FAO Capacity Development

Responsible Investments in Agriculture: translating principles into actions


Increasing responsible investments in agriculture is a crucial means by which to end hunger and poverty. Indeed, it is estimated that eradicating world hunger sustainably by 2030 will require investing an additional US$267 billion per year in rural and urban areas and in social protection (SOFA 2015). Moreover, according to the World Bank, GDP growth in agriculture is at least twice as effective at reducing poverty as GDP growth in other sectors (World Bank, 2008).

Evidence shows that until the mid-2000s, investments in agriculture were in fact on the decline. Although this trend has since been reversed in regard to some forms of investment, there is an urgent need to further increase public and private investments in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food systems.

At the same time, we know that more is not necessarily better. Some investments have impacted negatively on local communities and on the environment, and have been unsustainable in the long-term. If they are irresponsibly conducted, large-scale land acquisitions can for example infringe on people’s rights and livelihoods.

It is therefore necessary not only to increase agricultural investments, but also to ensure the quality of these investments, so that their yields are sustainable in the long term, whilst protecting people’s rights, their livelihoods and the environment.

Defining Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture

To address this, members of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) underwent two years of negotiations, to articulate a set of principles that could guide stakeholders in increasing, as well as improving, their investments in agriculture and food systems.

In 2014, the CFS endorsed the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS-RAI). The ten principles – which cover a range of issues, from respecting land rights to promoting accountability – are designed for all stakeholders (governments, investors, communities, etc.) to ensure that the investments they are involved in are sustainable and contribute to development.

Supporting countries to translate Principles into Actions

FAO is taking the lead in supporting countries to translate the CFS-RAI principles into action. Its role is to both raise awareness about the CFS-RAI principles among stakeholders, and to strengthen country capacities in applying the principles.

FAO’s approach is to start by gaining a robust understanding about stakeholders’ current and needed capacities to apply CFS-RAI. Since December 2015, FAO has led five capacity assessment workshops with representatives from governments, the private sector and civil society.

These workshops have provided invaluable information on current levels of awareness and experience among different stakeholders. Their findings will form the basis from which capacity development actions will be determined.

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