Honorable Dr. Sung-Hoon Kim, former Agriculture Minister of South Korea, Dr. Mohammad Talebi, Chairman and Managing Director of Bank Keshavarzi, Dr. Ralph Houtman of the Food and Agricultural Organization, Mr. Won Sik Noh, APRACA Secretary General, my friend Dr. Mahmoud Sheikh-Zeinoddin, Senior Advisor to the Bonad of Bank Keshavarzi, distinguished members of the Board APRACA
Honorable Dr. Sung-Hoon Kim, former Agriculture Minister of South Korea, Dr. Mohammad Talebi, Chairman and Managing Director of Bank Keshavarzi, Dr. Ralph Houtman of the Food and Agricultural Organization, Mr. Won Sik Noh, APRACA Secretary General, my friend Dr. Mahmoud Sheikh-Zeinoddin, Senior Advisor to the Bonad of Bank Keshavarzi, distinguished members of the Board APRACA Executive Committee, ladies and gentlemen, in the name of Allah, Good morning.
In behalf of APRACA, I wish to convey my sincerest thanks to Bank Keshavarzi for generously hosting three events. the Asian Forum on Agricultural Finance: Policies and Programs to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change, 60th APRACA Executive Committee Meeting and FinPower CEO Policy Forum on Microfinance.
To say that I am excited to be here is an understatement. This is my second visit to Iran-the first being in 2004-and I am thrilled, to say the least, because the good memories of my first visit are forever etched in my heart. Beautiful country. Even more beautiful people.
The APRACA was organized more than three decades ago in 1977 with a simple vision: to uplift and empower the rural poor. Its goal is to make financial services available, accessible and affordable to the rural poor. To this end, the APRACA fosters cooperation among its member countries for the development and mutual exchange of information, technology and expertise in the field of rural and agricultural finance.
APRACA’s member institutions come from different countries with diverse cultures and political structures. Nonetheless, APRACA’s Vision transcends race, politics, religion, ideology. There are no borders. There is no divide. There is simply the poor that APRACA has committed to help. But there are forces threatening to strain this commitment. For just as APRACA’s vision transcends race and borders, so too does global warming and climate change, Agricultural systems and the rural poor the world over will be hit the most by the effects of this global catastrophe.
And this is all the more reason for nations to set aside their differences and put their minds together to address this common threat. For when the world continues to heat up at its current rate, there may be no differences left to settle.
Ironically, the industrialized nations of the world – from which the highest concentration of greenhouse gases emanate – are also the foremost proponents of globalization. Of course, the idea behind trade liberalization is t open up borders. And again, agriculture and subsequently, the rural sector will be affected the most. The net effect may be positive or negative depending on the policies and support systems in place for each country.
As subsidized and therefore cheapo agricultural products from developed countries come in, developing countries will be hard-pressed to compete. Making financial services available is the key for leveling the playing field and enabling developing countries to compete on equal footing. In the end, of course, it is the consumer who will benefit from lower prices induced by competition. Nonetheless, this should not come at the expense of producers whose livelihood and income will suffer without the proper support systems and services in place, particularly financing.
Given the risks posed by climate change and free trade, now is an opportune time- or perhaps it is more appropriate to say now is the only time-for developing countries to work together in unison to address these challenges.
Technologies in agricultural and rural finance designed to mitigate risks have already been developed, Microfinance for agriculture. Value chain finance. Index-based and area yield-based agricultural insurance. Guarantee and other innovative risk-mitigating schemes. What is needed is for APRACA to extend the appropriate support that will help its member countries adapt or replicate these technologies.
Although the urgency of these matters are impressed upon us, I hope it does not preclude us from enjoying our short stay in a beautiful country like Iran. Let us take time to also appreciate each country, each culture that we have been privileged to experience. Sound mind, after all, induces clear and productive thinking. So let us enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Iran. And then go back to our respective countries and do what needs to be done.
Let me end by quoting excerpts from a song released by Bob Dylan in 1964 but whose message appear timely and perhaps frighteningly prophetic:
Come gather’ round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
The times, They are A-Changin’
Bob Dylan, 1964
Once again, “Thank you” to the officers and staff of Bank Kezhavarzi! Good day to all!