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This book has examined trends and challenges facing farming systems in the six developing regions of the world and has proposed 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 recommenda-tions would represent a substantial contribution towards the achievement of the international development goals of halving hunger and poverty by 2015.

This final Chapter begins by highlighting the key findings presented in Chapter 8. It then considers the implications of the proposed priorities for the roles of key stakeholders. Various ways to extend these analyses, at global and national levels, are then suggested. The Chapter ends with a closing note that attempts to distil the essential changes in development practice which would arise from adopting these recommendations.


Sources of agricultural poverty reduction

Some of the most abject poverty in the world is concentrated in farming communities. Many farm women, children and men depend on a precarious balance of multiple livelihoods, in which hunger is a daily fact of life and where access to basic services, education, health and water supplies is even more difficult than for the urban poor. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a majority of poor farm families live in areas with medium to high rainfall and significant agricultural development potential. Although there is also considerable poverty in dry and remote areas with low agricultural development potential, they support many fewer people than the more intensively farmed areas. Most commonly, the world's rural poor are concentrated in areas where population density is high and farms are small, growing food crops at a low-to-medium level of intensity. Often, off-farm income represents an important source of household livelihood.

The analysis presented in Chapters 2 to 7 showed how changes in population, markets, technologies, policies, institutions and information flows are simultaneously placing new pressures on, and opening new opportunities for, the smallholder farming community. Where land is available, population growth and market demand are fuelling an expansion of cultivated area; although not always into areas appropriate for sustainable agriculture. In most places, however, land is scarce and incentives for good resource management are absent; soils are being depleted, holdings are shrinking and farmers are sliding deeper into poverty. Increasingly, farm families are being forced to resort to seasonal, and ultimately permanent, migration in search of alternative livelihoods. On the other hand, where support structures exist and policies promote effective resource management, small farmers are successfully intensifying and diversifying production, enhancing their resource base and increasing off-farm income through family employment in local agro-industries.

The improvement of farm household livelihoods that would be necessary to meet the international goals of halving poverty and hunger by 2015 could be derived from five main sources, which correspond to the predominant farm household strategies for escaping hunger and poverty, as shown in Box 9.1.

Box 9.1 Household Strategies for Hunger and Poverty Reduction

  • Intensification of existing patterns of farm production;
  • Diversification of production, including increased market orientation and value added
  • post-harvest activities;
  • Increased operated farm size, either through consolidation of existing holdings or the extension of farming on new agricultural land;
  • Increased off-farm income to supplement farming activities; and
  • Exit from agriculture, involving migration from rural areas.

The relative importance of these poverty reduction strategies differs between system categories. In order to facilitate policy and programme formulation, the three most important poverty reduction strategies for each farming system category are shown in Table 9.1. In aggregate terms, a larger proportion of poverty reduction is expected from improvements on the farm (diversification, intensification and increased farm size) than from off-farm sources (increased off-farm income and exit from agriculture). In the context of farm improvement, diversification is a key strategy for poverty reduction in all eight system categories, whilst intensification is important in those systems with higher potential, notably irrigation and dualistic systems. Increased farm, herd or business size is of significance only in dualistic and urban based systems.

Millions of farmers are also expected to escape poverty by increasing off-farm income, which is second only to diversification as a key strategy for poverty reduction, in seven of the eight system categories. The exit of farmers from agriculture within a particular farming system is expected to be an increasingly common phenomenon, and of particular importance among smallholders in low potential rainfed highland and dry/cold systems.

As indicated above, there are important complementarities between the poverty reduction strategies. In fact, many farmers simultaneously intensify and diversify their production. The intensification and diversification of farming creates the conditions for the development of the non-farm economy and the increase of off-farm income, which in turn stimulate further agricultural growth. Over time, poorer agricultural households may progressively increase the emphasis on off-farm income until they finally abandon agriculture altogether.

Table 9.1 Key Strategies for Poverty Reduction by Farming System Category

Poverty Reduction Strategies

Irrigated schemes(small holder)

Wetland rice based

Rainfed humid

Rainfed Highland

Rainfed dry/cold

Dualistic (large/small)

Coastal artisanal Fishing

Urban based





Increased Farm Size



Increased off-farm Income


Exit from Agriculture




Note: See Table 8.2 for details. Key strategies are those which rank first, second or third for each system category.

A global strategy for the reduction of hunger and poverty

The common elements of a global strategy for reduction of hunger and poverty were outlined in Chapter 8, and are summarised in the following paragraphs and in Box 9.2 below.

