Stories tagged: Millennium Development Goals

Sustainable Smallholder Agriculture: Feeding the World, Protecting the Planet

On 22-23 February 2012, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held the Thirty-fifth Session of the Governing Council, entitled “Sustainable smallholder agriculture: Feeding the world, protecting the planet.”

It provided a forum for IFAD Member States, partners and the public to discuss and debate what needs to be done to enable smallholder farmers to increase agricultural productivity by 70 per cent by 2050, which is what will be required to feed an estimated global population of 9 billion people.

Bill Gates addressed the Governing Council, urging governments to put smallholder farmers first:

If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, co-ordinated, and focused to help poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering and build self-sufficiency.

He called for the implementation for concrete, measurable targets for increasing agricultural productivity, much like the Millennium Development Goals, in order to track the progress of initiatives. He also announced $200m in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to reinvest in projects aimed at helping smallholder farmers.

With the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (Rio+20) only months away, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, the CEO of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), participated in a discussion entitled “What promise will Rio herald for agriculture?” Dr. Sibanda told the forum she optimistic that the seven areas the Rio+20 conference will focus on (food, jobs, energy, cities, water, oceans and disasters) are the right combination for rural people and smallholder farmers. She did however lament the lack of leadership amidst the African countries who are yet to put farming first, despite the 2004 CAADAP pledge to dedicate 10% of national budgets in Africa towards agriculture. She also highlighted the ‘disjoint’ between technology and policy: despite the technologies being available to farmers for soil/animal management and water harvesting, but policies are restricting farmers’ ability to use them. These sustainable technologies require investment so they can be adapted and adopted by farmers.

Fertilizer Companies Help Provide Key Inputs to the Millennium Villages

Ten years on from when the Millennium Development Goals were first set, key private sector organisations in the agriculture sector have joined the global efforts to address the anti-hunger and environment objectives of the MDGs.

Agrium and Mosaic are two fertilizer companies that partner with Millennium Promise, an NGO committed to supporting the achievement of the MDGs. Millennium Promise oversees the Millennium Villages project, which is providing support to 14 ‘hunger hotspot’ villages in Africa to develop all sectors including health and nutrition, agriculture and environment, education, infrastructure, gender equality and business development.

Since 2009, Agrium has been providing farmers in the villages with access to nitrogen fertilizer (urea) to increase and improve food production. To date, over 5,000 farmers in the Pampaida and Sauri villages who previously had limited access to inputs now have improved access, and over 5,000 households have experienced increased crop production. In 2011, Agrium will double its commitments to the programme to $1 million. It will also increase its involvement to include sites in Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Senegal, expanding its reach to help 25,000 farmers.

By the end of 2010, Mosaic will have donated 52,000 bags of fertilizer and the associated logistics, totalling at $2.1 million, to the seven Millennium Villages it works with. Mosaic currently partners with the Millennium Villages in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, impacting over 300,000 people.

The results of the Millennium Villages project are immensely positive, and call for an urgent scaling up of the initiative to elsewhere. Through support to farming activities, communities have experienced more than a tripling of average maize crop yields, consequently reducing malnutrition and hunger and increasing income. Many farmers have transitioned entirely from being dependent on food aid to being entirely self-sufficient.

With a focus on providing improved inputs, and training farmers in improved agroforestry techniques, the project is helping to promote food security in the villages.

This video from Millennium Promise shows how the introduction of fertilizer has help farmers in Sauri, Kenya.

Agriculture is Prioritised by UN General Assembly on the MDGs

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.

Farming First’s David King Addresses UN on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

David King of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) address the UN General Assembly on Monday in New York.  He advised delegates on the potential role that farm families can play in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Here is the text of his speech:

Roundtable 1
Intervention by IFAP Secretary General, David King
on behalf of President Ajay Vashee

September 20, 2010

United National Headquarters

Mr. President, Excellencies, Delegates and Observers,

It is an honour for me to present four key messages on poverty, food security and gender on behalf of the farm families represented by IFAP. I also bring apologies from the IFAP President, Ajay Vashee, who is unfortunately retained on his farm in Zambia.

  1. Investing in small-holder agriculture is essential to reducing hunger and poverty, and underpins success with all the Millennium Development Goals, including those regarding health and well-being.
  2. Funding agricultural development programs is critical to achieving the MDGs so we are counting on the G-8 countries to follow through on their L’Aquila funding commitments.
  3. Programs are needed that are ‘Farmer-centred and knowledge-based’ so that the full potential of farmers, both men and women, including small-holder and commercial farmers, can be harnessed in making food security and sustainable development a reality.
  4. Farmer organizations 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 wellorganized 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.

Farmers’ organizations can contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in four ways:

  1. Policy definition and implementation, e.g. in country strategies
  2. Research: defining research priorities that meet the real needs of farmers, including the special needs of women farmers
  3. Sharing knowledge and information among their members e.g. on prevention of HIV/AIDS, or on technology transfer
  4. Strengthening the place of farmers in the market through farmer cooperatives and commodity associations

Since the world food price crisis of 2008, agriculture has become a priority for many national governments, donors and international institutions. However, in order to translate good intentions into real impacts on the ground, governments need to work with their farmer organisations as partners in a process of continual improvement of all agricultural systems, creating rural employment, protecting eco-systems, delivering fair prices for safe and nutritious food for consumers, and allowing farmers a fair return for their work. In this way, we are convinced that the MDGs can be achieved by 2015.

Poverty Reduction: Three Recent Reports

In preparation for the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals next week, three recently published reports on poverty will be presented on Friday 17 September at the UN Headquarters in New York. Poverty reduction is a central figure of the international development agenda, and strategies and policies to address it are multiple.

The event this week will offer a platform to debate the most effective ways at reducing poverty rates around the world. The discussion will include presentations by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), and the Chronic Poverty Research Centre.

Each of the reports featured at the discussion address different facets of poverty-reduction, but together they examine what works and what has gone wrong in international policy decisions, and the range of measures that countries can adopt to alleviate poverty.

The following offers a short summary of each report:

Rethinking Poverty: Report on the World Social Situation 2010: UNDESA

  • Disputes the contemporary vision of poverty reduction and affirms that eradicating poverty requires actions leading to sustainable economic growth, employment creation and social development as an integrated framework of economic and social policies.

The commitment made in the MDGs is to eradicate absolute poverty by halving the number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day.

Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics: UNRISD

  • Seeks to explain why people are poor and why inequalities exist, and argues that eradicating poverty requires actions that combine economic development objectives with active social policies and forms of politics that elevate the interests of the poor in public policy.

Escaping Poverty Traps (The Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09): CPRC

  • Explains five main traps that underpin chronic poverty and outlines key policy responses to these areas, emphasising the need for a ‘just social compact’ between citizens and states.

The number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day declined from 1.9 billion in 1981 to 1.4 billion in 2005.