Key Agricultural Development Debates

ID-100214047In conjunction with World Food Day last week, the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) launched a series of seven papers investigating the key agricultural development debates surrounding sub-Saharan Africa.

For many years the importance of agricultural development for poverty and hunger eradication was a key issue to be argued, debated and championed but more recently this message has been largely accepted with agriculture becoming a central theme on African and international development agendas. As World Food Day showed there is general agreement that smallholder and family farms play a critical role in providing food security, livelihoods, environmental protection and rural development.

Although investing in agricultural development, and smallholders specifically, is widely believed to help tackle poverty and hunger, the way of going about this is much contested, and debates over the right policies, technologies and investments are ongoing. It is these debates that these seven papers, the first of twelve, have explored, in particular looking at how such debates have changed since 2001 and the release of an issue of Development Policy Review entitled “Rethinking rural development“. This issue suggested that the role of agriculture in driving development and economic growth was diminishing with more people leaving the sector to pursue other jobs.

Today agriculture is largely seen as both critical to a country’s economic transition and, because the sector employs millions of people and families, as a route to improving the livelihoods of people around the world. Perhaps this is because the way agriculture is viewed has changed – within agricultural development spheres discourse is as often as not full of ideas such as market development, value chains, public-private partnership and enterprise. Agriculture in developing countries is being viewed as a business with risks but also with many opportunities. Recent rises in food prices, liberalisation of markets, the rise of regional trade and economic partnerships in Africa, and new African institutions such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) have opened the door for agriculture-led development and private investment.

Whether these developments will ultimately be good or bad for African development divides opinion. Do market-led approaches marginalise subsistence farmers, increasing their vulnerability to poverty? Will small-scale farmers ultimately have to leave farming as commercial farms capitalise on market opportunities? How much control over the development of farms and agriculture should individual farmers have? The seven papers presented aim to ignite debate on how African agriculture is changing and shed light on the way forward. The topics of these papers ranges from the changing African economic, political and social landscapes and its impact on food systems; the types of investment most appropriate for smallholder farmers, given their heterogeneity; economic diversification and the link between urban and rural economies; the potential of input subsidy programmes; and the role of ICTs.

Here we suggest some key agricultural debates currently taking place but we’d love to hear from you as to what you think the most important debates are in African agricultural development, and how you think resolution can be found. [Read more…]

Yesterday, today and tomorrow: women, food and poverty

event141016-familyfarmingA series of international days as observed by the United Nations has and is taking place over several days this month.

Yesterday

Yesterday was International Day of Rural Women, the first of which occurred in 2008. The day is about recognising “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

Rural women are crucial in attaining sustainable rural development but they often face inequalities in terms of access to productive resources, finance, health care and education. Women and girls are also more likely to be undernourished and to go without food despite the central roles they play in a household’s wealth and health. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only central to household welfare though but to rural communities, national economic growth and global food security. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, in her speech on the International Day of Rural Women, highlighted the message that rural women need to be at the heart of all development efforts.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, in his speech marking the occasion, talked about the need to address discrimination and unequal access to resources in the first instance. Rural women often rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. For example, in developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force. UN Women’s publication Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources, published with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), examines the factors affecting women’s rights to land and resources, presenting success stories and future priorities. UN Women also supports several initiatives that promote the leadership of rural women and has partnered with the FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) for the “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women” initiative, which “engages with governments to develop and implement laws that promote equal rights”.

Rural women are key to producing and providing food for their families. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and Farming First have produced the interactive graphic “The Female Face of Farming”, which shows the role women play in agriculture around the world.

Today

Today is World Food Day and the theme is Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”. This has been chosen to “raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers”, a key focus of the UN designated 2014 International Year of Family Farming. Family farms, the main form of agriculture in the food production sector, play a significant role in providing food and managing natural resources and thus contribute to the goals of ending hunger and poverty, protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development. 500 million out of 570 million farms across the globe are family farms, responsible for at least 56% of total agricultural production. This infographic was produced for World Food Day to highlight the critical role of family farmers. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Closing the Gap: Towards a 2030 Wasting Target, Generation Nutrition

Making Headway Against Climate Change, Ban-Ki Moon, The Wall Street Journal

Companies take the baton in climate change efforts, The New York Times

GM agricultural technologies for Africa: A state of affairs, IFPRI

Ethiopian Enterprise Partners with New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, ACDI VOCA

Escalating the weed wars, Los Angeles Times

Fine-tuning plant cells for superior cereal crops, The University of Adelaide

Monsanto to spend $90 mln on corn seed research center in Mexico, Reuters [Read more…]

Sustainable Development Goals – an update

ID-10027716On the 19th July after 7 days of discussions, the UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed an outcome document containing 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. The OWG, which comprises of 30 representatives from the five UN regional groups nominated by UN Member States, and the commitment to create the SDGs came out of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The OWG’s primary responsibility has been to create the proposed SDGs and this proposal will be submitted to the UN General Assembly for consideration at its 68th session on the 24th September 2014.

