Investments in agriculture boost local economic growth.
Photo: © Ray Witlin / World Bank
Investment in agriculture is not only the most effective way to secure food supply in regions with widespread poverty; it can also contribute to overall economic development for the local population, and therewith also to higher incomes and increased employment.
Growing population, changing diets to increased consumption of animal products, a greater demand for biofuels and lack of investment in agriculture have led to higher grain prices and greater food insecurity in many countries with widespread poverty.
Estimates suggest that nearly one billion people do not get enough nutritional food to enjoy a descent life. In recent years, it has been shown that the most effective way to deal with food insecurity in rural areas is to develop local agriculture, forestry and fishery. According to FAO, nearly 85 per cent of world’s agriculture is managed by small-scale farmers, who produce about a half of all food on earth.
One important reason for this is that local investments in agriculture create food security in places where the need is greatest. However, there are also other reasons. Investments in agriculture have shown to lead to higher incomes for local population far more than investments in other sectors do. In addition to creating income, agriculture also employs a large number of people. In many areas, this is the only realistic source of income.
Sida’s priority is to support efforts that have the potential to become long-term sustainable. Farming practices that require plenty of natural resources, reduce biodiversity, emit large amounts of greenhouse gases or otherwise accelerate the ongoing climate change are not sustainable.
In many regions around the world, it might also be necessary to adjust farming methods to climate changes in order to better withstand conditions such as droughts and extreme heat. This could include introducing better adapted seeds or developing alternative cultivation methods.
Agriculture helps alleviate poverty
In practice, development cooperation contributes to helping small-scale farmers secure access to natural resources such as land, water and forests through democratic and legally secure systems. Development interventions can also be about giving small-scale farmers better opportunities to sell their goods, by improving roads and other infrastructure, dismantling trade barriers, supporting land reforms and increasing access to knowledge and information about markets, laws and taxes.
Gender equality and women's role in development is one of the Swedish government's three thematic priorities. In many countries, women constitute a majority of farmers and in sub-Saharan Africa women produce 80 per cent of food. Despite this, agriculture is seen as a male-dominated sector and the land is most of the times owned by men. Counselling and credits, as well as access to seeds and machinery, are all directed to men. Therefore, strengthening support for women's rights to own and use land is an important part of Sida's continued interventions to ensure food security in poor regions.
A large proportion of development cooperation is carried out through partners, such as nongovernmental organisations, trade and industry actors and public authorities. An increasingly bigger portion of development cooperation is allocated through the so-called programme support, which funds priorities and activities that each partner organisation defines itself. The programme support is often carried out in collaboration with other donors.
In 2011, Swedish government made a special allocation of SEK 225 million on food security, in addition to Sida’s development cooperation. This special food initiative, managed and coordinated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, was initiated in the context of the food crisis in 2009.
In 2012, Sida contributed with SEK 777 million to develop agriculture sector in several partner countries, which corresponds to about six per cent of Sida’s total development cooperation. Between 2008 and 2010, Sida's support to agriculture decreased by 24 per cent, mainly due to the fact that a number of countries that had earlier received aid for agriculture are now phased out as partner countries for Swedish development cooperation. Among the partner countries today are Kenya, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Guatemala and Moldova.In 2013, a similar allocation for food security to that of 2011 was made, amounting to SEK 200 million. Of those, SEK 135 million were used to fund the current research on food security within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).