9 Billion Reasons to Invest in Agriculture
One of the most complex development issues of our time is how to put nutritious food in the mouths of 9 billion people by 2050. A 70 percent increase in global agricultural production is needed and available arable land is a major constraint. The bottom line is that unless higher small and large crop yields can be reached, many people will remain hungry and unable to seize opportunities to build their own wealth.
The world needs to increase investment in agriculture, which is about two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the very poor than growth in other sectors. And we need to make sure that the world’s most poor and vulnerable see the benefits of such investments – especially smallholder farmers.
Investment in agriculture is a priority for the World Bank Group, which boosted agriculture and agriculture-related investment to over $9 billion in FY12. The World Bank (IBRD and IDA) invested just over $5 billion in agriculture in developing and middle income countries. Those funds were directed to helping smallholder farmers increase productivity, including by providing irrigation, access to research and extension services, and helping local communities get access to their land rights. Programs also help farmers get their products to market and help strengthen the public sector.
In the same period, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector arm, invested $4.2 billion in agribusiness and forestry enterprises – both large and small – which grow food and fiber, employ people, help feed the world and reduce poverty. IFC investments made directly in the agricultural sector have already delivered substantial economic benefits, including helping provide jobs for 37,000 people, including 11,000 women, and reaching 4.2 million farmers (equivalent to 20 million people supported).
At a time when the international community is introducing a step change in the amount and the way we invest in smallholder agriculture, a call to freeze our work is simply the wrong response.