaders and global organizations have agreed to coordinate their actions to achieve the MDGs and help the world’s poorest people (most who live in rural areas). At their 2009 meeting, leaders of the G8 nations committed to reverse years of underinvestment in agricultural development and endorsed five key principles that were subsequently adopted at the Rome World Food Security Summit. Now known as the Rome Principles, they constitute the foundation for collective, global action.
As a result, agriculture has become the development priority it should be, given that it is the mainstay of the economies and employment in most developing countries. There is widespread agreement now that investments in agricultural development represent the most effective large-scale intervention to promote inclusive economic growth, alleviate hunger and reduce the vulnerability of small producers to external shocks.
Fertilizer is critical to the growth of agricultural productivity. But the soaring prices and energy demands of the recent past demonstrate that we can no longer rely on current products or on the energy-wasteful methods of fertilizer production and use. We must develop more efficient ways to provide vital nutrients to crops (and therefore to humans). We should also work to develop crops that use scarce resources more efficiently, are more profitable and help protect or even clean our environment.
Needs are especially great in Sub-Saharan Africa, where farmers continually clear more land and yet remain mired in subsistence agriculture, producing barely enough to feed their families. In general, their markets are unreliable and often unprofitable. Compared with the rest of the world, African farmers use relatively small amounts of fertilizers and improved seeds – and Africa’s soils are increasingly depleted of nutrients.
At the other extreme are intensive rice production systems in Asia, where excessive use of inputs, particularly fertilizer, causes pollution and reduces profitability – not only for farmers, but also for the governments that subsidize fertilizer. Further, these farmers are experiencing diminishing returns on their investments in applied inputs.
The world faces two great challenges in the quest to ensure food security and reduce poverty. First, agricultural production on existing low-intensity farmland must be increased through the adoption of high-yielding varieties of grains, an increase in the correct use of fertilizer and other inputs, better farm management and greater market access. Simultaneously, the world agricultural community must lead the effort to conserve the earth’s limited resources and minimize agricultural pollution.
The heightened global commitment to these issues creates additional opportunities for IFDC and other institutions to be vehicles for sustainable change. IFDC is helping to increase global food security, agricultural productivity, poverty alleviation and environmental protection.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank IFDC’s donors for their confidence in our organization. These donors provide IFDC the financial resources to help achieve our mutual objectives. Their generosity is deeply appreciated and never forgotten.
Also, we want to thank each member of the IFDC staff. The Center’s past and present success is a testimony to our staff’s ability to achieve results, often beyond expectations. In the years following its founding in 1974, most IFDC staff members were stationed at its headquarters in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, U.S.A. IFDC became more directly involved in development with the establishment in 1987 of the Africa Division in Togo and the Asia Division in Bangladesh. Simultaneously, IFDC programs began to focus on strengthening agro-input markets. Programs to improve output markets were included later when it was shown that unprofitable markets for farmers’ produce were often a barrier to greater input use.
We would also like to recognize those that IFDC has served and is currently serving. IFDC’s mission has remained unchanged: to increase sustainable agricultural productivity through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound plant nutrient technology and agricultural marketing expertise. After 35 years, IFDC looks back with pride at the work that has been done to date. Its staff has worked with millions of smallholder farmers around the world to improve their agricultural productivity and build their economic self-sufficiency.
More importantly, however, the Board of Directors and staff of IFDC look forward, dedicating the Center to programs and projects that will assist additional smallholder farmers increase their agricultural productivity, reduce hunger and poverty, help build strong and effective agricultural value chains and improve the environment.