The tenuous state of world’s food security continues to dominate the headlines. Escalating food prices in 2007-2008, climate change, and concerns about land grabbing have woken the world up to the extraordinary challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. But if food is sufficiently tradable, is it really in every country’s interest to raise its agricultural production? Some economists warn that an over emphasis on agriculture will not bring about the required growth and poverty reduction in all but possibly landlocked Sub Saharan Africa.
In this seminar Luc Christiaensen (UNU-WIDER) reviews novel empirical evidence about the role of agriculture in development drawing on the experience from countries across the world. He argues that agriculture is at least five times more effective in reducing poverty when it comes to the poorest of the poor and up to 3.2 times better at reducing $1-day headcount poverty (including in sub-Saharan Africa). For the better-off poor (reflected in the $2-day headcount), non-agriculture has the edge. These results follow from the much larger participation of poorer households in growth from agriculture and the lower poverty-reducing effect of non-agriculture in the presence of extractive industries.
Investment now in agriculture appears not only necessary for securing the global food supply in the future, in many low income countries it is also an effective way to reduce poverty and foster broad based economic growth.
Conference Room 8, General Assembly Building (GA) UN Headquarters, New York