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Thursday, July 20, 2017
ROME, Jun 16 2017 (IPS) - With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations.
The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), form an important economic block, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on June 16 reported.
They account for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 20 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Together, they produce more than one-third of global cereal production. Last year, Russia became the largest wheat exporter in the world.
“The BRICS countries play an important political role in the international arena. Developing countries around the world look to your successes in economic development over the past few decades as an example to follow,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during the 7th Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, in Nanjing, China.
“Your experiences provide a path that can help us all meet our global collective commitments, namely those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and the Paris climate accord.”
Kadiresan pointed out that, despite trends towards urbanization, poverty in the world today is primarily rural. As a result, accelerating rural development will be key to achieving the SDGs.
“The question is how can we do this? Our experiences in countries in different parts of the world have shown that it can best be done through a combination of agricultural growth and targeted social protection, but also through growth in the rural nonfarm economy,” she said.
“Agriculture can be a driver of sustained and inclusive rural growth. In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy.”
Equally important is that all the tools, approaches and technologies developed “must be useful and accessible to poor family farmers in developing countries” so that they can increase production and productivity.
BRICS Strong in Agricultural Research
Achieving agricultural growth would also require investments in research and development, and the BRICS countries could play a leading role in this, as all five countries have strong agricultural research systems that are working on many of the challenges faced by developing countries, such as feeding a growing population in a sustainable way, according to FAO.
“Biotechnology would also play a key role in these advances, as would agro-ecological approaches. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on cutting-edge research.”
Information and Communication Technologies are becoming more widespread by the day, and they offer a promising approach to address many of the challenges smallholders face with regard to information on prices, weather forecasts, vaccines, financial services, and much more.
Agricultural Growth Not Enough
Agricultural growth, as important as it is, cannot eradicate hunger and poverty all by itself – social protection programmes can also play a key role in rural development, the UN specialised body says.
These programmes have important poverty reduction and health benefits, and can also strengthen the confidence of family farmers, encouraging them to become more entrepreneurial, it explains. “Brazil’s Fome Zero and India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are global references in this regard.”
Kadiresan stressed that it is important not to overlook the key role played by the rural non-farm economy in fostering rural development.
“As economies transform, most farm households obtain significant income from activities other than farming. The income from these activities provides not only a higher standard of living, but also a more stable one in many cases. Governments play a key role in encouraging this transformation by investing in rural health and education,” she said.
“While these investments are typically not within the Ministry of Agriculture’s mandate, we must support such investments, as they are in the interest of our rural constituents. Where would any of us be today without the opportunities provided by our former teachers and a strong educational system?”
International trade could also serve as an effective instrument in promoting food security and act as an adaptation tool to climate change. When an inevitable bad harvest occurs, as it does in every country at some stage, timely imports can help to rebalance the domestic food economy.
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