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  1. Peter Graves
    Peter Graves March 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    It’s worth knowing more about the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in three important areas.

    The first is the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). As a subsidiary body of the UNCCD, the Global Mechanism (GM – http://www.global-mechanism.org/en/About-Us/Who-we-are) supports developing countries to position land as an investment priority at the national and international levels. In addition, the GM provides countries with specialised advice on accessing finance for sustainable land management from a range of public and private sources, both domestic and international.

    IFAD has hosted the GM (http://www.ifad.org/partners/gm/index.htm) since its beginning in 1998.

    The second is IFAD’s support for microfinance – very small loans to the poorest of our world’s poor. According to the 2012 State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, over the last 13 years, the number of very poor families with a microloan has grown more than 18-fold from 7.6 million in 1997 to 137.5 million in 2010. Assuming an average of five persons per family, these 137.5 million microloans affected more than 687 million family members, which is greater than the combined populations of the European Union and Russia.

    The third is IFAD in Afghanistan. Currently, IFAD has a limited presence in Afghanistan, with its “Rural Microfinance and Livestock Support Program”, which seeks to improve the livestock sector and generate income for poor rural households.

    IFAD has noted that poverty in Afghanistan is closely related to:
    • the high illiteracy rate in rural areas, where 90 per cent of women and 63 per cent of men are unable to read or write;
    • rural people’s dependance on livestock and agricultural activities for at least part of their income;
    • inadequate land ownership and access to land;
    • lack of irrigation infrastructure.

    The poorest rural people include small-scale farmers and herders, landless people and women who are heads of households. There are an estimated 1 million Afghan widows. Their average age is 35, and 90 per cent of them have an average of four or more children. Without the protection of a husband, widows suffer from social exclusion in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society. Many widows have no choice but to become beggars.

    Children aged five or under are the most vulnerable segment of Afghan society. As many as 50 per cent of them suffer from chronic malnutrition. A great promise remains to be fulfilled from the 1990 World Summit for Children in New York – putting children first for resources.

    The nations in Afghanistan must leave Afghanistan a better place for its men, women and children.

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