Developing a viable and vibrant agricultural sector presents a significant market opportunity for small and family farmers, write Phil Hogan and Neven Mimica.
Phil Hogan is Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. Neven Mimica is Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.
With hopes high that a new global climate change agreement will be signed at the UN’s COP21 talks in Paris, the world faces a difficult question. How do we feed and nourish an increasing number of people while ensuring that expanded agricultural production becomes more sustainable, and does not put more strain on the world’s natural resources?
The balance is especially difficult to strike given that 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and, in developing countries, agriculture – particularly small-scale farming – is the main source of income and employment. But improving food security is critical: today, one in every nine people goes to bed hungry, while one in four children are undernourished.
Ensuring greater food production alone is not enough. Since undernutrition is the principal cause of death for more than 3 million children each year, we need not just more food but also affordable, safe and nutritious food.
The EU actively promotes techniques that can reinforce the sustainability and productivity of farming. Measures aim to reduce exposure to climate change and avoid environmental degradation while simultaneously contributing to food security and better nutrition. Demand-driven agricultural research and innovation, benefiting small-scale farmers, are particularly important in this regard.
Of course, several factors put food security at risk. Weak productivity, price volatility, growing populations, and limited access to markets all play a part.
In recent weeks, the 2030 agenda has been adopted by the UN. Over the next 15 years, 17 global goals will drive our pursuit of a fairer and better world. Nutrition and food security will be among the core themes in this process.
More than 60 developing countries have asked the EU to support their efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and food systems as a key area of our cooperation. Already a leading donor in food and nutrition security, the EU is ready to invest up to €8.8bn (£6.5bn) in this area between 2014 and 2020. The focus will be on small-scale farmers and undernourished children, as well as preparing the most vulnerable to cope better with food crises.
For instance, the EU will support partner countries in their efforts to hit a 2025 target for reducing the number of children under five who suffer from stunting by 7 million. We have also pledged €3.5bn to improving nutrition between 2014 and 2020.
We want to enhance the incomes of smallholder farmers, improve rural communities’ ability to withstand natural or manmade shocks by intensifying sustainable agriculture practices, and ensure food products are safe and nutritious.
The EU’s strategy is to stimulate change within rural communities in order to achieve economic transition and, ultimately, sustainable transformation. As farming remains largely a private sector activity, and individual families of farmers or smallholders are the largest investors in developing countries’ agriculture, they should be central to this transformation.
Developing a viable and vibrant agricultural sector presents a significant market opportunity for small and family farmers. Further integration into the agricultural economy offers rural and urban farming households, as well as agribusinesses, the possibility of earning a living, thus increasing wealth and prosperity.
None of this will work unless we can ensure that agriculture and development policies actively contribute to achieving each other’s objectives. We are committed to making sure this happens.