|Aid to Agriculture: Reversing the Decline - Food Policy Report (IFPRI, 1993, 24 p.)|
Support for sustainable agricultural growth and development in low-income countries, particularly the poorest countries, has not kept pace with the ability to meet challenges arising from current and future food insecurity, increased land scarcity, and a diminishing natural environment base. Agricultural growth is vital for these countries to not only meet these challenges but to also stimulate economy-wide growth. There are several priorities for reversing the decline in agricultural aid to low-income countries.
· Make agriculture a high priority in the 1990s and beyond. Fashions in international development agencies risk diverting the attention of developing-country governments away from agriculture. National development policies supportive of agriculture are of primary importance for agricultural growth. Even after a decade of reform, in many countries the response of agriculture to macroeconomic policy changes has been modest.
· Increase financial support for sustainable agricultural growth and development in low-income countries, particularly yield-increasing technological change, agricultural research, rural infrastructure, and training. Encourage development of entrepreneurial talent and provide key inputs to agriculture, including irrigation, fertilizer, and seeds. Investments in training, education, and institution-building are important for improving agricultural performance and, hence, for expanding the scope of agricultural investment in developing countries.
· Strengthen the capabilities of low-income countries to develop and implement food and agricultural policies. The strategic capabilities of agriculture-related UN agencies also need to be strengthened. The agricultural development scene is confronted with the problem of fewer resources, a larger number of actors, and a leadership vacuum. This may be a recipe for disarray in agricultural development strategy, especially as the decline in external financial assistance to agriculture may have been paralleled by a loss of managerial, technical, and strategic capabilities for agricultural support at the global level. To call for increased aid allocations by major donors in favor of agriculture is not enough.
· Recognize and overcome political and bureaucratic obstacles to increased agricultural lending. Economic and other factors that condition lending are intertwined. More qualified staff, enhanced status for work in agriculture, and control of pressures from special interest groups are required. Attention to these constraints must not be confined to donor agencies, but must extend to the recipient countries, where it is also necessary to correct the reward structures and the influence of pressure on those in charge of allocating domestic public expenditures to agriculture.
The last major boost to agriculture came in the aftermath of the 1973/74 world food crisis. That food crisis resulted from an unfortunate coincidence of a policy-induced drawdown of stocks in major exporting countries (for example, the United States), unexpected purchases by the U.S.S.R., and droughts in Africa and South Asia. The world food situation remains vulnerable to such coincident events, especially given the fundamental economic policy changes now under way in the Commonwealth of Independent States. It is not difficult to construct scenarios for the 1990s that could lead to comparable crises, and it can only be hoped that major adjustments in development assistance priorities will be made regardless of such potential crises. The current poverty and food security problems in developing countries are crises enough.
Joachim von Braun is a professor of food economics and food policy at the University of Kiel. Germany; he was formerly director of the Food Consumption and Nutrition Division at IFPRI. Raymond F. Hopkins is chair of the Political Science Department and director of the Public Policy Program at Swarthmore College. Detlev Puetz is an independent consultant; he was formerly a postdoctoral fellow at IFPRI. Rajul Pandya-Lorch is a research analyst at IFPRI.
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