This Summary has examined the trends and challenges facing farming systems over the next 30 years in the six developing regions of the world and has proposed a series of strategic priorities for poverty reduction, increased food security and agricultural growth. Since half the total population of developing regions - and a majority of the hungry and the poor - are farmers and their families, the successful implementation of these recommendations would represent a substantial contribution towards the achievement of the international development goal of halving hunger and poverty by 2015.
This concluding Chapter considers the implications of the proposed priorities for the roles of key stakeholders; including farmers and farm communities, NGOs, private sector, local and national governments and international organiza-tions. Ways forward at global and national levels are then discussed.
The halving of agricultural hunger and poverty in the developing world depends ultimately on the decisions and actions of approximately 500m farm households. However, the effectiveness of their efforts depends on the presence of a vigorous private sector, a fact increasingly recognized in efforts to promote agricultural growth. In addition, and despite all that has been written about the benefits of reducing the influence of government on the process of rural development, a central tenet of this analysis has been that the provision of appropriate public goods and services is also an essential element of the development process. Effective development, in fact, requires the participation of a range of participants or stakeholders; from the farmers themselves, their associations, communities and local governments, through the private sector and NGOs, to national governments and international agencies. The following sections discuss the contribution of each of these groups towards a new approach to the reduction of poverty and hunger
The role and contribution of farmers and their communities is central to any successful poverty reduction efforts. However, their relationship to other actors depends greatly on their existing level of development. Systems with extensive commercial focus rely primarily on the private sector to supply most goods and services, although government is still important in terms of policies, the regulatory environment and basic research and development. On the other hand, communities with limited resources and market development will still be heavily dependent upon NGOs and the public sector for many public goods and services. Thus public intervention will strongly influence the development process in these cases.
In more advantaged communities, communities may place considerable importance on environ-mental and natural resource management. In disadvantaged communities, however, the focus is likely to be more on the development of basic social infrastructure. A major challenge is to initiate functioning community-based planning and development committees, on which local stakeholders - including government and private sectors - are represented, as well as to provide them with the necessary tools for the identification, formulation and implementation of development actions.
A major neglected capacity of farmers and farming communities is that of innovation and technology dissemination. The potential for investment in this area is enormous and well documented, and should be central to technology development efforts. The capacity of farmers to accumulate savings and to finance development is also frequently under-rated. This is true both at individual and community level, even in areas of severe poverty. Savings-based microfinance has a well-established track record and should be promoted wherever possible.
A key aspect of poverty is lack of voice, and in many developing countries, NGOs have traditionally played an important role in articulating the needs of poor farmers and other vulnerable groups. Building the capacity of NGOs for service provision, such as in the work of IFAD and FAO in Southern Africa, is a high priority.
The second core role of NGOs and farmers' organizations in relation to poverty reduction is likely to focus on building social capital (e.g. farmers' groups, farmers' organizations and networking) and public information (e.g. analyzes of the causes and status of poverty, policy impact assessments, and advocacy for vulnerable groups).
Even though acting from motives of self-interest, the private sector can contribute significantly to rural development through its role in a wide variety of areas, including marketing, adding value to raw products, job creation, financing, and helping producers meet market requirements. Experience in recent decades has also shown that the private sector, particularly when acting through trade and sector associations, is capable of undertaking roles such as phytosanitary inspection, market information dissemination and extension, that were previously considered to be only possible through the public sector. Only where the benefits of investment are truly difficult to capture, as in the case of rural roads, education and true-breeding seed varieties, is the private sector unable to participate effectively.
Nevertheless, for all of their versatility, private initiatives must depend on the public sector for the establishment and maintenance of the basic legislative, political and fiscal environment in which they operate (see below). Where no norms and standards exist - for example for weights, measures and quality standards - where they are unenforced, or where established players are permitted to erect barriers to the entry of newcomers, the role of the private sector can become destructive and act to increase poverty among small farmers.
Notwithstanding the greater role that farmers, civil society and the private sector will play in poverty reduction, the contributions of local and national governments are critical, particularly in the provision of public goods. The term `public goods' is often associated with physical structures such as roads, hospitals and ports. However, there is an important set of `soft' public goods related to the creation of a conducive development environment and adequate capacity for the provision of effective public services. These include: (i) ensuring public security; (ii) regulations such as quarantine and food safety; (iii) effective mechanisms for fostering competition, contract enforcement and the resolution of conflicts; (iv) education and training; (v) research and information dissemination; and (vi) social safety nets.
Although many traditional public services, such as phytosanitary controls and certification, can be largely contracted to private operators, the frame-work within which the system operates must remain under public control. In addition, an efficient public land administration system is critical to secure usufruct for poor farmers; ensure functioning land markets; and to facilitate land consolidation.
