New Oxfam Discussion Paper: Private Investment in Agriculture

An Oxfam Discussion Paper, authored by Erinch Sahan and Monique Mikhail, released in 2012, lays out the need for huge investment in agriculture in developing countries. Both public and private sector investment is needed but investments must promote production in a manner that ‘does no harm’ and that ‘does more good’.

The key roles for the public sector should be to support the most vulnerable small-scale food producers, those who the private sector has little incentive to engage with, and to create the right policy environment to allow the private sector to invest. But, as the paper points out, agriculture is ‘inherently a private sector endeavour’ and thus requires private investment, both large and small.

While the paper notes that private sector investment could have a positive impact it caveats this with the warning that investments must follow ethical and sustainable business practices. From Oxfam’s work on mobilising the private sector to support smallholder farmers, certain principles have emerged which they document in this paper. The private sector should invest in staple crops, local and regional markets, processing, access to services, sustainable agriculture as well as work with producer organisations and focus on women’s empowerment. Oxfam believe that private and public sector investment should complement each another and that when private sector investment is coupled with the right enabling environment, this investment can be transformational to economic growth, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction.

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