Box 9.2 Elements of a Global Strategy for Reduction of Hunger and Poverty

Refocusing Institutions, Policies and Public Goods

  • Establish equitable, secure, transferable and flexible resource user rights;
  • Provide sustainable infrastructure to poorly serviced areas;
  • Support small-scale farmer managed irrigation schemes;
  • Continue agricultural policy reform and strengthen meso-level institutions; and
  • Strengthen targeted safety nets.
  • Benefiting From Trade Liberalisation and Market Development
  • Ensure trade liberalisation is a two-way street;
  • Focus smallholders on labour-intensive or niche products;
  • Satisfy household food security needs during the transition;
  • Foster competitive business, especially small rural enterprises; and
  • Support agricultural market development.
  • Enhancing Agricultural Information and Human Capital
  • Ensure wide availability of agricultural information;
  • Provide broad, systems-oriented agricultural training, especially for women; and
  • Strengthen off-farm vocational skills training, especially for youths.
  • Deploying Science and Technology for Poverty Reduction
  • Focus technology through participatory research and development;
  • Increase labour productivity in low potential areas;
  • Increase land and labour productivity in high potential areas; and
  • Promote the adoption of biotechnology with safeguards.
  • Achieving More Sustainable and Productive Use of Natural Resources
  • Focus on the sustainability of natural resource use;
  • Recapitalise soil fertility;
  • Improve water resources management; and
  • Increase capacity to respond to climatic changes.

Refocusing institutions, policies and public goods

A key challenge in relation to the reduction of hunger and poverty among farm households is the creation and effective delivery of reliable and pro-poor international, national and local public goods, within an environment of established law and order, and enabling policies and institutions. Small farmers require equitable, secure, transferable and flexible resource user rights and sustainable infrastructure - including roads and the structures to support small-scale farmer managed irrigation. In order for farmers to manage their resources sustainably whilst also benefiting from economic liberalisation, stronger local and meso-level institutions and effective alliances among stakeholders are necessary. Targeted safety nets for the poor will continue to be needed in order to overcome natural disasters, and to support small farmers unable to adjust quickly enough to changes in world market conditions.

Benefiting from trade liberalisation and market development

The reduction of rural poverty depends to a large extent on the ability of small farmers to respond effectively to the changes brought about by trade liberalisation and local market development. By focusing on labour intensive activities where they possess a comparative advantage, many poor farmers can benefit from these changes and escape poverty. Even farmers unable to adapt may benefit through employment created as others make the transition. In either case, a focus on safeguarding household food security during the adjustment process will be crucial. An enabling environment for market development is also vital, and must include measures to foster small-scale rural enterprises, as these are often key market and employment sources for smallholder households. Mechanisms are required to overcome market failure, especially in respect of monopolies and externalities.

At the international level, there is a widespread belief within developing countries that trade liberalisation has not been a symmetrical process, as many key agricultural and non-agricultural markets in industrialised countries remain heavily protected. At the same time, commercial farmers in the industrialised world - often generously subsidised - are using trade liberalisation to supply urban markets in developing countries. A failure by the international community to address this imbalance could have adverse consequences for poverty reduction and threaten the entire liberalisation process.

Enhancing agricultural information and human capital

Escape from hunger and poverty will necessitate wider availability of information of all types to small-scale producers and enterprises. Poor and vulnerable groups - including female-headed farm households - need to be assisted to benefit from the information revolution. To be sustainable, this process will require the participation of the private sector. To take advantage of available information, the boosting of the social and human capital of poor farm families through extensive rural education and farmer training is essential. Many rural children will never enter agriculture and their training must reflect their future employment in manufacturing and services. The full potential of available benefits will only accrue to countries which simultaneously overhaul, and invest in, appropriate training of agricultural technicians and professionals.

Improving technology and management of natural resources

The contrasting technological needs of different farming systems deserve fuller recognition. To promote growth in high population density areas, land productivity and enterprise diversification will be important; whereas in low potential and low population density areas, technologies that boost labour productivity are required. It is expected that biotechnology will have substantial effects on plant and animal breeding and disease control technologies; but safeguards are required to ensure that the poor also gain from these changes. There is substantial scope for reducing yield gaps in both high and low potential areas, and this can also assist the poor, whose yields are generally below average.

