Kanayo F. Nwanze is President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is dedicated to ensuring that agriculture is a central part of the international development agenda, and that governments recognize the concerns of smallholder farmers and other poor rural people. He has been a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Food Security since 2010. He was previously Director-General of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Africa Rice Center for a decade, where he was instrumental in introducing and promoting New Rice for Africa, or NERICA, a high-yield, drought- and pest-resistant variety developed specifically for the African landscape.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established as an international financial institution in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. The conference was organized in response to the food crises of the early 1970s that primarily affected the Sahelian countries of Africa. It resolved that "an International Fund for Agricultural Development should be established immediately to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries." One of the most important insights emerging from the conference was that the causes of food insecurity and famine were not so much failures in food production but structural problems relating to poverty, and to the fact that the majority of the developing world's poor populations were concentrated in rural areas.
Since it was created in 1977, IFAD has focused exclusively on rural poverty reduction, working with poor rural populations in developing countries to eliminate poverty, hunger and malnutrition; raise their productivity and incomes; and improve the quality of their lives. The Fund has designed and implemented projects in very different natural, socio-economic and cultural environments. Many IFAD-supported projects and programmes have been in remote areas, and have targeted some of the poorest and most deprived segments of the rural population. IFAD has recognized that vulnerable groups can and do contribute to economic growth. These groups have shown that they can join the mainstream of social and economic development, provided the causes of their poverty are understood and enabling conditions for development are created.