Perhaps the single most important public good that can be provided by governments is effective primary and secondary education in rural areas. In combination with participatory processes, education empowers farmers to become dynamic partners in development, rather than passive beneficiaries. Most studies show that level of schooling is strongly correlated with the adoption of technology, the local development of alternative livelihoods and out-migration to more remunerative employment. There is a need for rural education to recognize more explicitly the reality that many rural children and youths will earn their livelihoods beyond the agricultural sector, and thus to strengthen the provision of vocational training for off-farm employment.
The analyzes of farming systems have shown that poverty reduction depends not only on the adequate funding of public goods but also on an appropriate mode of delivery to poor and vulnerable farm households. Successful poverty reduction and agricultural growth are often the result of integrated approaches to agricultural development. This is not only true of intensive and complex farming systems in high potential areas, but also applies to risk-prone systems in lower potential environments. Whilst the integrated rural development projects (IRDPs), implemented during the 1970s and 1980s, proved institutionally unwieldy and yielded poor long-term results, recent successful experiences with partici-patory and multi-stakeholder approaches suggest experimentation with a new generation of integrated models would be worthwhile.
Decentralization is an appropriate option for achieving improved local-level control over resource allocation and priorities. Under a decentralized system, planning and implementation can be better tailored to the diverse needs of local farming systems. All too often, however, decentralization has been associated with a decrease in resources and expertise at the local level as responsibilities are passed to regional, local and community governments without corresponding budgetary adjustments. The capture of resources and services by local elites has also sometimes been observed. Associations or groups of smaller participants within the agricultural and marketing system can greatly increase their economic power, especially when confronted with powerful players such as large traders or agribusiness firms, and reduce barriers to entry.
Regional and global public institutions have a crucial role to play in sustainable development and poverty reduction. Globalization has increased the need for internationally agreed modes of behaviour and for standards that contribute to fairness, transparency and safety in international commercial relations. Progress has been made in establishing international codes of conduct in such areas as fisheries, and in obtaining prior informed consent agreements covering trade in genetically modified organisms and in pesticides. The Codex Alimentarius Commission's work on food standards is also of major importance in safeguarding food safety and providing standards, which can be applied, to traded goods - thereby reducing transaction costs. Over the coming years, the need for extending the scope and depth of such agreements is expected to rise quite rapidly.
One of the major challenges in the near future will be to develop practical means of mediating transnational and global mechanisms for resource management. This could include agreements on the utilization of water resources, desertification, the sequestration of greenhouse gases through adjustments to tillage methods, and programmes aimed at bio-diversity and forestation. Measures at an international level to reduce the vulnerability of rural populations to disasters include steps to reduce the risk of conflict. They also include: (i) improvements in early warning systems relating to adverse climatic events; (ii) timely interventions to prevent the spread of transboundary livestock and crop pests and diseases; and, (iii) brokering of measures to ensure the sustainable productivity of shared agro- and marine ecosystems.
The creation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an acknowledgement of the need to mobilize resources internationally in order to encourage individual countries to undertake actions which would generate environmental benefits beyond their borders, and to compensate them for the marginal costs of securing such actions. The reach of the facility remains small, however, in relation to the scale of the threats.
International research efforts may create the opportunity for a sustainable (or `doubly green') revolution in agricultural development. New partnerships in technology development are being created to share development costs and experience. The international community also has a role to play in facilitating the flows of capital to agricultural development. International financial institutions have, potentially, an important future role in encouraging further foreign capital flows to least developed countries and into investments that will benefit poor farmers.
This analysis is based on wide-ranging expert judgement, selected secondary data and the latest available spatial data. The analytical frame is consistent with recent global trends, which are generally widely recognized. However, present trends could be radically modified by unanticipated world events. The most significant of these factors emerging in recent years have been climate change, HIV/AIDS and globalization.
While there was a remarkable consistency in the qualitative judgements of the wide range of experts who participated, quantitative data proved far more difficult to assemble. FAO agro-ecological zone and statistical databases provided an excellent point of departure for the analysis, but could not be applied to individual farming systems. In recent years a range of satellite-based imagery and associated databases have become available, and data on natural resources, population, agroclimatic indicators and irrigation have largely been derived from these sources. For the farming systems that were examined in detail, information was extracted from local studies and administrative areas, and then extrapolated across the system. However, the quality of local data available varied widely from one region to another, and proved almost impossible to access for countries of the former Soviet Union.