The revolution in agricultural technology which has occurred in the last few decades, has opened new opportunities for livelihood improvement for some small farmers, but has by-passed many others. Some new technologies - particularly new crop varieties - are scale neutral, but others, such as many types of farm machinery, are irrelevant to small farmers in developing countries. As technologies come to reflect more closely the complexity of the farming systems to which they will be applied, there is an increasing tendency towards integrated production practices and the fuller involvement of farmers in participatory development and adoption processes. Rural communities must be supported in taking the lead in planning, implementing and evaluating agricultural development activities. However, governments must ensure an appropriate balance between the site-specific and often short-term goals of farmers and the long-term investment in public goods required for the well-being of future generations (e.g. preservation of biodiversity, carbon sequestration).

Sustainable resource management will provide the foundation for long-term poverty reduction over coming decades. Both soil fertility and improved water resources management are becoming crucial areas. Finally, any strategy for poverty reduction would be incomplete without mechanisms for increasing international and local capacity to manage and respond to climate change, as this is projected to have significant impacts on many poor agricultural areas during the coming decades.


The reduction of agricultural hunger and poverty depends ultimately on the decisions and actions of the 500 million farm households that constitute the farming community in developing regions. It is evident, however, that their potential contribution will not be fully realised in the absence of a socio-economic environment that solicits, encourages, supports and protects their aspirations, ideas and initiatives. A vital component of this environment must be supplied by a vigorous private sector - the creation of which has formed the centrepiece of many recent efforts to promote agricultural growth. Nonetheless, 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 book is that the adequate provision of public goods is still a crucial element of the development process. Effective farmer-based development will, therefore, require the participation of a wide range of players; from the poor farmers and their communities, through the private sector and civil society, to local and national governments and international agencies. The refocusing of the roles of each of these stakeholder groups is discussed in the following sections and summarised in Box 9.3.

Unlocking the potential of poor farmers and their communities

The decision-making skills, technical know-how, physical labour, capital accumulation, initiative and creativity of farming communities must underpin any successful global poverty reduction programme. However, the specific socio-economic circumstances of different communities greatly affects their relationships with other actors, including the private sector, government and civil society.

At one end of the spectrum, farming communities with systems based on commercial operations, are mainly dependent on the private sector. Nonetheless, they continue to rely on government for a conducive policy environment - including regulatory frameworks -and for much technology development, plus agricultural information to improve the efficiency of operations. At the other end of the spectrum, there are communities with limited land and financial resources, and very weak market linkages. Provision of public goods to these areas could greatly accelerate development and make private sector participation more attractive. For these farmers the pace of future development is largely dependent on government support for infrastructure, agricultural research, information dissemination and market development, and on the provision of safety nets whenever natural or economic disaster strikes.

Box 9.3 Refocusing Stakeholder Contributions for Poverty Reduction

Poor Farmers and their Communities

  • Identifying constraints and planning local level rural development;
  • Managing natural resources;
  • Developing sustainable technology;
  • Financing development based on savings;
  • Processing and trading farm produce; and
  • Reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and economic shocks.

Civil Society Organisations

  • Articulating the needs of poor farmers;
  • Building social capital with a focus on women and youth;
  • Generating development innovations and catalysing entrepreneurship; and
  • Disseminating technology and market information.

Business and Commerce

  • Developing markets and introducing production and processing technologies;
  • Creating employment and adding value to agricultural produce;
  • Financing and providing market information and extension; and
  • Providing a wider range of services previously the prerogative of the public sector.

Local and National Governments

  • Maintaining the legislative, political and fiscal enabling environment;
  • Providing incentives for sustainable resource management;
  • Supporting farmer-led learning and technology development;
  • Decentralising rural public services, responsive to local needs;
  • Creating development alliances and partnerships; and
  • Delivering relevant education and training in rural areas.

International Agencies

  • Focusing key stakeholders on issues related to sustainable poverty reduction;
  • Mediating transnational and global sustainable resource, pest and disease management mechanisms;
  • Mobilising resources for poverty-oriented environmental programmes;
  • Monitoring environmental and climate trends and their impact on poverty;
  • Forging public-private partnerships for technology development;
  • Sponsoring international codes of conduct, standards and regulatory frameworks; and
  • Encouraging foreign capital flows into investments that will benefit poor farmers.

