A growing consensus on the importance of agriculture in achieving the Millennium Development Goals has culminated with the announcement that the World Bank will increase its funding to agriculture to between $6 and $8 billion a year over the next three years.
This is a big increase from the $4.1 billion pledged annually before 2008 and shows a transition from prioritizing food aid as a means to dealing with food insecurity issues, to addressing the longer-term solution of refueling agricultural development programmes.
Jacques Diouf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation provided a review of the global food challenge, saying,
The current dramatic hunger situation is the result of neglect of agriculture in development policies over the past three decades. It is time to tackle the root causes of food insecurity by adopting lasting political, economic, financial, and technical solutions. We know what should be done and how to do it. Success stories do exist in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America. These experiences need to be scaled up and replicated.
In its statement, “Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, the UN General Assembly agreed to a series of policies and actions that put much emphasis on boosting agricultural development in order to meet the 2015 target. The commitments include:
- 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.
All this comes at time when support could not be more critical. Joanna Kerr, CEO of ActionAid, addressed the General Assembly, saying,
In 2009, rich countries pledged ‘decisive action to free humankind from hunger’, including ‘substantially increasing aid to agriculture and food security’ after years of decline. It is unacceptable that these grand promises have so far yielded only $ 6 million in new money – in a year in which more than $15 trillion was spent bailing out financial companies.
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 the MDG summit.
Visit our page dedicated to the Millennium Development Goals.