Remarkably, it proved impossible to consistently identify either local statistical data or spatially referenced databases that adequately map the sub-national extent of poverty or hunger13, and this probably constituted the largest data gap faced by the authors. In the face of this shortcoming, expert judgement, framed within available national and regional data, was relied upon for specific poverty estimates. Spatial data of livestock populations were also only available for some regions.
It is expected that, within two to three years, spatially accurate databases of hunger, poverty, human and animal populations, and crop areas will become available. At this point, the updating of this analysis on a global scale would generate a more detailed picture of emerging trends and issues, and of strategic priorities. These analyzes could be further enriched by the dynamic modeling of selected farming systems, permitting planners to understand the likely impact on hunger, poverty and rates of economic growth of changes in key parameters (e.g. household incomes, or yields and prices for key agricultural products). Even with existing data, a number of useful supplementary analyzes could be conducted. These concern the impact on food security and poverty of global climatic changes, of different levels of carbon sequestration, of research prioritization, or of the strengthening of local institutions.
The focus of the analysis has been at regional and global level. Applications of the farming systems framework and analytical approach at the national and sub-national levels would represent a powerful extension of this work. Not only can the framework of objectives be articulated more precisely at the national level, but much more biophysical and socio-economic data are also available. In particular, the authors of this study acknowledge the limitations imposed by the use of a relatively small number of farming systems to characterize the diversity of agricultural activity in the developing world. These limitations have been explicitly recognized by the definition of subsystems in a number of cases, but these are still broadly defined at regional level. Individual countries might wish to define further subsystems within their national boundaries (preferably in consultation with neighbouring countries, so as to avoid duplication and conflicting definitions), which can then be used to refine priorities within specific areas.
Other, non-national, refinements of the farming systems defined here might also prove valuable. In recent decades an increasing number of rural development investments have crossed national boundaries; an implicit recognition of the importance of farming systems in determining patterns of resource use and economic growth. Nowhere is this more important than in relation to water use among countries heavily dependent upon seasonal river flooding or aquifer recharging. Some of the most contentious issues in the Middle East and South Asia concern these transnational resources. Pastoralists also constitute a transnational problem for a number of countries - especially in Africa. Finally, some of the key areas where agricultural growth is anticipated in the coming decades are transnational in scope; including the moist savannahs of West Africa, the Llanos of North-west South America, and the fertile chernozem plains of the former Soviet Union.
Probably the most important message that can be drawn from this study is the great potential for reducing both hunger and poverty that resides in the improvement of smallholder farming systems. Not only is there a higher incidence of poverty and hunger in rural as opposed to urban areas, but the study revealed that there are many more poor people in high potential areas than in those farming systems with poor resource levels and weak market links. In view of this widespread potential, the international goals of halving hunger and poverty are achievable given necessary political will and adequate resources to finance key strategies and investments.
The analysis of individual farming systems has revealed the great diversity of development challenges. Furthermore, household livelihood patterns vary not only between farming systems, but also between areas within the same system and even between different households. However, this diversity can be viewed as a great potential strength which governments can exploit during the implementation of agricultural development programmes. If governments can create appropriate policy and institutional environments backed up by the effective provision of key public goods, farm women and men will take the necessary decisions to foster agricultural growth, the sustainable use of natural resources and a rapid reduction in hunger and poverty. This implies handing over the leadership of agricultural development to poor farmers and their communities, and ensuring the highest quality of local participatory and systems based support from public-private stakeholder partnerships. This, in turn, will require adequate funding of national and international public goods.
The rapid reduction of hunger and poverty, although essential, is no more than a first step towards ensuring the sustainable development of agriculture and of rural societies in general. Not only must rural hunger and poverty be eradicated, but farming communities also need secure access to food, water, income and information. In such an ideal future, farmers would be well educated, and be able to enjoy the same basic services as urban populations. As a result of diversification of livelihoods and the existence of effective social safety nets, their current vulnerability to climatic and economic shocks would be much lower.
Within most developing countries holdings will continue to be mostly of small to medium size. Farmers would, however, have access to a far greater range of technologies for sustainable resource management and production, and would be continuously adding to these options through active learning and innovation and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. They would receive compensation for the production of environmental services and other public goods - as is already starting to happen in the industrialized world - while improved infrastructure and mechanization would minimize the drudgery of women's work. Rural communities would possess effective and equitable mechanisms for sustainable common property management, and households would participate actively in public decision making and democratic processes, as well as negotiating with institutions and businesses on more equal terms. Moreover, farming communities would take the lead in the planning, implementation and evaluation of local development activities.
This vision of sustainable farming systems without poverty, and of farmers with secure household livelihoods, should drive the formulation of rural development strategies at all levels.
13 A recent World Bank-sponsored Poverty Atlas of South Africa, providing fully spatially referenced poverty data, is the first of its kind developed.