The Roundtable discussed the current status of financing for agricultural development from all sources, particularly allocation of budgetary resources by the Government for the agriculture sector, recalling that the 1995 Quebec Ministerial Declaration committed FAO and its member countries to “promoting appropriate investment in agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors”.
The participants noted with concern that despite remarkable overall economic progress made over the last decade by the developing countries in Asia and the Pacific region and the commitment made at the World Food Summit of 1996, the Millennium Summit in 2000 and the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS:fyl) in June, 2002 to reduce hunger, poverty and food insecurity, there are approximately 503 million of undernourished people and 800 million poor subsisting on income below the poverty line.
The Roundtable recognized that reducing hunger is a necessary condition for the reduction of poverty and for achieving the World Food Summit target as an intermediate objective towards complete hunger eradication. This is not only a moral imperative, it makes good economic sense and the price is in fact lower than the human and economic costs of allowing hunger to persist.
The participants, noting that the majority (nearly 70 percent) of the poor live in rural areas and earn their livelihoods from the agriculture sector directly as farmers and agricultural labourers and indirectly from employment in rural non-farm activities, recognized the paramount role of agriculture in generating additional food supplies and incomes necessary for greater access to food and better livelihood, especially in the low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) of the region, where agriculture is the principal sector in terms of national income, employment and export.
The Roundtable appreciated that although most investments in the agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries sectors are primarily mobilized by the farmers themselves, the public sector plays a critical role in providing incentives and creating an environment conducive to such investments, as well as, in ensuring sufficient availability of public goods (basic infrastructure, rule of law, peace and security). It recognized further that mobilizing resources for agriculture is fundamental and must be supplemented by investment in infrastructure, education, health, safe drinking water, conflict reduction, democracy, good governance and market openness. Resource mobilization should not be only to invest in hardware but also to improve the entire culture of agricultural practices.
The participants expressed concern that the role of government in support of economic activities in general, and agriculture in particular, has been scaled down over a decade due to financial crisis and reforms in most countries and that governments’ allocation of public resources to agriculture remains well below the share of agriculture in income and employment generation. Participants also proposed several innovative ideas/suggestion, such as special incentive to farmers who are highly productive and provision of resources for self help groups. They indicated that there is a need for paradigm shift in thinking and commitment to mobilize resources for agriculture. For instance, the possibility of tapping external remittance was suggested.
The Roundtable recalled that government spending on productivity-enhancing investments and natural resources conservation, such as agricultural research and development, irrigation and infrastructure (including roads and electricity), has a significant impact on growth in agricultural productivity. It also noted that, while such investments will contribute to poverty reduction, it is also important to enable small-scale farmers to face the challenges of globalization by paying special attention to rural capacity, institution building and safety nets, as well as efforts to improve rural infrastructure, including roads, communications, marketing, transport, storage and processing facilities.
The participants agreed that there can be no hope of meeting the WFS target if the political will to direct sufficient resources to hunger reduction is not strengthened, and that the resources required to put an end to hunger do exist. Several delegates also suggested that political will at national level alone may not be adequate and urged for international political will and commitment. It was noted that some donor countries are allocating ODA which is far below their commitment to provide 0.7 percent of GDP.
The Roundtable resolved to: