Farming is still not receiving the attention it deserves to reap its potential, says Isabelle Coche.

Isabelle Coche

One of the items on the G8 agenda at the 37th summit being held May 26-27 in Deauville, France, is the transition to a green economy. Agriculture can play a substantial role in helping to stimulate growth, secure rural livelihoods and reduce poverty in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Prior to the G8 summit, Farming First has launched an online infographic The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy. Using data from leading research organisations, the infographic tells the story of agriculture’s potential contribution to building a green economy, through more sustainable supply chains, knowledge-sharing, innovation and improved food security. It aims to demonstrate to world leaders that their priorities of both feeding a growing population and building a green economy can be addressed through agriculture.

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Agriculture is a top economic driver. Image: Farming First

In 2009, the G8 made a pledge of $22Bn to food security by 2012.  Two years on, and with their commitments yet to be achieved, G8 leaders need to make concrete, transparent plans to fulfil their pledges to tackle food security and food price volatility, as well as contributing to the realisation of a green economy. This ‘double-win’ should take top priority for policymakers.

Agriculture’s solutions

Farmers are key to the future of a green economy.  They grow the crops needed to feed, clothe and produce energy for the world. By investing in farmers today, we can meet the needs of 9 billion people in 2050.

In his recent book The New Harvest, Harvard professor Calestous Juma identifies three major opportunities that could transform agriculture in Africa into a force for economic growth: advances in science and technology, the creation of regional markets in Africa, and more entrepreneurship. These three principles can be applied to agriculture across the world. 

As a sector, agriculture is critical to people’s livelihoods, accounting for 37 per cent of the world’s labour force. Of these, 97 per cent live in developing countries, where it is women farmers who grow the majority of food. Most of these farmers practice subsistence agriculture. Farmers need access to key inputs and training in better agronomic practices that will help them to improve the quantity, quality and diversity of their crops and combat changing weather patterns, soil degradation and pest problems. By investing in storage facilities to reduce post-harvest losses, transport links to access markets and communications systems to share knowledge, farmers can more reliably increase the amount of crops they grow and bring to market.  Better business boosts farmers’ incomes and stimulates local business, and has a ripple effect into the community, helping to improve local food security.

In the wider landscape, more sustainable agricultural practices can help protect the environment and the habitats within it. Worldwide, agriculture accounts for 34% of the land area and 70% of water consumption. A variety of practices, such as conservation agriculture, and technologies such as drip irrigation or improved rainwater harvesting, can help manage natural resources more sustainably. By increasing crop yields, natural habitats are protected from being cultivated, and forests can continue to capture carbon and mitigate overall emissions related to climate change.

From knowledge to action

Our infographic provides evidence of agriculture’s importance for demonstrating the complementary link between the environment and growth, and yet the sector is a victim of underinvestment.

G8 leaders need to support advances in agricultural research and development to further our progress towards the goals of food security and the green economy. Governments need to address the uptake gap that leaves the most vulnerable farmers unable to access the agricultural innovations that could radically change their productivity and their livelihoods.

Agricultural policies should be science-based and farmer-centred, allowing for a mosaic of solutions to be available from which farmers may choose according to their local needs.

About Isabelle Coche

Isabelle Coche is from CropLife International and is a Farming First spokesperson.

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