Q&A: IFAD president on bringing evidence to policymaking

IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo on an official visit to Ethiopia’s Tigray and Somali regions, Photo by: IFAD / FAO / WFP / Michael Tewelde

LONDON — You’d be hard-pressed to find the International Fund for Agricultural Development when you first land in a developing country, according to Gilbert Houngbo, the organization’s president. You’ll need to go past the cities and the towns, he said, into the most remote areas. This reflects the agency’s focus on the rural poor, who bear the brunt of hunger and poverty.

Houngbo took over the presidency of IFAD — a U.N. agency that provides low-cost financing to remote rural communities through government loans — in April 2017, following posts with other U.N. agencies and four years as Togo’s prime minister. On October 31, he paid a visit to the United Kingdom Parliament for a talk with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture.

Far from the remote corners where IFAD works — and in the presence of the U.K.’s Department for International Development, one of IFAD’s funders — Houngbo spoke about worrying trends on global hunger that call for scaling up interventions with local buy-in, and IFAD’s efforts to instill a rigorous use of evidence in policymaking in the countries where it works. The conversation here has been edited for length and clarity.

This year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition report documents a rising number of people suffering hunger globally. Do you think it is a blip or the reversal of a trend?

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About the author

  • Anita makri

    Anita Makri

    Anita Makri is a freelance writer, editor and producer with over 15 years' cross-sector experience in global development, health and the environment, specialising in science and policy. She is based in London and has reported from Africa, Latin America and South Asia. Her work has been published in the Guardian, Nature, Science, The Lancet, and SciDev.Net, among others.