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H.M. Queen Maxima Of Netherlands Visits Ethiopia To Highlight Importance Of Financial Inclusion For The Rural Poor

Queen Maxima (centre) with WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and Sani Redi Ahmed, Vice President and Director of Agriculture of Ethiopia's southern SNNP region
(Photos: FAO/IFAD/WFP/Petterik Wigger)

ADDIS ABABA – Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), has just completed a two-day trip to Ethiopia to support Ethiopia’s efforts to make financial services more accessible to the rural poor.

She has been accompanied on the visit by senior officials from the three Rome-based UN agencies focusing on food security, together underlining the role that expanding financial inclusion plays in strengthening food security, as well as how food security interventions can enhance access to affordable financial services for the poor. It is the first time the UNSGSA and the three UN food agencies have travelled together to focus on these issues, which are closely linked with economic growth and rural development agendas.

Travelling with the Queen on the trip were UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and Adolfo Brizzi, Director of the Policy and Technical Advisory Division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), who is representing the IFAD President.

The delegation met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and members of his cabinet, as well as key players in the financial inclusion sector to discuss its role in helping improve food security in rural areas.

Queen Máxima stressed the importance of the Government of Ethiopia’s moves to strengthen the financial sector and make financial services more inclusive. She noted that greater access to affordable, timely and reliable financial services such as savings, payments, credit and insurance can help low-income households enhance their food security and resilience, as well as benefitting small business owners, smallholder farmers and other groups in terms of overall economic and rural development.

The delegation travelled to Hawassa in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) to see first-hand how the Rome-based food security agencies, FAO, IFAD and WFP, are working together with the government to make financial services more available to agricultural cooperatives and the rural poor.

They visited a school taking part in the “Purchase from Africans to Africa” project jointly implemented by the UN agencies and the Bureau of Education to improve food security and income generation activities of smallholder farmers by using the school’s food requirements to promote local food production. They spoke with small-scale farmers about how they manage their money, and with financial service providers about how to overcome obstacles to expanding access to basic financial services in rural areas.

More than 85 percent of Ethiopia’s population relies on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods, and financial inclusion enhances food security. When small-holder farmers have access to a full range of affordable financial services, including savings, loans, insurance and money transfers, they can be better prepared to withstand natural disasters or to make investments in their land that can boost their productivity and income.

Poverty has sharply declined in Ethiopia over the last decade, but a third of the population remains below the poverty line, mostly in rural areas.

Joint press release by WFP, FAO, IFAD and UNSGSA

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About UNSGSA
H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is an active global voice on the importance of inclusive finance for achieving development and economic goals. Designated in 2009 by the UN Secretary-General as his Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) Queen Máxima encourages universal access for individuals and enterprises, at a reasonable cost, to a wide range of financial services, provided by diverse responsible and sustainable institutions. She works in partnership with stakeholders globally to raise awareness, encourage leadership, and foster action toward financial inclusion. She is also Honorary Patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion.  www.unsgsa.org

About FAO
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts - to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy. www.fao.org

About IFAD
IFAD is a financial institution which focuses on rural and agricultural development, creating the conditions for poor rural people to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. IFAD strives to develop robust innovative ways out of poverty for the rural poor. In Ethiopia, efforts focus on delivering reliable financial services to over three million rural households including in pastoral areas; small-scale irrigation development; enhancing smallholder engagement with the marketing chains; and more recently sustainable land management. Enhancing the rural poor’s access to agricultural markets and financial services underpin IFAD’s collaboration and investment to create opportunities for adding value to agricultural produce and to stimulate alternative sources of incomes for rural households.  www.ifad.org

About WFP
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance. Through its food procurement, WFP spent about $845 million in developing country economies in 2012. This represents a huge potential opportunity for smallholder farmers. WFP is working with partners to remove the production and market bottlenecks, including lack of access to financial services, that prevent smallholder farmers from connecting with its purchasing power. www.wfp.org

About the collaboration among FAO, IFAD, WFP and UNSGSA
The objective is to explore how stronger collaboration among these three UN agencies combined with the advocacy efforts of the UNSGSA can advance inclusive financial services for rural households, farmers and enterprises, and accelerate progress toward ending hunger, reducing poverty and rural development.  

For more information please contact:
Marianne Wiltjer, Communications, Royal House Division, Government of the Netherlands, +31.6.183.04764, m.wiltjer@minaz.nl
Tewodros Negash, FAO/Addis, +251.911.422.991, tewodros.negash@fao.org
Wairimu Mbarathi, IFAD/Addis Tel: +251931087219 Email: w.mburathi@ifad.org
Challiss McDonough, WFP/Nairobi (in Addis), +254.707.722.104, challiss.mcdonough@wfp.org

High-resolution photos of the visit will be uploaded here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/faonews/

High-resolution photos of Queen Máxima are available:
http://www.koninklijkhuis.nl/foto-en-video/portretfotos/koningin-maxima/