Foreign Affairs CS Omamo gunning for first IFAD female president

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo is among four candidates battling for the presidency of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Omamo who was nominated by President Uhuru Kenyatta in May is expected to face three other contenders for the prestigious position in the UN-founded Agency, according to the Organisation's official website.

Ifad's official communication regarding its forthcoming special session of the Governing Council meeting indicates that the minister is the only woman in the race and the only African contesting for the presidency.

Others in the race are Alvaro Lario from the Kingdom of Spain, Khalid Mahdi from Kuwait, and Shobhana Kumar from India.

The elections are slated for July 7, 2022, in Italy. The polls are cast by member States only, after which the newly elected president will occupy the office of the Rome-based organization three months later.

The elections will be held this year during the first special session of the IFAD Governing Council which is the principle governing body with full decision-making powers.

Since its inception in 1977, IFAD has had only five presidents serving. And for the entire history of the organization which spans 45 years, no woman has occupied the chairperson seat.

The president’s term lasts four years and is only renewable once.

Former Togolese Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo who was appointed in 2017 is the outgoing president and is set to retire after sitting at the helm for four years.

If voted, Omamo will become the first woman in Ifad’s history to occupy the office as well as the first Kenyan and the third African to head the Fund.

The fund was formed as a specialised United Nations agency and international financial institution focused on the alleviation of rural poverty and hunger.

The incoming president will be taking up the mantle at a crucial time characterised by fears over rising food and fuel prices and the general cost of living among countries.

The situation is worsened by the current conflict in Ukraine with the world’s poorest rural people being the ones hit hardest.

Small-scale producers are already reeling from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, droughts, cyclones, and other natural disasters with their incomes being seriously affected by the rising cost of inputs and disrupted markets; factors that are likely to have devastating and long-term impacts on their nutrition and food security.

Already, IFAD has played major roles in increasing the resilience of rural small-scale producers against the shocks, and ensuring that they continue to grow food and earn incomes.

The Fund’s investments in climate adaptation and sustainable food systems are helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate hunger and poverty.

In Kenya, IFAD has impacted 4.7 million households with total funding of projects costing more than Sh98 billion over the years.

The fund has run a successful program in small-holder dairy commercialization, aquaculture, and market development through technology.