At a meeting in the U.S. on the first day of the 2023 Borlaug Dialogue, the foremost global forum for debate on food and agriculture, the Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gérardine Mukeshimana, and the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, agreed to step up the joint efforts of the two specialized agencies to focus on the implementation of actions aimed at transforming the situation of small farmers.
On the first day of the 2023 Borlaug Dialogue, Otero also met with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and touched on some of the same issues discussed with IFAD’s Vice President with the senior Biden administration official.
“The same point was made in both meetings: in light of events, the viability of small farmers is increasingly uncertain. Challenges of scale mean that small farmers, and even medium-scale producers, can fall by the wayside, so we must create the conditions to ensure this doesn’t happen,” the Director General of IICA commented.
To address the issue, Mukeshimana, former Minister of Agriculture of Rwanda, and Otero agreed that their two institutions would focus their joint efforts “on a great call to action, with a commitment to generating actions that transform the current situation and promote the wellbeing of family farming,” he added.
The issues addressed during the meeting included the promotion of the cooperative movement, digital agriculture, good practices and the management of water resources as the key elements for generating transformative actions. The officials also agreed to highlight the role of rural women and youth in the two agencies’ collaborative efforts, and to explore ways of sharing knowledge in South-South cooperation and dialogue.
As a financial institution with a mandate to alleviate rural poverty and improve food security, IFAD is a natural partner for IICA as the Institute pursues its mission of building rural wellbeing for producers, and resilient sustainable agriculture.
Otero also met with Karis Gutter, Vice President for Government and Industry Affairs of Corteva Agriscience/North America, a company with which IICA intends to strengthen its actions, focusing especially on gender and youth issues and with science, technology and innovation as the core elements. IICA and Corteva have worked closely together for years to promote rural development, and share the common objectives of reinforcing food and energy security, and supporting farmers, especially small and medium-sized ones.
The 2023 Borlaug Dialogue, which is taking place in Des Moines, Iowa, kicked off with opening remarks from Ambassador Terry Branstad, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, and Secretary Vilsack, who stressed the need to use innovations, adaptation and diversification to make agrifood systems more resilient and feed all people in a sustainable manner.
Otero took part at the invitation of the World Food Prize Foundation. The symposium is an annual event, and its theme this year was “Harnessing Change.”
In his keynote address, Vilsack challenged Dialogue attendees to reexamine the current model of agriculture and harness change to help farmers diversify their income by engaging in multiple beneficial activities.
The traditional farming model has focused on food production, but it has also led to farmers consolidating their farms, so small and medium-sized enterprises are less likely to prosper.
Vilsack suggested that by earning more money from environmental services, such as ensuring clean water sources, healthy soils, biodiverse forests, and energy and food production, farmers could obtain enough resources, even on smaller farms, to stay in rural areas and sustain rural towns and communities. He urged stakeholders to devise creative ways in which farming operations of all scales and sizes could make money from a variety of business opportunities to enable producers to remain in rural areas.
Otero also met with the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Cary Fowler.
The IICA Director General is in Iowa with the Institute’s Deputy Director General, Lloyd Day, and his Special Advisor, Jorge Werthein. The delegation is also made up of the IICA Representative in the United States, Margaret Zeigler, and members of her team based in Washington DC.