With the threat of famine predicted to get worse, investing in agriculture is seen as our best way of tackling it.
Three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and would be the first to benefit. Countries that have had the most success in reducing hunger are those with the highest investment rates in agriculture. In recent decades the share of development aid to agriculture has fallen significantly from 17 percent 30 years ago to a low of 3.5 percent in 2004. By 2007 it had risen slightly to 5.5 percent. There are several reasons for these statistics: competition for development aid from social sectors, using resources to cope with emergencies, pressure from environment groups who argue agriculture adds to pollution, the global recession and the unfortunate fact that many agricultural investments have underperformed. But the human statistics are far more troubling. Today more than a billion people in the world are going hungry. If, as forecast, the global population tops nine billion by 2050, food production must rise by 70 percent to feed all those extra mouths. The FAO estimates that would require investments to reach nearly 30 billion euros a year, around 50 percent more than current levels. Pledging to eradicate hunger in the world is all very well and good but that will require the world’s richest nations to put their money where their mouths are.