August 29, 2014

Increasing Partnerships and Investments in Agricultural Development

Next Generation Delegation 2014 Commentary Series

By Sharlene Yang, MPA in International Policy and Management at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and 2014 Next Generation Delegate

At The Chicago Council's Global Food Security Symposium 2014, held on May 22, 2014 in Washington, DC, Ambassador Susan E. Rice declared: “Investing in agriculture is one of the surest ways to reduce poverty.” Although the impact of climate change is felt globally, about a third of the world’s population relies on rain-fed subsistence agriculture – earning under USD1.25 a day - and are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and weather volatility. Furthermore, the FAO estimates that agricultural production must increase to 70% to meet the food and nutritional security demands of a rising world population. This year’s symposium topic emphasized the need to develop climate-smart solutions for advancing global food security and highlighted recommendations from The Chicago Council’s report, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate.

Cross-sector and public-private partnerships, through market-based approaches to agricultural development, can be an effective avenue for meeting these global food security and agricultural development challenges. In the panel discussion on the Climate-Food Nexus and What It Means for Conflict, Economic Growth, and Sustainability, Obinna Ufudo, CEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria, remarked that “we must stop treating agriculture as a development project but as a business” and especially to “engage the private sector in a more sustainable manner to change food systems [because] the private sector can make a huge difference by investing sustainably.”

To be sure, the private sector is becoming increasingly invested in agricultural development, which presents many possibilities along the agricultural value chain, particularly to further inclusive business approaches since agriculture is predominantly an economic and livelihood source for the estimated 2.5 billion people living in extreme poverty. Private sector involvement, along with increasing the number of cross-sector and public-private partnerships, has the potential to sustain operations long-term and strengthen economic development in developing nations. Yet this is estimated to require a 50% increase in annual investment. With the proper investment, training and support, smallholder producers can effectively increase their yields to potentially lift 400 million people out of poverty, thus improving livelihoods, food and nutritional security.

Among the Council report's recommendations for advancing climate change adaptation and mitigation were partnership opportunities such as information sharing, insurance or risk sharing and infrastructure. Knowledge transfer among developing countries is another promising development for increasing effective cooperation in addressing these global challenges. For example, some of the partnerships include Brazil’s Agropensa System; Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Research Program; Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network; and the Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance. Similarly,the Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program, a collaborative partnership between DuPont, the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture, and USAID to provide quality seed inputs, build agricultural production capacity, and grow a strong network of farmer cooperatives and dealers, is another excellent example of how fostering partnerships can bring about desired results.

Despite the global challenges in the coming decades in the face of climate change and concerns of limited natural resources for the next generation, opportunities to meet these challenges present themselves through increased cooperation and collaborative partnerships, technical capacity transfers, networking and knowledge sharing, and increased investments by public and private sectors in agriculture.  

As Bill Gates has noted, “If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated, and focused to help poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering and build self-sufficiency.” By working together, we can make a substantial impact by learning and implementing various approaches for climate change mitigation and adaptation, ensuring food and nutritional security, improving economic and social livelihoods, and furthering positive economic development while managing our natural resources sustainably. 


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.