Honiara/Rome, 1 March 2024 - A global food crisis and the effects of climate change are taking a toll on those most vulnerable: millions of people – many of them small-scale farmers and their families – who are unable to afford a healthy diet. At this critical juncture, Alvaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is visiting the Solomon Islands and Australia from 29 February to 8 March 2024 to collaborate on next-steps and to deepen IFAD’s strategic partnership with governments across the region.

“The global food crisis is growing and already almost one-in-three people on the planet do not have regular access to healthy food. In Solomon Islands, nutrition is so poor that the same number of young children - one-in-three - are physically stunted due to malnutrition. This still needs our urgent action,” said President Lario.

The visit marks the first ever official mission to the Pacific by an IFAD President and the first presidential mission to Australia in a decade. Lario plans to meet with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare today and visit projects in the field to see the impact of IFAD’s investments to address the region’s extreme vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, including threats to food security and nutrition. IFAD is working in partnership with Member States and partners in the region to empower rural communities and build resilience in the most remote and vulnerable parts of the world.

“The best investment in rural communities is an early one: one dollar invested in resilience now saves $10 down the line in emergency aid. That's why IFAD’s work in Asia and the Pacific has doubled in twenty years and why we look forward to expanding our relationship with Australia to help grow economies and stability in the region,” Lario added.

Lario is visiting Malaita Island, to meet project participants and implementing partners of the Rural Development Programme – Phase II (RDP II; 2015-2020), which supported small-scale cocoa farmers to partner with agri-businesses to add value to agricultural products and create jobs and income opportunities for 68,000 poor rural families across the country. An impact assessment of the closed project showed a 46 per cent increase in cocoa harvest and a 28 per cent improvement in resilience to climate shocks among project participants.

He will also meet participants in the ongoing Melanesia Rural Market and Innovation Driven programme (MERMAID, implemented by World Vision) and the Pacific Island Rural Agriculture Stimulus facility (PIRAS), on Guadalcanal Island. MERMAID seeks to improve nutrition, increase income levels and eliminate poverty in rural communities in Malaita by encouraging consumption of locally produced, nutritious food. PIRAS – co-financed by IFAD and the Australian Government – supports post-pandemic economic recovery and food and nutrition security in six Pacific Island countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Lario will meet partners from the Kastom Garden Association and hear how rural families are now able to find local sources for planting material and open-pollinated seeds, which has helped them improve food security and disaster resilience, through community-managed germplasm centres set up with PIRAS support.

In Australia, Lario will focus on IFAD and the Government of Australia’s shared development priorities – to eliminate hunger and poverty, and to equip communities to adapt to climate shocks and natural disasters. As co-chair of Global Citizen NOW: Melbourne, Lario will engage with global leaders and advocates in creating a global agenda for urgent action. He will then meet with key decision-makers in Canberra, as well as deliver a lecture on channelling innovative finance and partnerships to build resilience at the Australian National University on 6 March.

Australia is a crucial development partner for IFAD in the Asia Pacific. A deeper strategic partnership would help leverage Australia's expertise in agriculture and development and scale up innovative solutions for the Pacific region, including Small Island Developing States, which face significant and unique challenges.

Total investment by IFAD in the Pacific region amounts to US$461 million, of which US$142 million is financed through the Fund’s programme of loans and grants. For every US$1 invested by IFAD in the Pacific, more than US$2 has been leveraged, making IFAD a strong mobilizer of partnership financing.