Taking place at the UN headquarters in New York, OWG 13, chaired by Macharia Kamau of Kenya and Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary, was extended by a day due to overnight negotiations. In particular discussions around the issues of climate change; sexual and reproductive health; peaceful and inclusive societies; rule of law; accountable and inclusive institutions, as well as the implementation of the goals called for an extended negotiation period. But agreement was reached and the final 17 SDGs proposed are:

Proposed Sustainable Development Goals

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

[Read more…]

Nutrition for Growth – one year on

nutrition for growthThe 2nd of June marked the one year anniversary of the Nutrition for Growth summit in London hosted by the UK Department for International Development, the Brazilian government and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. During the summit, over $4.1 billion was pledged to nutrition programmes until 2020, a financial commitment unprecedented and one that put nutrition in the spotlight. On the 2nd of June, an event hosted by the School of African and Oriental Studies entitled, Nutrition for Growth – one year on, reported progress made since the summit.

Nutrition has been gaining momentum on the international stage over the last few years: from the Lancet series on Maternal and Child Health in 2008, to the Scaling Up Nutrition movement begun in 2010, to the World Health Assembly targets on nutrition agreed in 2012. Dialogue at an international level about how to integrate nutrition in decision making is happening, in part spurred by the cost of malnutrition to the global economy. Ahead of the summit, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation announced that the cost of lost productivity and healthcare due to malnutrition could be as much as 5% of global GDP, or $500 per person. In November this year the Second International Conference on Nutrition will take place in Barcelona and ongoing discussions around the post-2015 development goals will likely feature nutrition in some way. Proposed goals and targets on Sustainable Development for the Post-2015 Development Agenda were released recently by the UN and include targets to reduce both stunting and wasting.

Countries, governments and donors are also making progress in tackling nutrition. In May, Canada hosted a summit on maternal, new-born and child health, with nutrition a key theme, and pledged $3.5bn between 2015 and 2020. DFID have launched nine new projects to increase spending to tackle malnutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries, including a £36 million nutrition programme in Ethiopia that will reach 3.5 million children. [Read more…]

World Environment Day: Tackling climate change requires systems thinking and collective action

Bn-51-MIcAAa__PYesterday’s World Environment Day, the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment, focused on tackling climate change. This year’s theme is Raise your voice, not the sea level. First established in 1972, every year on 5th June countries around the world host seminars, events and environmental projects from cleaning up Kosovo to solar electric roofs in Barbados to plastic purges on the beaches of Sri Lanka. And there are the WED challenges.

This year is also the UN International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and part of the activities of WED were to raise awareness about the challenges SIDS face, their vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise and the urgent need to help protect the islands.

The message of WED is that our individual actions will aggregate into collective action with the power to transform, in this case mitigating climate change and its impacts. A draft of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change” recently released, supports this message stating that “effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently”. Emissions in one area, sector or emitted by one person have broader impacts for others. Greenhouse gas emissions largely produced in developed countries and emerging economies are putting small island states at risk, a problem requiring collective action.

The IPCC report states that without additional mitigation, global mean surface temperature increases by 2100 will be between 3.7 °C and 4.8 °C compared to pre-industrial levels (the range is 2.5 °C to 7.8 °C when including climate uncertainty). Agriculture, forestry and other land uses (AFOLU) contribute 24% of total direct GHG emissions, second only to electricity and heat production which accounts for 25% (followed by Industry at 21% and transport at 14%).

In order to increase the chances of maintaining global average temperature increases at below 2°C, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 need to be around 450ppm in 2100. Scenarios achieving this target all have reduced GHG emissions, by 40% to 70%, by the middle of the century and emissions near zero GtCO2 eq or below in 2100. Such scenarios represent significant opportunities for improving air quality, energy security, human health and ecosystem resilience but many trade-offs and co-benefits have not been identified or quantified and climate policies will need to be assessed both on their potential to help mitigate climate change and by their effects on sustainable development, poverty eradication and equity. [Read more…]

IFPRI Global Food Policy Report 2013

WAB_GFPR_2013_370x82_orgLaunched this week, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Global Food Policy Report 2013 sets out past developments and future directions in tackling hunger and malnutrition. 2014 is an important year for food and nutrition security as the final efforts towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals and the development of the post-2015 agenda are put into action.

Progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been mixed. Globally we are on track to halve poverty, increase access to drinking water and reduce the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis but those goals relating to hunger, child mortality, access to primary education, reproductive healthcare and sanitation largely remain beyond our reach. The Sustainable Development Goals will, however, propose targets even more ambitious: eliminating hunger by 2025, for example. They will also be expanded in scope, as discussed at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, to cover climate change, urbanisation, conflict and sustainable consumption and production. A United Nations Development Group report, A million voices: the world we want, which collected views and opinions from over 1 million people across the world, highlighted the need for a more holistic agenda that addresses the complex and interlinked challenges the world faces through an equality, justice and human rights lens. People also called for better measurement of progress to support greater accountability.

Central to discussions on the agricultural development component of the SDGs has been the need to increase production without harm to environmental and social processes. Sustainable intensification and efficient food production will likely feature within the post-2015 agenda although it is recognised that sustainable intensification requires transformative change along the whole value chain and at the policy level, as well as widespread adoption of innovative technologies, and thus poses a significant challenge in both designing a goal and in putting into practice. Indeed, finding goals which will effectively reflect the multidimensionality of food and nutrition and their links to the wider environment will be a challenge. [Read more…]