SCOPEinsight meets Alan Johnson, Senior Agribusiness Specialist at the IFC

Every quarter we introduce experts and thought leaders of the agriculture and food  value chain community by asking about their role in the sector, their vision of sustainable agriculture and their personal preferences.

Tell us a bit about you and your role at the IFC?
I am a senior agribusiness specialist and I joined the IFC about seven years ago. Before that I worked at the World Bank and DFID as a senior private sector development advisor. At IFC I am part of the agribusiness advisory team which counts around 40 people globally.

How does the IFC look at sustainability and sustainable agriculture in particular?
Sustainability is one of the big drivers of both IFC’s investment and advisory arms. We see sustainability as a competitive advantage and an extra edge especially when looking forward. Right now the momentum revolves around adaptation to climate change. At IFC, we have developed a set of performance standards for investment and the standards cover a lot of sustainability issues, we aim to go beyond screening. IFC made agriculture one of its priorities because of its potential for development impact and poverty reduction. Through our investment and advisory services arms we want to help the agribusiness sector become environmentally sustainable and social inclusive.

Which direction do you think agriculture is going?
Agriculture and food security issues are one of the biggest challenges we face. There’s a need for fundamental change to respond to a rising middle class, growing world population and rise in demand for animal protein, just to name a few. Sustainability and sustainable agriculture need to become mainstream and our practices needs to be more efficient. My own focus is on smallholders who are at the margins of the agriculture world and need resources to provide for their livelihoods. Again, climate change plays a big role and overlays everything, especially in agriculture.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in agriculture?
I think the biggest opportunity lies in more sustainability in the sector and more smallholder farmer engagement. We see a growing demand for the services we’re offering with SCOPEinsight. There is an opportunity to design and implement new types of intervention that meet the needs of farmers. In Ethiopia where I currently live I see lots of potential for investment in smallholders and sustainable agribusiness.

According to you what would be the most efficient actions to achieve the SDG number two (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture)?
The key to success for the sustainable development goal number 2 is to build a broader alliance of private and public organizations that understand the importance of the sector. Everyone needs to be involved. The Agribusiness Markets Ecosystem Alliance or AMEA is one of the ways to bring parties together in a unified approach.
The agriculture and food security agenda touches all of us. We’re all involved.