Agriculture Underpins Millennium Development Goalsmdg_logo

The Millennium Development Goals begin with a commitment to eradicate hunger and poverty.  As the producers of food, farmers’ role in hunger eradication is obvious, but farmers also represent one-third of the world’s population and one-half of its poor, while the majority of small-holder farmers are women.  Investing in small-holder agriculture is essential to reducing hunger and poverty, underpinning success with all the MDGs, including those regarding health, well being, and gender inequality.

During the discussions at the High Level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly and the Private Sector Forum of the Global Compact, there was growing agreement on the importance of agricultural development. A large number of initiatives have been launched or strengthened that address food security and rural development. The L’Aquila statement by the G8 and the subsequent launch in 2010 of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) are important examples, but funding is flowing slowly.  While $22 billion had been pledged in 2009, ActionAid estimates the promises have yielded only $6 million in new money.

However, while this renewed attention and action are welcomed and needed, the proliferation of parallel separate initiatives also must address the risk of overlapping, competing or disjointed activities. Plus, despite a great amount of funding pledged by many countries to support food security initiatives, we do not know how much and in what ways it has been delivered. Increased transparency on how commitments are being realised is an important component of ensuring that multiple programmes are working together more efficiently towards a shared goal.

An essential step is to include farmers directly in decisions.  David King, Secretary General of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers IFAP and speaker at the UN Roundtable on Hunger and Poverty, says,

“Farmer organisations have a vital contribution to make to the development of agriculture and rural communities. Unless small-scale farmers are organized, they will remain politically powerless and economically disadvantaged. One of the keys to a successful fight against hunger and poverty is therefore having well-organized partners to work with. Strengthening the institutional capacity of farmers’ organizations therefore needs to be a cornerstone of any strategy for reaching the rural poor.”

Download David King’s Speech to the UN General Assembly

The primacy of farmers to the process is echoed by Jim Borel, EVP of DuPont,

“We need an approach that is farmer-centered, ensuring they have access to the things they need to produce a crop – such as the best seed technologies, land, water, knowledge, inputs and credit. Rural infrastructure needs to be in place to allow for market access and farmers to sell their products. Second, agriculture is knowledge-based and requires a holistic view.”

Download James Borel’s Speech to the UN General Assembly

Jim Prokopanko, President and CEO of The Mosaic Company, and member of the International Fertilizer Industry Association adds,

“When farming families manage to increase production they can sell their surplus and raise extra income to pay for school fees, hospital visits, medicines and more nutritious food

Prokopanko is one of six representatives of the Farming First coalition who are taking part in the UN Private Sector Forum, in addition to Borel and King who spoke this week during the UN General Assembly’s Summit on the MDGs.

The Farming First coalition welcomes the inclusion of agriculture in the proposed outcomes of the General Assembly discussions on Millennium Development Goals. To translate good intentions into real impacts on the ground, governments will need to provide a clearer path to action, greater transparency in how to achieve it, and greater partnerships, including with the agriculture sector.

Download the Farming First press release on MDGs



The UN General Assembly agreed a series of policies and actions in its document “Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”. Farming First was pleased to see a strong emphasis on agriculture including:

“Promoting at all levels a strong enabling environment for enhancing agricultural production, productivity and sustainability in developing countries, including through public and private investment, land-use planning, efficient water management, adequate rural infrastructure, including irrigation, and developing strong agricultural value chains and improving access of farmers to markets and land and supportive economic policies and institutions at the national and international level;”

“Increasing the growth rate of agricultural productivity in developing countries through promoting the development and dissemination of appropriate, affordable and sustainable agricultural technology, as well as the transfer of such technologies on mutually agreed terms, and supporting agricultural research and innovation, extension services and agricultural education in developing countries;”

“Increasing the sustainable production and augmenting the availability and quality of food including through long-term investment, access of smallholder farmers to markets, credit and inputs, improved land-use planning, crop diversification, commercialization and development of an adequate rural infrastructure and enhanced market access for developing countries”

“Addressing environmental challenges to sustainable agriculture development such as water quality and availability, deforestation and desertification, land and soil degradation, dust, floods, drought and unpredictable weather patterns and loss of biodiversity, and promoting the development and dissemination of appropriate, affordable and sustainable agricultural technologies and the transfer of such technologies on mutually agreed terms;”

Read the full UN agreement.


Other Farming First delegates at the UN summit included three more members of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA): Asad Umar (Engro Corp), Patrick Murphy (IFDC) and Stephen Wilkinson (International Zinc Association).

Ajay Shriram, President of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), spoke at the UN Interactive Hearings on the MDGs in June 2010:

A necessary component of meeting the MDGs by 2015 in many parts of the world is a more productive, profitable and sustainable agricultural sector. For most of the rural poor, who constitute a large proportion of the developing world’s population, agriculture is critical to attaining the MDGs.

Download Ajay Shriram’s Speech

During the UN summit, the fertiliser industry reaffirmed its commitments to the Millennium Development Goals.

Three world-leading fertiliser companies are directly contributing to achieving the MDGs by supporting the Millennium Promise and Millennium Village projects:

The Canadian firm Agrium announced this week that it will be increasing its donation to the Millennium Promise from its current US$500,000 to US$1 million in 2011. As part of its commitment, Agrium provides Urea fertiliser and covers the shipment costs to the villages of Sauri, in Kenya, and Pampaida, in Nigeria. Find out more about Agrium’s Millennium Promise activities.

Mosaic, US-based, currently partners with the Millennium villages in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, impacting over 300,000 people. The company donates fertiliser and the associated logistics costs through a commitment of US$2.1 million in 2010, and also provides US$400,000 in support of village clusters in Guatemala and India.

Yara International ASA, a Norwegian company, sponsors two Millennium Villages in Kenya and Malawi.