The FAO Investment Centre looks back at 2021 in new Annual Review – and ahead

Rome – The emerging food, energy and financial crisis, the aftermath of the pandemic and exacerbation of the situation due to the war in Ukraine, and climate change are pushing more people into extreme poverty and hunger.

These are unsettling and uncertain times. But what is certain is the urgent need to transform agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

This is the context in which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) Investment Centre has delivered its full range of investment support to member countries in 2021. The latest edition of the Centre’s Annual Review, issued today, looks at some of these achievements.

“The FAO investment Centre is the go-to place for our Members as well as public institutions, the private sector, farmers and financing institutions, to turn to for sustainable agrifood investments and finance solutions,” wrote FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his foreword to the Annual Review.

“We want to expand our outreach to more investors, working strategically across the Organization to scale up investment and for the Investment Centre to become an investment and finance support hub for our member countries,” the Director-General added.

Collaboration with longstanding partners like the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – and strong mobilization of FAO teams around the world – continued to yield impressive results in 2021.

The Centre helped design 42 public investment projects in 37 countries approved by international financing partners for around $7.2 billion – up from the previous year’s $6.6 billion. Navigating COVID-19 constraints, the Centre also continued to support countries with policy work as well as implementation support on 245 ongoing public investment projects in 91 countries, amounting to $42.6 billion collectively.

The Centre contributed to 20 agricultural strategies, 26 policy studies, 24 sector studies and 21 policy dialogues and events.

A transformative period 

FAO Investment Centre Director Mohamed Manssouri noted that the Centre is now in a transformative period, backed by a significant influx of resources and the ambitious vision of the Director-General.

“We aim to become a stronger, more dynamic and forward-thinking Centre – the place member countries and investors turn to for sustainable agrifood investment and finance solutions,” he said.

This transformation is known colloquially as ‘4+2’. It focuses on four main solutions that support strategic investment planning and policy, public investment, private investment and innovative finance, along with the two companion solutions of knowledge for investment and capacity development for investment.

Since last year, the Centre has added a geographic service for Central and West Africa and one for Latin America and the Caribbean – a move that will allow it to strengthen its work in each region.

In the coming years, the Centre will intensify its country focus and outreach, strengthen, expand and diversify its partnerships and engage in more strategic collaboration across FAO to scale up agrifood investment. The goal is to better serve the critical needs of countries, working through financial partners and also with member countries directly.

FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative and the analysis from the large-scale food systems assessments and national dialogues carried out in 2021 provide good policy and investment entry points for transforming agrifood systems.

The Centre will also continue to evolve with the investment landscape as it seeks to increase public and private agrifood investment flows and build more resilient and greener agrifood systems. That means expanding its work in areas such as effective agrifood logistics and food distribution, climate, green and blue finance, impact investing, dedicated de-risking and blended financing instruments, and financial technologies.

And it will continue to grow the body of its Knowledge for Investment (K4I) products, bringing the latest knowledge, thinking and innovations from FAO and beyond for better agrifood investment.

“FAO’s leadership is inviting us to think big – to look for fresh ways to help end hunger and malnutrition, reduce inequalities and preserve the environment,” Manssouri said.

“I am confident that together we can turn this transformation into a reality and help countries realize a better tomorrow.”