World Development Report 2008: agriculture for development

World Development Report 2008: agriculture for development

Agriculture vital for achieving the Millennium Development Goals

Three out of every four poor people in developing countries live in rural areas, and most of them depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. This year’s edition of the World Bank's World Development Report (WDR) highlights the importance of agriculture for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. The Report provides guidance to governments and the international community on designing and implementing agriculture-for-development agendas that can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of rural poor.

The Report highlights two major regional challenges. In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is a strong option for spurring growth, overcoming poverty, and enhancing food security. Agricultural productivity growth is vital for stimulating growth in other parts of the economy. But accelerated growth requires a sharp productivity increase in smallholder farming combined with more effective support to the millions coping as subsistence farmers, many of them in remote areas. Recent improved performance holds promise, and this Report identifies many emerging successes that can be scaled up.

In Asia, overcoming widespread poverty requires confronting widening rural-urban income disparities. Asia’s fast-growing economies remain home to over 600 million rural people living in extreme poverty, and despite massive rural-urban migration, rural poverty will remain dominant for several more decades. For this reason, the WDR focuses on ways to generate rural jobs by diversifying into labour-intensive, high-value agriculture linked to a dynamic rural, non-farm sector.

Other key points emphasised in the Report include:

  • with rising land and water scarcity and the added pressures of a globalizing world, the future of agriculture in all regions is tied to better stewardship of natural resources. With the right incentives and investments, agriculture’s environmental footprint can be lightened, and environmental services harnessed to protect watersheds and biodiversity
  • reforms to improve the governance of agriculture are necessary to realise exciting opportunities to use agriculture to promote development, such as expanding domestic and global markets; institutional innovations in markets, fi nance, and collective action; and revolutions in biotechnology and information technology
  • concerted action by the international development community is needed to confront the challenges ahead. This includes levelling the playing field in international trade; provide global public goods, such as technologies for tropical food staples; help developing countries address climate change; and overcome looming health pandemics for plants, animals, and humans.
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