Local investments in agriculture are a good engine for local economic growth.
Photo: © Ray Witlin / World Bank
Investing in agriculture is the most effective way to ensure that there is access to food in impoverished regions. These efforts can also contribute to the local population obtaining higher incomes, more employment and improved gender equality.
In 2017, there were more than 7.5 billion people in the world and we will continue to increase in number. The UN forecasts that the global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. To reduce poverty, it is therefore necessary to work for all people to have access to food and that the soil is cultivated in a way that does not destroy the environment.
One of the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 2) is to end hunger and guarantee nutritious food for all people in the world by 2030 and to promote sustainable agriculture. In recent years, the number of people suffering from hunger has decreased. But at the same time, the number of undernourished and malnourished people has increased. So many challenges remain if we are to achieve the goal of ending hunger by 2030.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that around 800 million people still suffer from hunger and that more than two billion people do not get an adequately nutritious diet. A diet without nutrition can lead to both underweight and overweight and thereby worse health. Malnutrition is especially serious if it affects children as it can lead to permanent damage.
To manage the future food supply, the world’s agriculture must produce more food at the same time that it does not destroy the environment. For example, we have to make sure that biological diversity is protected and that the emission of greenhouse gases is limited. This requires a complex transition.
The fact is that the food produced today would be enough to feed the entire world’s population. But because of conflicts, high raw material prices, climate changes and food waste, for example, the food does not always make it to those who need it. One third of all food is scrapped and thrown out for various reasons. Food waste takes place in the entire production and distribution chain and in households and must be handled in different ways.
What does the average farm look like?
Reports and studies say that there are around 570 million farms in the world. Most are small and run by families. Family farming comprises a full 75 per cent of the total agricultural area. Around 12 per cent of the agricultural land is farms of two hectares or less.
Sida supports the efforts in farming where the needs are the greatest. At a local level, farming can contribute to giving poor people a secure income. Investments in farming have also proven to be a good engine for the local economy to grow and the local population’s incomes have increased to far greater extent than with investments in other sectors. Besides the farming providing capital, it can also employ a large number of people. In many places, it is the only realistic source of income.
It is important to increase gender equality in farming. Studies show that if women were given the same opportunities and rights as men in rural areas, it would be possible to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger by 100-150 million people.
In many regions the world over, it is necessary for the farming to be climate adapted to better be able to withstand drought, floods and heat, for example. This may involve using planting seed that withstands extreme weather, developing alternative cultivation methods and creating more efficient watering systems.
Agricultural support contributes to combating poverty
The development assistance can contribute to small-scale farmers obtaining secure access to land, water and forest with the help of democratic and legally assured systems. Development assistance efforts can also give the farmers conditions to be able to sell their products in the market, such as with the help of better roads, repealed trade obstacles, land reforms and greater knowledge of markets, laws and taxes. Sida also supports the work of making it easier for farmers to organise themselves and cooperate with, for example, purchasers and resellers.
Gender equality is a prioritised area in Swedish development assistance. In developing countries, 43 per cent of those who work in agriculture are women even if it varies widely between different countries. Although women constitute a significant part of the workforce, agriculture is often seen as a male sector and it is the men who own the land. Advice is often directed at men, as well as credits, access to planting seed and machinery. Therefore, Sida supports the work for women’s rights to own and use arable land, and to contribute to them being able to increase their knowledge.
A large part of the development cooperation takes place through interest organisations, the business community and government authorities. An increasingly large part of the assistance is not earmarked, but rather allows an organisation to decide itself what activities they want to prioritise.