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Urgent investments in small-scale farming needed to offset soaring food prices and deepening malnutrition

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Rome, 7 December 2021 – With soaring food prices pushing millions of people into food insecurity, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is calling on governments and the private sector to urgently step up their investments in small-scale agriculture focused on locally produced, nutrition-rich food. The call was made ahead of today’s opening of the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit.

Millions of people living in developing countries are experiencing increases from 5 to 17 percent1 in the prices of staples such as cereals and vegetable oils, as well as in nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables and fish. This is hurting the most vulnerable populations, who spend a large share of their incomes on food.

Small farms, which provide the world with a third of its food, typically produce more diverse crops than big farms and play a vital role in supplying diets that are more varied. In addition, improving yields in small-scale agriculture leads to higher incomes for rural people living in poverty which further increases their opportunities to purchase more nutritious foods. By investing in small-scale farmers and in agriculture, many developing countries can increase local food production while relying less on food imports.

“Small-scale agriculture is a fundamental part of the solution to our malnutrition crisis. Investing in small farms which are focused on producing nutrient-rich, diverse foods is essential to address malnutrition in the world’s poorest communities,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD. “It is not just about tackling health issues, it also makes economic sense. Fairly compensating small scale producers to facilitate access to good nutrition allows their children to reach their full physical and intellectual potential, so that they can grow into healthy adults who can contribute to the economic development of their families and communities and lift themselves out of poverty.”

The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit (7-8 December) is a global pledging moment to drive greater action toward ending malnutrition. IFAD is calling for more investments to increase the production of nutritious foods for market and self-consumption; to promote nutritious neglected and underutilized species; to improve infrastructures for water supply, storage and transport for nutritious but perishable foods; and to increase awareness and education on healthy diets.

Even before food prices soared, hunger, lack of access to healthy diets and malnutrition have increased since 2015 due to climate change, economic shocks, conflict and, since last year, to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three billion people cannot afford healthy diets, largely due to excessive costs. Globally one out of 10 people – up to 811 million – are living with hunger and one out of four children under five years of age are stunted or too short for their age.

According to the Global Nutrition Report 2021, the world is not on track to achieve targets for nutrition indicators by 2030. Progress is too slow in the indicators related to maternal, infant and young children nutrition. Without access to adequate, affordable and nutritious food, generations remain trapped in poverty, unable to take advantage of education and job opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Press release No.: IFAD/79/2021

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided US$23.2 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached an estimated 518 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub. A wide range of photographs of IFAD’s work in rural communities are available for download from its Image Bank.

1 According to World Food Programme data

Media contact

Antonia Paradela

Communication Officer to Senior Management

a.paradelatorices@ifad.org