Global financial leaders gathered at the Expo Milano 2015 as part of the events of the World Food Day celebrated here on Friday to share views on investments in smallholder agriculture to achieve food security.
The Finance for Food conference, supported by the Milan stock exchange, gathered high-level representatives from Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), which provide financing and professional resources for development, the European Commission (EU) and the financial and private sectors.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who took part in the World Food Day celebrations at the nutrition-themed world exposition, underlined that investment in small-scale farmers can end hunger.
Ban called on everyone to demand answers saying that "there is plenty of food in our world. There are more than enough resources to support sustainable agricultural development."
The conference especially focused on the need for large investments in small farmers in developing countries to ensure that all marginalized and excluded groups are stakeholders in development processes.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva highlighted the importance of investment in agricultural research and extension, rural infrastructure, education and natural resource management for breaking cycles of rural poverty.
In his view, a variety of financing options, from private sector investment to micro-lending opportunities, could create the conditions for millions of the world's poorest people to live in health and with dignity. FAO has estimated that agricultural production will have to increase by around 60 percent by 2050 to feed the planet.
"The growing global food sector will only meet its promise of ending hunger and poverty if smallholder farmers are treated as partners and not charity cases," the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) President Kanayo F. Nwanze pointed out.
It is estimated that most of the more than two billion people in the world who lack access to finance reside in rural areas, where agriculture provides the majority of livelihoods. Smallholder farmers are the primary investors in their own farms and produce around 70-80 percent of the world's food.
"At IFAD, we see every day that when policies, technologies and investments are directed towards the financial inclusion of smallholders, the results are impressive - greater productivity, higher incomes and better food security and nutrition," Nwanze noted.