Community involvement and actions also vary greatly with socio-economic circumstances. In the most advantaged communities the focus tends to be on environmental and natural resource management. In contrast, disadvantaged communities are likely to focus more on the development of basic social infrastructure. There is great potential for communities to identify local constraints and subsequently plan local rural development. In general, however, farming communities in developing regions have had limited involvement in rural development planning. The challenge exists to foster community-based management committees, on which local stakeholders - including government and private sectors - are represented, as well as to provide communities with the tools they need to identify, formulate and implement actions that will accelerate development. Local resource management is a related area in which communities can also take the lead. The advantage of farmers' decisions on resource management - notwithstanding the shorter decision horizons of individual farmers compared to governments - is that they better reflect local circumstances. Where the national interest might diverge significantly from local interests, joint management mechanisms are appropriate.

A further role of poor communities is to develop measures that ensure a systematic reduction of risks, notably the reduction of the vulnerability of poor farm households to natural and economic shocks. Perhaps the farming community's most under-utilised role lies in the area of innovation, technology development and dissemination. The potential for investment in this area is enormous and has been demonstrated in numerous Farming Systems Research or Participatory Technology Development field experiences. This type of initiative should be at the very centre of effective public and private sector technology development.

The capacity of farmers to accumulate savings and to finance development - even in areas of severe poverty - is frequently under-rated. In general, savings-based microfinance has a good track record and should be promoted wherever feasible. In this way, local initiatives can become the self-sustaining core of rural financial systems, linked to external financial institutions. Such mechanisms underpin the wider involvement of poor farmers in the processing and trading of farm produce.

Support the engagement of civil society partners

When their views are actively solicited, poor farmers often say that an important characteristic of poverty is lack of voice. In many developing countries, NGOs have traditionally played an important role in articulating the needs of poor farmers and other vulnerable groups. Farmers' organisations often claim to represent small farmers too, but in many countries commercial farmers have traditionally dominated the debate and activities of such groups. Building the capacity of NGOs and small farmers' organisations for advocacy and service provision, such as in the work of IFAD and FAO in Southern Africa, is a high priority.

Whilst NGOs and farmers' organisations have a well-established track record in a wide variety of development fields, their core role in relation to poverty reduction should focus on building social capital (e.g. farmers' groups, farmers' networks, small enterprise associations), catalysing entrepreneurship and disseminating public information. Greater social capital, including strengthened farmers' groups and community organisations, will underpin many aspects of agricultural development in the future. Some civil society organisations can also contribute further through their development innovations. Many of the current best practices in agricultural development have been piloted by NGOs, and such efforts should be systematically expanded.

Foster competitive agrIbusiness and commerce ASTOOLSFORPOVERTYREDUCTION

The future role of the private sector covers marketing, processing and other forms of value added, as well as job creation, financing, technology transfer and information dissemination. Experience has shown that, particularly when acting through trade and sector associations, it is capable of undertaking roles - such as phytosanitary inspection, market information and extension - that were at one time considered only possible through the public sector. Nevertheless, despite 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. Where no norms and standards exist, where they are unenforced, or where established players are permitted to erect barriers to the entry of newcomers, the role assumed by the private sector can act to increase poverty among small farmers. The ideal situation is to facilitate the making of profits through the acceleration of agricultural poverty reduction.

Where farms are very small and mainly subsistence oriented there are few incentives for larger private companies to be involved in marketing, as the availability of farm products is limited in terms of range of products and volume. In these areas, local traders and small enterprises - sometimes initiated by farmers themselves - are likely to operate more successfully; dealing with low product volumes and often advancing production inputs on credit. Even in these cases, however, local enterprises will often act as agents of larger regional or nationally-based firms that possess the capital and technological capability to provide required inputs or supply agricultural products to large urban and international markets. All too often, small-scale enterprises must operate on the fringes of the formal sector, due to restrictive and complex procedures imposed by legislation and government policy. Removing such obstacles to small-enterprise operation would greatly assist smallholders in developing marketing linkages.

In some farming systems, larger companies have invested directly in agricultural production (e.g. industrial crops). However, political and legal restrictions on land ownership, perceived risk, and relatively low returns to capital, have increasingly led large corporations to reduce their production activities and to adopt a primarily intermediate role. This `withdrawal' process has often been used to justify public sector investment in large-scale processing facilities previously operated by international enterprises. In a number of countries, governments still maintain such state managed enterprises, whether in processing, marketing, input supply or
other areas. These enterprises have, however, been notoriously inefficient and monopolistic, and their losses have led to a serious drain on government revenues. Although many have been privatised in recent years, there is a need for governments to complete the transfer process of these inefficient enterprises to the private sector.

