How agro agenda is best implemented

Nari, Normal

Seniorl Anzu and Raghunath Ghodake

IN the context of agriculture for development, the third question that the World Development Report 2008 (WDR) addresses is: how agriculture-for-development agenda can best be implemented. The report provides guidance to governments and international communities on designing and implementing agriculture-for-development agendas, particularly in connecting smallholder agriculture and rural development to poverty eradication.
It implies two things – what to do and how to do it. The first is about policy framework and the second relates to effective governance to muster political support and implementation capacity. Both are based on behaviour of agents – the State, civil society, private sector, farming and rural communities, donors and institutions.


Defining agriculture
for development agenda
To get out of poverty, the report states that a smallholder or household can either be fully involved in agricultural farming, wage employment in agriculture, wage or self-employment in the rural non-farm economy, or migrate out of rural
areas, or some combination of these. When defining an agenda, the report suggests that four policy objectives must be considered, viz;
1. Improving access to markets and establishing efficient value chains;
2. Enhancing smallholder competitiveness and facilitating market entry;
3. Improving smallholders in subsistence farming and low-skill rural occupations; and
4. Increasing employment in agriculture and the rural non-farm economy.
Important characteristics to be considered when formulating an agenda are established preconditions, comprehensiveness, differentiation, sustainability and feasibility. 
In agriculture-based countries, such as PNG, over 80% of its people are dependent on agriculture. In view of achieving growth and food security, is to enhance growth by improving smallholder competitiveness in medium and higher potential areas, where returns on investment are highest, while simultaneously ensuring livelihoods and food security of subsistence farmers.
Getting agriculture moving requires improving access to markets and developing modern market chains. It requires a smallholder-based productivity revolution centred on food staples but also including traditional and non-traditional exports. Long-term investment in soil and water management (water harvesting and irrigation)  are needed to enhance the resilience of farming systems, especially for people in subsistence farming in remote and risky environments.
It requires capitalisation on agricultural growth to activate the rural non-farm economy in producing tradable goods and services. The agenda must recognise the often-dominant role of women as farmers, agro-processors and traders in local markets.
Features of an agriculture identified by the report and relevant to PNG include a multi-sectoral approach to capture the synergies between technologies (seeds, fertilisers, livestock breeds), sustainable water and soil management, institutional services (extension, insurance, financial services) and human capital development (health and education), all linked to market development.
Second, agricultural development actions be decentralised to tailor them to local conditions. These include community-based and driven approaches with women, who account for the majority of farmers in PNG, playing a leading role. The agendas must be coordinated across the country to provide an expanded market and achieve economies of scale in such services as research and development.
Third, the agendas must give priority to conservation of natural resources and adaption to climate change to sustain growth. The agenda will require macroeconomic stability, policies to improve producer incentives and trade, and vastly increased public investment – especially in infrastructure, roads and communication to improve market access, and research and development.


Implementing agriculture-for-development agenda
According to the report, the agriculture-for-development agenda presents two challenges for implementation. One is managing the political economy of agricultural policies to overcome policy biases, underinvestment and mismanagement. The other is strengthening governance for the implementation of agricultural policies.
Strengthening the capacity of the state in its new roles of coordinating across sectors and partnering with the private sector and civil society is urgently needed for implementing the agriculture-for-development agendas. The communities, producer and other stakeholders, and non-governmental organisations can improve representations of rural poor and, in doing so, in governance. 
By bringing government closer to the people, decentralisation holds the potential to deal with the localised and heterogeneous aspects of agriculture, especially for extension. But not all agricultural services should be decentralised, as scientific research and disease surveillance have important economics of scale.


Toward implementation
Agriculture-for-development is a power to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable growth, indeed a complex process. The WDR states that it requires broad consultations at the country level to customise agendas and define implementation strategies.
It requires building the capacity of smallholders and their organisations, private agri-business, and the state. It requires institutions to help agriculture serve development and technologies for sustainable natural resource use. And it requires mobilizing political support, skills and resources.
There is growing recognition among governments and donors that agriculture must be a prominent part of the development agenda, whether for delivering growth or for reducing rural poverty and addressing the environmental agenda. Today’s improved opportunities and greater willingness to invest in agriculture provide optimism that agriculture-for-development agendas can move forward.
The window of opportunity that this offers shall not be missed because success will provide high payoffs toward the millennium development goals and beyond.


Next week’s article will focus on Tsukuba declaration on adapting agriculture to climate change – Imperatives for agricultural research and development in Papua New Guinea.