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05.11.2007 - Article
Agriculture pivotal in the fight against poverty

The World Bank’s "World Development Report 2008"

The World Bank’s latest World Development Report calls for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries. Only when the agricultural sector has been placed at the centre of the development agenda can the first Millennium Development Goal be reached: halving the share of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

Economic growth reduces poverty in developing countries. The poorest segments of the population benefit the most when growth takes place in the agricultural sector. This is the conclusion drawn in the World Bank’s "World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development", which the SDC helped to fund and draft.

The report states that while 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas, only 4% of total official development assistance goes to agricultural projects. The same public spending percentage can also be found in the developing countries themselves. In the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, only 4% of public expenditure is devoted to developing more efficient agricultural production. And yet, 65% of the labour force in these countries is employed in the agricultural sector.

More efficient agricultural production and access to world markets
A new approach is needed: The report calls for action in the developing countries themselves. Production of basic foodstuffs should become more efficient. Smallholder farmers should be able to sell their agricultural produce, poultry, fish and dairy products on growth and high-volume markets. Moreover, jobs should be created in the rural non-farm economy. The President of the World Bank Group, Robert B. Zoellick, also recommends general reforms in which countries "eliminate market-distorting subsidies and barriers to market access.”

The World Bank intends to further increase its spending in agriculture and rural development on the basis of the report’s recommendations. The SDC also places great importance on this theme. Each year, it spends about CHF 120-150 million on "agriculture and rural development" – which is one of the SDC’s ten priority themes.

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