Increase effectiveness of local and national government actions for poverty reduction

Notwithstanding the greater roles that farmers, civil society and the private sector will play in poverty reduction, the contributions of local and national government are critical. These include the improvement of the enabling environment for other stakeholders, as well as the provision of specific knowledge-related public goods - including technology and education for poor farmers - which are examined in the following section. Because of the prevalence of implementation failures, the delivery of public goods and services is also discussed below.

Priority public goods related to agricultural poverty reduction

The term public goods is often associated with physical structures such as roads, hospitals and ports. However, there is a very important set of `soft' public goods related to the creation of a conducive development environment and the establishment of 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, as well as enforcing and resolving conflicts; (iv) education and training; (v) research and information dissemination; and (vi) safety nets.

Government intervention for rural poverty reduction should be facilitative and complementary, not controlling and directive. Decentralisation of government services to local regions and areas will make their development agenda more relevant to local needs. At the same time, government has an important function to create local stakeholder alliances and to support local capacity building, for planning and implementation - either directly or indirectly through contracting NGOs. It is worth emphasising that the required public goods will not be adequately provided where organisations are crippled by funding shortfalls or bureaucratic procedures that limit their ability to sustain the effective delivery of public services to rural areas.

In addition to the need to regulate private enterprise through a suitable normative framework, an efficient public sector land administration system is critical to secure usufruct for poor farmers, ensure functioning land markets, and to facilitate land consolidation. Similarly, although the private sector and civil society will play the key role in information dissemination, governments need to create an enabling environment and ensure that relevant information reaches vulnerable groups.

Perhaps the single most important public good that can be provided by governments, however, is effective primary and secondary education in rural areas. In combination with participatory processes and farmer-led learning, 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 recognise 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.

Effective delivery of public goods

Poverty reduction depends not only on the adequate funding of public goods, but also on an appropriate mode of delivery; some effective modalities are listed in Box 9.4. Successful outcomes, both for intensive, complex farming systems in high potential areas, as well as for risk-prone systems in lower potential environments, are often the result of integrated approaches. Whilst integrated rural development projects implemented during the 1970s and 1980s proved institutionally unwieldy and yielded poor long-term results, recent successful experiences with high quality participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches suggest that experimentation with a new generation of integrated service delivery models would be worthwhile. The successes that have been observed demonstrate that improvements in household livelihoods and resource management require co-ordinated attention.

Box 9.4 Some Characteristics of Effective Delivery Modalities for Public Goods

  • Facilitative and complementary;
  • Integrating service delivery;
  • Decentralised, responsive to local needs;
  • Applying participatory methods;
  • Involving multiple stakeholders and partnership models;
  • Building on farmers groups and associations;
  • Using matching grants;
  • Encouraging farmer-led learning; and
  • Recognising vulnerable groups especially women and youth.

When decentralisation occurs in the context of greater local control over resources and appropriate local capacity building, it can bring decision-making closer to the level of the farm household and so ensure relevance in the planning and delivery of public goods. A decentralised system can be better tailored to the diverse needs of local farming systems. However, successful decentralisation requires adequate resources and expertise at the local level, and responsibilities must be passed to regional, local and community governments with corresponding budgetary adjustments. The capture of resources and services by local elites must also be avoided.

Matching grant schemes are another promising mechanism for ensuring that public goods respond to local needs. Recipients will not contribute their own resources unless they value the intervention. At the same time, matching grants provide a way of channelling resources towards specific public priorities through the establishment of specific funding categories. The recipients' contributions also represent additional resources, which may not have been available in the absence of the scheme. Given both transparent criteria and selection processes, an open invitation for proposals generally results in an improved portfolio of activities. Adding a competitive element can further enhance the effectiveness of these schemes.

Farm households have a great potential for experimentation, learning and exchange of experience; and it is this type of innovation and learning that lies at the heart of the evolution of farming systems. There is considerable scope for investing in systematic support for all types of farmer-led learning; for example in testing and adaptation of technologies and farmer-to-farmer extension. Although the development of specific innovations cannot be planned, a number of measures can accelerate the innovation process. These include fostering adult learning, innovation circles, prizes and other forms of recognition, plus the systematic assessment and documentation of innovations.

