Interview [ID: 30]

Karim Hussein on doubling smallholder productivity by 2030

The working group IFAD’s policy and research advisor speaks about in this interview with the Platform secretariat and looks at recommending policy measures to reach a 100% increase in smallholder productivity and incomes within 15 years.

The Zero Hunger Challenge has five pillars, each with a particular target contributing to the ambitious overall goal to eliminate global hunger.
Smallholders in this context are defined to include all smallholder actors in the rural space. They can be farmers or part-farmers, traders and also fishers.

The UN Secretary General is expected to use the suggested policy measures to advise other initiatives of the United Nations, but particularly to inform the still ongoing Sustainable Development Goal process.
Karim Hussein also gives a suggestion with regard to thematic areas he thinks would be important in going forward for the Platform, which was ensuring that fostering inclusive rural transformation is embedded in the post-2015 development agenda and secondly the issue of how best to work in fragile situations and protracted crises.

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Karim Hussein | IFAD

Karim Hussein speaks about suggesting policy measures to the UNSG. August 2016.

The above video is an edited version of the interview, for the entire working see the transcript. 


Karim Hussein: I am Co-Chair together with the ILO and UNDP of one pillar of the Zero Hunger Challenge, which has five pillars. The UN Secretariat General’s Zero Hunger Challenge initiative identified five pillars to eliminate hunger… so it is a very ambitious agenda.

One of the pillars of this agenda focuses on 100% increase in smallholder productivity and incomes. I emphasise smallholder, because it addresses smallholders in particular, this pillar of the Zero Hunger Challenge.

When I say it focuses on smallholders, it is because we have a broad understanding of smallholders. It’s not only farmers, it’s smallholder actors in the rural space who can be farmers, or part-farmers and traders. They can be involved in fishing, and other activities. So, it’s a broad definition of smallholders we have agreed upon.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): 100% productivity sounds very technical. Are you saying you want to double the productivity of smallholders?

Karim Hussein: This is part of the process of the Working Group. There is one large part of the Working Group’s effort, which is devoted to looking at metrics: How can we measure the achievement of 100% increase in smallholder productivity and incomes? And that one is looking at the period in which we hope to achieve certain types of indicators of 100% increase in smallholder productivity and incomes.

There is also another part of the work, which focuses on policy measures and messages. And they’re messages for civil society, for private sector as well. So, the metrics discussion is still ongoing between the specialists at the agencies. A number of indicators have been discussed and in relation to those indicators, timelines: By 2030, we would hope to achieve the goal. And the idea is that we can inform broader monitoring around the sustainable development goals that are being defined by the international community.

Then the policy measures are focused very much on policies that can enable the achievement of this broad objective of 100% increase in smallholder productivity and incomes, and then the subcomponents of that. The different targets and measures that are being defined by the group. For us, in the policy measures group, critical elements of those policy measures that have been defined so far, include increasing investments in smallholders and smallholder productivity and improving both agriculture and non-agriculture economic opportunities for smallholders. With gender equality: ensuring that women have equal access to services, equal access to inputs, to land, to natural resources in order to ensure that women can achieve this target.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): It’s not just policy measures?

Karim Hussein: There are metrics and policy measures. If you broke it down into three things, you’ve got definition – what smallholders are, you’ve got policy measures – and we’ve got metrics, how to measure the achievement of the larger objective.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): When the suggestions go to the UN Secretary General and the administrative bodies around it, what are they going to do with it?

Karim Hussein: The Zero Hunger Challenge has five pillars. Each of the multi-agency groups working on each pillar will produce a document, a compendium, of these definitions, policy measures and metrics. That will go the UN Secretary General and he will use those to inform other initiatives of the United Nations, but particularly to see how they might inform the Sustainable Development Goal process going forward.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): So, it’s still going to be relevant to ongoing SDG process?

Karim Hussein: Yes, this should be relevant to the broader discussions, particularly relating to hunger and food.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): Post-2015 is important for agriculture and rural developmtn. Which thematic foci would you say are important for the Platform for the time to come? Maybe you can reflect on the different modi operandi, not just the themes. What would you say would have to be done in which ways and means to be applied to achieve certain goals?

Karim Hussein: First, in terms of thematic areas I think it is important in going forward for the Platform, which we are discussing a lot at IFAD for the moment, is ensuring that inclusive rural transformation and fostering inclusive rural transformation is embedded in the post-2015 development agenda and development efforts going forward. Second area, I personally believe is a critical challenge for rural development and is getting attention but needs more attention, is this issue of how best to work in fragile states and situations. And how best to promote an inclusive rural development process and transformation process in those fragile situations and in protracted crises.

Now, we have some various tools available. One set of tools is in the “Framework for Action,” that is being developed by the CFS on protracted crises. Another set of tools to help us think through these issues, we hope will come out of our work on the next IFAD Development Report in 2016. There will one element, which focuses on fragile situations, and that we hope will help us as a rural development focused community to put more efforts into analysing contexts, understanding contexts, while we develop interventions at country-level to consider how we can have more flexible and tailored approaches to different types of fragile situation. And how we can build capacities in government and non-governmental institutions in these situations. In all of that, recognise the special needs and the special constraints faced by smallholders - by vulnerable excluded rural groups, and rural women and youth in particular.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): Why are we talking about rural transformation now, what was wrong with “rural development?”

Karim Hussein: We talk about rural transformation because we want to help foster a more inclusive change process in rural areas. Now, development has a concept of change within it, as well. But we are talking more of transformation now to emphasise this need for a see change in the situation and status of rural areas to be included in the benefit of rural development processes.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): What is the connection to the rural-urban linkage discussion that you are also involved in? Does transformation mean that you see rural development now in the light of the connection to the urban centres more? Is it not just focused so much more on the rural areas?

Karim Hussein: I would say that we are very concerned to see the inter-linkages between rural development and urbanisation. But to look at how you can foster balanced processes of development, which include rural people and rural areas in those rural-urban transformations that are happening. We know that urbanisation is happening all over parts of the world, more rapidly in certain parts than other parts. And this has impacts on rural areas and rural development processes - it has impacts on food systems, on labour, on migration, on all sorts of dimensions of rural development, as well urban development. And there is a degree of inter-connectedness between rural and urban areas, which is becoming more and more manifest, if you like.

Now, what’s important for us as we focus on rural development, is to understand the implications of these implications for rural people and the opportunities they may provide. And also the difficulties the may produces. And we’ve looked at this in various ways. IFAD produced in 2014 a policy brief on the Post-2015 Development Agenda that was focused on the rural-urban issue, and how we might leverage rural-urban linkages for more inclusive rural development. So, this is one area.

Then there’s a broader policy-level debate this year leading up to a major conference next, organised by UN-Habitat – Habitat 3 – it’s the third international conference organised by UN-Habitat. That will have a strong focus on rural-urban linkages and how to ensure that rural-urban linkages work best for urban development and rural development. Our engagement in this area is important in order to highlight the need for a balanced approach to urban and rural development; the need to foster transformations in urban-rural linkages that improve food security, that increase the incomes and the opportunities available to rural people as well as urban-based populations.

Pascal Corbé (Secretariat): Thank you very much.

Karim Hussein: Thank you.

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