The climate crisis is having an increasingly severe impact on both global food security and local livelihoods. The Horn of Africa, for instance, is experiencing its longest-running drought in 40 years. As a result, millions of women and children have become malnourished after losing their livestock and suffering from water shortages and the spread of disease.
However, the international community often focuses on short-term humanitarian solutions to rising hunger rather than committing to long-term investments in agriculture to increase the resilience of smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers are the backbone of the global food system, as about 500 million small farms, mostly in developing countries, are responsible for producing 70% of the world’s food.
To increase awareness and action on this neglected issue and advance investments into more transformative solutions, activist power couple Sabrina Dhowre Elba and Idris Elba have been using their celebrity status to bring agriculture into the media agenda and right into the heart of several global policy events.
Sabrina Dhowre Elba, a Canadian CEO, model, and activist of Somali descent, and her husband Idris Elba, a British actor and humanitarian, have been serving as UN Goodwill Ambassadors for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) since 2020. By strategically using their platforms to highlight IFAD’s policy objectives and meet with world leaders, they have brought the issues faced by smallholders into core conversations.
On a global level, the Elbas have helped raise over 1.5 billion dollars for IFAD’s 12th Replenishment and brought the issue of agricultural investment to COP26 and COP27. These advocacy efforts have had a far-reaching impact and have succeeded in mobilizing support to millions of smallholder farmers. The Goodwill Ambassadors have also helped raise funds for IFAD initiatives including the launch of a 200 million dollars COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility to assist farmers mitigate the immediate impacts of the pandemic on their livelihoods.
Sabrina Dhowre Elba, a Somali Canadian, has also been crucial in mobilizing 6 million dollars from the donor community to cover Somalia’s outstanding debts to IFAD in the midst of the Eastern Africa drought and hunger crisis. This will likely unlock an additional 30 million dollars in investments in Somalia that can support poverty reduction for the country’s most vulnerable rural populations. Additionally, she helped launch IFAD’s Crisis Response Initiative, a project that will target upwards of 72,000 beneficiaries in Somalia from marginalized groups affected by the COVID-19 restrictions and Ukraine crisis.
As a result of their impactful work with IFAD, Sabrina Dhowre Elba and Idris Elba are the recipients of an Honourable Mention in the 2023 edition of the UN SDG Action Awards. They are outstanding individuals who demonstrate that the power is in our hands to Unite to Act for transformative change. Their work is having an extraordinary impact towards achieving the SDGs, in particular No Poverty and No Hunger, and helps empower smallholder farmers who are the backbone of our global food system.