The formation of associations or groups of poor farmers or small traders can greatly increase their economic power - especially when confronted with powerful players such as large traders or agribusiness firms. Associations may reduce barriers to entry and operating costs, and can facilitate the development of endogenous capacity, whether it be in identifying and adopting technologies, accessing financing, or simply improving knowledge of market conditions and requirements. Such groups also provide a point of entry for the planning and design of a wide range of public goods.

Much of the variation within farming systems arises from differences in family composition. Female-headed households tend to control fewer assets and have less available labour, yet they often represent a disproportionate number of the chronically poor. During the implementation of programmes, it should be recognised that women are often confronted with more severe constraints than men in otherwise similar situations, and may well have less access to traditional rural institutions. It is now also apparent that the role of youth and children often needs to be carefully considered.

Expand the role of international public goods

Regional and global public institutions have a crucial role to play in sustainable agricultural development and poverty reduction. In the context of the rapid pace of change in policies and development problems, international agencies can act as clearing houses for information and experience in order to create global public awareness and to keep key stakeholders updated on critical emerging issues. Globalisation 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 work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission 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 fora and agreements is expected to rise quite rapidly. The development of a code of good farming practice could be one contribution.

One of the major challenges in the near future will be to develop practical means of mediating transnational and global mechanisms for resource, pest and disease management - including, for example, medfly, onchocerciasis and tsetse. The creation of incentives to farmers to adopt more sustainable land management could include the sequestration of greenhouse gases through adjustments to tillage methods and through afforestation. The Clean Development Mechanism offers a potentially attractive means of increasing transfers between developed and developing countries, but considerable difficulties remain in developing low cost and reliable verification methods.

Measures at an international level to reduce the vulnerability of rural populations to disasters include steps to reduce the risk of conflict - for instance sponsoring of agreements on the sharing of international water resources. 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 mobilise resources internationally in order to encourage individual countries to undertake actions consistent with the goals of international conventions (on sustainable development, biodiversity, etc.), 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, however, remains very small in relation to the scale of the threats. There is also a need to provide technical assistance and to increase the intensity of global monitoring of natural resources - especially the condition of oceans and forests - and to ensure that findings can be translated into effective damage limitation measures.

International research efforts now involve new partnerships that are being created to share costs and experience in technology development. Biotechnology is likely to spawn a variety of models for public-private partnerships at national and international level. The setting of regional and global research priorities will also require international research partnerships, perhaps focused on common problems across the farming systems outlined in this book.

At present, the flows of foreign direct investment to middle income countries are increasing; some of which are allocated to agricultural production (e.g. intensive poultry production) and to agricultural services (e.g. variety development, input provision and processing). In aggregate, however, foreign direct investment would appear to have had limited impact on food insecurity or poverty reduction. International financial institutions have, potentially, an important future role in encouraging further foreign capital flows to the least developed countries and into investments that will benefit poor farmers.


The analysis contained in this book is based on wide-ranging expert judgement, selected secondary data and the latest available spatial data on population, resource use and climate. The analytical frame is consistent with recent global trends, which are generally widely recognised. 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 globalisation.

While there was remarkable consistency in the qualitative judgements of the wide range of experts who participated in the assessments, quantitative data proved far more difficult to assemble. FAO agro-ecological zone and statistical databases provided an excellent point of departure for the analysis. In recent years satellite-based imagery and associated databases have become available, and data on natural resources, population, climate and irrigation have largely been derived from these sources. For the farming systems that were analysed in detail, information was extracted from local studies and typical 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 GIS databases that map the sub-national extent of poverty or hunger1 across the developing world, 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 for 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 analyses could be further enriched by the dynamic modelling 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 analyses could be conducted. These concern the impact on food security and poverty of global climatic changes, of different levels of carbon sequestration, of research prioritisation, or of the strengthening of local institutions.

The focus of the analysis within this book 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 available. The relatively small number of regional farming systems can be enriched by the definition of further sub-systems within national boundaries (preferably in consultation with neighbouring countries, so as to avoid duplication and conflicting definitions), which can then be used to refine national and local priorities.

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. Pastoralism also has a transnational character in a number of areas - 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 Northwest South America, and the fertile chernozem plains of the former Soviet Union.


Probably the most important message that can be drawn from this book 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 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 the 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 rural 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 rural 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 is an essential 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 vulnerability to climatic and economic shocks would be minimized. Although within most developing countries holdings will continue to be mostly of small to medium size, farmers would 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, 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 industrialised world - while improved infrastructure and mechanisation would minimise 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.

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