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BRIEF

Raise Agricultural Productivity

March 19, 2014

Seventy-five percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and are farmers. Agriculture is widely viewed as a powerful tool for reducing global poverty—it is up to 4 times more effective in raising incomes among the very poor than other sectors. Agriculture also improves food security, increases employment, and provides ‘environmental services’ that protect or enhance the environment such as carbon sequestration, water purification, and coastal protection. The World Bank Group is committed to boosting agriculture and agriculture-related investment.

The Challenge of Sustainable Agriculture

The world needs to produce at least 50% more food by 2050 to feed a projected 9 billion people. To help meet this goal, the Bank is working with countries to boost the productivity of farms, livestock and fisheries. 

This challenge must be met against a backdrop of food price volatility and over-stretched resources, when there is less water and uncultivated land for farming and livestock, and wild capture fishery stocks are decreasing. Agriculture is also more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector: Droughts, floods and warmer temperatures reduce crop yields, and it is estimated that for every 1°C of global warming, grain yields will decline by 5 percent.

To raise yields sustainably, the Bank supports Climate-Smart approaches that have potential to increase productivity, enhance resilience, and lower our footprint; promotes agricultural innovation through research and education; and facilitates responsible agricultural investment.

More Crops, Livestock and Seafood

The Bank promotes innovative approaches that can help smallholders get the most out of their farms and fisheries. Gender-specific interventions are key in this area, since women account for the majority of small holder farmers—up to 70% in Africa alone.

The Bank is committed to agricultural innovations that boost productivity, as well as better land and water management—US$ 1 billion was spent on irrigation and drainage in FY 201012. Watershed-management improved crop yields by up to 20 percent for Karnataka’s beneficiary farmers and higher-yielding seed varieties were piloted on selected farms in Uganda.

The Bank also promotes the use of new breeds, animal nutrition, veterinary services, vaccinations and improved husbandry, rangeland and pasture management to sustainably increase livestock productivity for about 1 billion people who depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The Bank’s work on breeding and animal nutrition in India has improved the productivity of milk-giving animals. Adopting different breeds helped Assam’s farmers grow their milk yields by 65 percent while better grassland management doubled the incomes of herders in China’s Gansu and Xinjiang regions. The Bank also supports sustainable aquaculture at coastal fisheries in Tanzania and Vietnam.

The Bank fosters long-term agricultural productivity by increasing lending to research and advisory services, as well as training farmers to apply scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices.

Supporting an Environment that Enables Productivity

The Bank is committed to building an environment that connects farmers and fishers to the resources they need to grow their livelihoods.

This includes expanding access to financial services in countries such as Honduras so that capital can be more easily secured, using information and communications technology to improve efficiency and resolve challenges, and supporting a consumer-friendly market for fertilizers, machinery, micro-irrigation and other productivity-boosting tools.

Beneficiaries include farmers in Mali who can now go to banks to seek financial products that are customized to their needs.

Limited and mis-targeted public spending can constrain agriculture’s potential to spur growth and reduce poverty. This is why the Bank has worked with countries such as Ethiopia, Nepal and Uganda to analyze the impacts and priorities of public spending on agriculture. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Bank is helping Sub-Saharan African countries conduct agriculture public expenditure analyses so that their governments can make better decisions on resource allocation for agriculture development.

Improving Governance of Land Tenure

Improved land governance can help smallholder farmers increase the productivity of their land and improve their livelihoods. The Bank supports government policies that implement systematic land surveying and titling programs that recognize all forms of land tenure.

The effective governance and use of land is important to job creation, food security, disaster risk management and mitigating the impact of climate change. Responsible private investment coupled with secure land tenure makes rural communities stronger, improves rural living conditions and boosts investment in and the efficiency of smallholder agriculture.

Sustainable Landscape Approaches and Climate Smart Agriculture

It is increasingly clear that agriculture, water, forests, and food security are all connected and that we need to work across all these areas to find integrated development solutions. Landscape approaches promote the sustainable and integrated use and conservation of natural resources in an equitable manner. A holistic approach in Karnataka employed watersheds to help raise water tables, brought degraded lands under cultivation, enabled farmers to diversify into higher value crops and horticulture, and raised agricultural productivity, all while improving equity between landed farmers, the landless, and women.

The Bank advocates for climate-smart agriculture, with its three core goals that together point towards a “triple win”: increasing productivity and incomes, building resilience while reducing vulnerability, and lowering our environmental footprint.