The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a UN specialized agency, will back initiatives that seek to transform smallholder agriculture in Africa and boost food security and rural incomes, senior officials have said.

IFAD has opened an office in Nairobi, Kenya to serve as its East and Southern Africa regional office. The regional office will serve farmers in East and Southern Africa.

The regional office will be hosted at the UN Complex in Gigiri. It will support portfolio performance, facilitate country programme knowledge sharing, streamline business processes, crowd-in development finance, and expand partnerships, resource mobilization and policy engagement.

The office will serve 22 countries in the region i.e. Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Since 1977, IFAD has made major investments in reducing poverty, increasing food security, improving nutrition and strengthening rural people’s resilience by providing more than US$23.2 billion in grants and low-interest loans to fund programmes and projects in developing countries. Last year, IFAD-supported projects reached an estimated 130 million people.

“The opening of the regional office is a key milestone for IFAD’s decentralization process, which seeks to build on the achievements of the institution for more than four decades. The increase of our presence in the region is also a demonstration of our commitment to serving the last mile, reaching the most marginalized people,” said Guoqi Wu, IFAD Associate Vice President, Corporate Services Department.

In East and Southern Africa, agriculture is the largest sector, employing 65 per cent of the labour force and accounting for over 30 per cent of the region’s GDP. Maize, wheat, rice, millet, potatoes and cassava are the main agricultural trade commodities, generating an estimated annual trade revenue of US$50 billion. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in agricultural production triggered by shocks such as climate change, COVID-19 and conflicts.

“The East and Southern Africa regional office in Nairobi will facilitate IFAD catalyze public and private investments in agriculture to benefit rural communities and enterprises in the 22 countries that we serve in the region,” said Sara Mbago-Bhunu, IFAD Regional Director for East and Southern Africa. “This will not only help position IFAD as a leader on food systems transformation but also enable the institution to scale up new and innovative approaches.”

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