New Delhi: During his first visit to India, Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), a United Nations agency, said in an interview that the government must focus on helping rural communities to build and run their own institutions for better results from the huge amounts of money it puts into rural development. Edited excerpts:
What is Ifad’s strategy for India?
Ifad has a mission to help and enable poor communities to overcome poverty. Here in India we are working with the governments—the Central government as well as many states—since 1970. We have supported 23 projects to the tune of $636 million (Rs2,945 crore today). That is the amount of our own resources invested. Because we collaborate with the Indian government and other multilateral institutions, we are looking at a total portfolio close to $1.5 billion for those projects. Our support and work target is particularly the tribal areas. Empowerment of women is a central part of our work. We also focus on improvements in livelihoods in general as well as microfinance and natural resource management, particularly land and water.
The government has been putting a lot of money into rural India through various schemes. Why do you think India has not achieved the intended results?
The problem is larger than we think. When one is investing in rural development, it is not only building roads and schools. We have to understand that for rural communities, we have to work with them in building their own institutions, helping them to organize themselves so that they have a voice, giving them access to resources, creating institutions where they are themselves empowered, where they are part of the decision-making process. Access to rural financing, helping them build their own financing institutions, the right political institutions (are key), so that they have advocacy, they have a voice in government, whether it is rural community or district levels. Societies and communities (should be) empowered to the extent they have self confidence and the ability to drive their own institutions...
On the world stage: Ifad president Nwanze says if global leaders do not reach an agreement on emissions, the whole world is headed for a disaster. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Farm productivity is not growing fast enough to meet rising demand. Is contract farming a way out?
Ifad does not have a particular opinion on whether governments should go for contract farming or not. What we should remember is that it is not enough to increase production or productivity if we do not put in place the other aspects of agriculture, which is the whole value chain. You (should) have the market access to inputs. Good seeds, good fertilizers, appropriate use of chemicals are necessary. These markets should be vibrant local markets and competitive. Agriculture is not only the domain of the ministry of agriculture. It needs to be supported by the various arms of the government to ensure that the population has enough to eat and those who produce it have enough to eat and sell in the local market, and if possible, in the international market. There is no country that has been able to achieve economic growth without surpluses in their agricultural sector.
Farm prices are highly regulated in India. Would you say it is an area the government should get out of?
This is one of those questions where the answer is not yes or no. It depends on the commodity. The price of rice in the international market today is low (compared with last year). So the incentive to produce is low. Now if you want to pay an incentive to the local producer, the government has to put in place certain policies to ensure that. But when you look at sugar, the story is different. So the government has to put in place certain policies to ensure that the price of sugar is accessible to its people. One must look at the context of a particular commodity and for government to be advised what sort of regulation or deregulation policy it must enact.
What should be India’s role in climate change?
I believe India, China and Brazil champion the cause of the developing world in demanding that the advanced countries must make some concessions and targets (for themselves) as well as who should pay and who should not pay for it. My own point of view is that the world leaders have to recognize that if we do not achieve an agreement on emissions, the whole world is in for a disaster. It is not going to spare one country or the other. I look at this from an ethical point of view and I believe that world leaders are being very narrow- minded in the current discussion that is taking place.