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Calling on the G8 to meet the food security challenge

May 31, 2011

Guest post by Farming First

Ahead of the G8 summit this week in France, Farming First has launched a new online infographic that demonstrates how agriculture can help build a green economy.

Green growth is one of the top items on the meeting agenda and, with the inclusion of African leaders at this year’s summit, the G8 leaders should foster policy coherence on food security and price volatility to achieve agriculture’s potential.

As a critical sector for achieving the G8’s goals of food security and a green economy, we have collected existing data from leading research organisations and assembled it into graphs and visuals to put agriculture forward in the wider political agenda.

The infographic clearly highlights the value and return to investment in agriculture, both in terms of poverty reduction but also in improving food security through increased productivity. The data also draws attention to the impact of agriculture on women’s livelihoods; 41 percent of total farmers worldwide are women, and this goes up to 64 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Despite this, the G8 leaders’s commitment to provide $22 billion to food security by 2012 has yet to be met. Agricultural productivity needs be addressed through investment in agricultural research and extension services, in order to feed a global population of 9 billion in 2050.

Food production must increase to ensure food security now and for future generations and it is increases in yield that will provide over 70 percent of that growth. The World Bank estimates that 1 hectare of land will need to feed five people in 2025, whereas in 1960, 1 hectare was required to feed only 2 people.

However, if we look at investment in agriculture today, the sector has been a victim of underinvestment for a long time, both in terms of government spending and foreign aid. Public spending allocated to agriculture declined to under 7 percent in 2000, and the share of ODA to agriculture fell to 5 percent in 2004.

The implications of a lack of investment are reflected in the present reality of crop yield growth. Grain yield growth in developing countries has fallen from 3% per year from 1961 to 2007, to a 1 percent increase per year today.

As an example of the huge potential that lies in investing in agricultural research, the impact of the Chinese government’s increased investment in agricultural research has helped China achieve year-on-year yield growth, making the country the largest agricultural producer in the world.

Through our infographic, we hope that G8 leaders will recognise the true contribution that farmers can provide to continued global prosperity, while helping to create sustainable livelihoods, reduce poverty and safeguard the environment. If we invest in farmers today, we can seize the challenge of growing a green economy.

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Farming First is a global coalition representing the world’s scientists, engineers and industry as well as more than 100 farmers’ associations and agricultural development organisations. Farming First calls for a broad- based, knowledge-centred approach to increase agricultural output in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.  To view Farming First’s position on the green economy, visit:  www.farmingfirst.org/green-economy