Roundtable with Ms Satu Santala – IFAD

Posted January 17, 2023

IFIAD hosted a roundtable discussion with Ms Satu Santala, Associate Vice President for External Relations, and Governance at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), on 2nd November 2022. The meeting was opened by Ms Sarah Hunt, Policy Director, Irish Aid, and chaired by Prof. Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute, and Chair of IFIAD. The meeting provided an opportunity to share the role of IFAD, and discuss what Irish NGOs and academia are doing to build sustainable and resilient food systems.

Ms Santala highlighted the important collaboration and relationship with Ireland, which is a generous supporter of IFAD. Ireland is a leader in food and food systems she said, and IFAD is delighted to have the opportunity to engage with Irish partners such as the Irish League of Credit Unions Foundation (ILCUF), Self Help Africa, Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI) and a number of Irish Universities and hopes to further enhance these relationships and work together.

The meeting highlighted how global attention is now on food, but the focus is on short-term solutions such as humanitarian assistance and the black sea grain deal which are very necessary but are not solutions to the underlying causes. It is IFADs hope that the current focus on the food crisis is sustained, and that there is an understanding that we need to address the underlying causes and encourage long term investment in food systems. We know what works and what can be done, we have the solutions. We must continue to innovate and push the boundaries.

IFAD was founded in the 1970s in response to devastating hunger crises and while tremendous progress has been made, trends have reversed in recent years. What this tells us is there are underlying weaknesses, fragilities, and inequalities in our food systems which are failing both people and planet, and which have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, Covid-19, climate change and overall inequalities. The primary concern for IFAD is small scale producers in developing countries. Many struggle to stay in business due to increases in production inputs, costs, fuel, and fertilisers. For example, in Columbia, production costs for smallholder farmers are up 47%, and in Burundi, fertiliser prices are up 200% and fuel prices are up 45%.

IFAD is the largest source of multilateral funding in agriculture, seeking out the most remote, vulnerable communities and those not often captured by the larger International Financial Institutions (IFIs). IFAD is very results and impact orientated and at least 15% of the IFAD portfolio is impact assessed. The fund also leverages investments so that for every €1 that Ireland invests, there is 6-8 of additional investment generated. The meeting also learned how a large percentage of IFAD funds are invested in fragile contexts and prioritises reaching finance to the lowest level to transform agriculture from subsistence to becoming more sustainable and viable.

Issues highlighted by participants at the roundtable discussion included:

  • The ‘missing middle’: While support for agricultural production is well developed, there can be a challenge in developing the value chain; local markets need to be supported. It was noted that there is a lack of data available when engaging in market systems development.
  • Youth: It was observed that young people are not inclined to work in agriculture; Opportunities within the food systems should be developed to attract young people such as within agri-tech or the transport sector. There can also a lack of intergenerational sharing, for example, on access to land.
  • Humanitarian / Development Nexus: It was noted that some countries receive only humanitarian aid and there is a lack of sustainable investment to develop the agri-food sector although the opportunities are there.
  • Having a Networks Approach was highlighted as a way to catalyse action on food systems transformation and value chain development. Intergenerational networks and mentorship were also highlighted. At the same time there is a risk of having a proliferation of networks.
  • Policy Dialogue: While there are many opportunities for policy dialogue at international level, it needs to be rooted in the local context. Participants identified space to also ‘stretch policy dimensions’, for example through agroecology.
  • Innovation: Green technologies and post-harvest technologies were cited as innovations with potential or positive impact on food systems. However, it was also noted that innovative solutions are not value neutral and should be framed as appropriate
  • On systems, the group noted that systems are always present whether they are working or not. Agency is also a key concept including human rights-based approach, inclusion, just transition to climate change and inclusive food governance. Agency encompasses questions like “who gets access to seed inputs and why?”
  • It was noted that there is a lot of space to develop South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) partnerships, but they need to be systematic, with a shared purpose and not just once off activities.

Participants included Concern Worldwide, Goal Global, IFAD, IFIAD, Irish Aid, Irish League of Credit Unions Foundation, Public Good, Ryan Institute, Self Help Africa, Small Foundation, Trinity College, Trocaire, University of Galway, and University College Dublin.