World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development

Agriculture is a vital development tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goal that calls for halving by 2015 the share of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger.

That is the overall message of this year’s land-deals-by-agriculture-investors, the 30th in the series. 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 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 labor-intensive, high-value agriculture linked to a dynamic rural, nonfarm sector.

In all regions, with rising land and water scarcity and the added pressures of a globalizing world, the future of agriculture is intrinsically 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.

Today, rapidly expanding domestic and global markets; institutional innovations in markets, finance, and collective action; and revolutions in biotechnology and information technology all offer exciting opportunities to use agriculture to promote development. But seizing these opportunities will require the political will to move forward with reforms that improve the governance of agriculture.

Ultimately, success will also depend on concerted action by the international development community to confront the challenges ahead. We must level 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. At stake are the livelihoods of 900 million rural poor, who also deserve to share the benefits of a sustainable and inclusive globalization.

Robert B. Zoellick
World Bank Group

Contents of the World Development Report 2008
Part I
What can agriculture do for development?
1 Growth and poverty reduction in agriculture’s three worlds
focus A: Declining rural poverty has been a key factor in aggregate poverty reduction
2 Agriculture’s performance, diversity, and uncertainties
focus B: Biofuels: the promise and the risks
3 Rural households and their pathways out of poverty
focus C: What are the links between agricultural production and food security?
Part II
What are effective instruments for using agriculture for development?
4 Reforming trade, price, and subsidy policies
5 Bringing agriculture to the market
focus D: Agribusiness for development
6 Supporting smallholder competitiveness through institutional innovations
7 Innovating through science and technology
focus E: Capturing the benefi ts of genetically modifi ed organisms for the poor
8 Making agricultural systems more environmentally sustainable
focus F: Adaptation to and mitigation of climate change in agriculture
9 Moving beyond the farm
focus G: Education and skills for rural development
focus H: The two-way links between agriculture and health
Part III
How can agriculture-for-development agendas best be implemented?
10 Emerging national agendas for agriculture’s three worlds
11 Strengthening governance, from local to global

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