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Sep 13, 2011

Invest in agriculture to reduce poverty – World Bank

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World Bank’s special envoy for climate change Andrew Steer discusses the development of Africa's agricultural industry. Camera Work: Nicholas Boyd. Editing: Darlene Creamer.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation assistant director-general for the natural resources management and environment department Alexander Muller discusses the need for coherence and integration in tackling global agricultural and climate challenges . Camera Work: Nicholas Boyd. Editing: Darlene Creamer.
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Mitigation and adaptation, political smartness and smart policy were crucial to developing Africa’s agricultural industry, the World Bank’s special envoy for climate change Andrew Steer said on Tuesday.

He said at an African Ministerial conference on climate-smart agriculture, in Johannesburg, that harnessing political enthusiasm to address food security, climate change and disaster management, coupled with smart policies and effective partnerships would unlock financing for agriculture.

Steer said that one of the best ways to reduce poverty was to invest in agriculture. “On average, good money invested cleverly into agriculture will get four times the impact in reduced poverty.”

The World Bank is increasing its support for agriculture. On average, about $4-billion a year is invested in agriculture, with $6-billion earmarked for 2011, and plans to increase this to $8-billion.

“Global food prices remain high and volatile. We estimate in the last year, food price volatility has pushed 44-million people into poverty and some of them may never recover, as displayed by the impact of drought in the Horn of Africa, and floods in Africa, which has led to dreadful human suffering.”

Food production needs to increase by 70% worldwide by 2050, to feed over nine-billion people. In Africa, food production would have to triple in the next 40 years, to feed a population that is expected to double.

“This is an extraordinary challenge for all of us, but it's made more difficult by the fact that this increase in production needs to take place in an increasingly hostile environment due to climate change.

“In the absence of strong adaptation measures, it is estimated that there will be decline in some 28% in yields for Africa over the next six to eight decades. This is assuming that we are successful in bringing increases in temperatures to about 2 °C, and many experts believe that is almost impossible,” Steer explained.

But, he said there were grounds for encouragement, and referred to many positive initiatives towards a green strategy in countries such as Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even in Ethopia, where there are plans to invest in large scale land restoration.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) assistant director-general for the natural resources management and environment department Alexander Muller said global challenges had to be addressed in a coherent and integrated way.

Such challenges, such as impacts of climate change, increasing scarcity of natural resources and widespread poverty, were prevalent in many African countries. For example, 12.5-million people have been affected by drought in the Horn of Africa.

Muller called for increased productivity and income in agriculture, adaptation and resilience of both livelihoods and natural ecosystems and pointed the need to reduce the overall impact of global climate change.

The FAO supports the development of an investment platform for African climate-smart agriculture in collaboration with the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

“Africa can only successfully implement the concept of climate-smart agriculture when the international community meets its promises to support climate change adaptation and investment in agriculture.

“We need further piloting and scaling up of early action programmes, bringing together finance and investment opportunities and making them available for Africa,” he explained.

Muller said climate finance and agriculture had to be brought together and handling each one separately would not meet the multiple challenges.
 

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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