What can agriculture do for development

Nari, Normal

Seniorl Anzu and Raghunath Ghodake

Sustainable development and poverty reduction are emerging global issues attracting international attention. The 2008 World Development Report (WDR) states that agriculture is a fundamental instrument and vital development tool that can address these issues. 
The overall message of this report is that through agricultural development, the number of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger can be halved by 2015, the first Millennium Development Goal set by the United Nations.
In view of the vastly different context of opportunities and challenges that have emerged, it is necessary to redefine how agriculture can be used for development. 
In this context, there are three questions that the report addressed: what can agriculture do for development?; what are effective instruments in using agriculture for development?; and how can agriculture for development agenda best be implemented?
In addressing the first question, the report emphasises the importance of agriculture for development, particularly focusing on smallholder agriculture, rural development and poverty eradication.
Three key contributions of agriculture are derived in the context of agriculture for development.
Firstly, the sector contributes to development as an economic activity, especially in the early stages of economic development.
Secondly, the sector is a source of livelihoods for the bulk of the population in terms of food security and poverty reduction.
Finally, it is agriculture that provides the basis for natural resources for rural and economic development.


Economic activity
Agriculture is a trigger of overall growth. Worldwide, agricultural growth has been accelerating in agriculture-based countries since 1980s, especially in annual productions, food prices, wage competitiveness, comparative advantage in trade and strong growth linkages. Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution has been 29% with labour force of 65%.
Relatively, PNG’s average agricultural contribution to total GDP in the last 10 years was 31% with a high proportion of rural labour force. PNG economic activities in terms of agriculture contributions stems from export tree crops, emerging cash crops, traditional fruits and nuts, with opportunities in employment and income generation.
The sector is also a provider of investment opportunities for the private sector and a driver of agriculture-related industries and rural non-farm economy.  


According to the WDR, agriculture provides livelihoods for an estimated 86% of rural population and jobs for 1.3 billion smallholders and landless workers. Of some 5.5 billion people in the developing world, three billion live in rural areas. Of these rural inhabitants, an estimated 2.5 billion are in households involved in agriculture, and 1.5 billion are in smallholder households. In PNG, more than 85% of the six million people depend on subsistence and semi-subsistence smallholder agriculture with four out of five people live in rural areas.


Environmental services
Agriculture is also a major provider of environmental services, generally unrecognised and unremunerated, sequestering carbon, managing watersheds, and preserving biodiversity. Given that nations are faced with rising resource scarcity, climate change, and concern about environmental costs, it is imperative that farming systems of the rural poor are made less vulnerable to climate change and connections among agriculture, natural resource conservation, and the environment are made an integral part of using agriculture for development.
However, agriculture can be a cause of environmental challenges such as land degradation, deforestation and increase vulnerability to climate change. PNG has huge untapped potentials with abundant resources which are not yet fully realised.
Optimal resources that are in abundance include clean drinking water, stable water flows, carbon sequestration and protection of biodiversity (in-situ germplasm management), agro-forestry  traditional tree crops such as sago, galip, Okai, nutmeg, ton and indigenous tree crops.


PNG is agriculture-based country
Agriculture’s contribution to development varies across countries. This depends on how countries rely on the sector for growth and poverty reduction. The WDR categorises nations into agriculture-based countries, transforming countries, and urbanised countries.
Agriculture-based countries account for 32% of GDP on average and 70% are rural based. PNG is very much in the first category and may remain in it for next 50 years.
The report provides guidance to governments and the international community on designing and implementing agriculture for development agenda, was based on experiences around the world including the sub-Saharan African region. Situations in this region are similar to PNG. Its description of agriculture as a fundamental instrument for sustainable development is the case for PNG.


Development efforts
Policy makers must understand and appreciate the role of agriculture as this sector contributes 37% of total GDP which is about K4 billion per annum. However this has not been accounted for as there was no proper statistics and at the same time, subsistence agricultural production of crops such as sweet potatoes, taros and a number of livestock activities do not go through formal markets. This share of GDP may go up to 60% as the country phases out from the mining and petroleum revenue.
Efforts by the Government through the Medium Term Development Strategy, the National Agriculture Development Plan and appropriation of supplementary funding to agriculture are appropriate. Our aim should be to wealth creation and prosperity.
These are possible and the task now is to manage the political economy of agricultural policies to overcome policy biases, under-
investment, and mis-investment, and strengthening governance for the implementation of agricultural policies, programmes and projects such as the NADP.
Science and technology certainly hold the future for agricultural development. It is high time sound policies are made with strategic investment and capacity development that people of PNG will truly appreciate the meaning of agriculture for national development and prosperity.


Next week’s article will focus on the second question: What are effective instruments in using agriculture for development?