New and Intensive Efforts Are Needed in the Areas of Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability

Mon, 09/01/2008

 In the Ganges River watershed of India, the receding Himalayan glaciers are causing floods in the monsoon season and water shortages in the dry season.

Climate change is blamed for new disease patterns; for example, health care systems are struggling to respond to malaria in parts of East Africa where it’s never been seen before. Climate change is a new complication in our efforts to achieve the MDGs. New and intensive efforts are needed in the areas of agriculture and environmental sustainability.

Agriculture, Women and Health

Worldwide, women produce more than half of all food but own only 2% of the land. Of the loans that are available for agriculture, women receive just 1%. Women receive less than their share of government extension services and have less access to more efficient farming techniques and labor-saving tools.

Traditionally, women grow subsistence food crops, while men grow crops, which can be sold for cash. Yet studies in several countries have shown that women, more than men, are likely to spend extra cash income on food for their children and other household needs. The 2008 World Development Report emphasizes the paramount importance of selling agricultural products: “Today, agriculture’s ability to generate income for the poor, particularly women, is more important for food security than its ability to increase local food supplies.” Thus, the third MDG, achieving gender equality, is not just a social aspiration but also a critical component of the fight against hunger and poverty.

A Global Partnership for Development

Many of the MDGs call on developing countries to accomplish a great deal – from opening schools, to creating good jobs, to building passable roads. Poor countries cannot do this alone, which is why the 8th MDG calls on wealthier, developed countries to participate in a “global partnership for development.”

THE WORLD HAS THE KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNOLOGY NECESSARY TO CUT HUNGER AND POVERTY IN HALF BY 2015. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO; WE NEED THE POLITICAL WILL TO GET IT DONE.

In recent years, the U.S. and other developed countries have made commitments to increase development assistance and provide debt relief to poor countries. Some of the commitments have been fulfilled. Unfortunately, agriculture has largely been left out of these increases in resources and discussions.

In the past 2 decades, total donor assistance for agriculture has fallen by two-thirds: from $11.5 billion in 1987 to $3.9 billion in 2005. France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. all give less aid to agriculture now than they have in the past.

Bread for the World Institute’s 2005 Hunger Report, Strengthening Rural Communities, lists the key elements of effective research-based anti-poverty strategies for rural areas: reclaiming soil; managing water resources; diversifying crops and sources of income; creating stronger markets and infrastructure; recognizing the central role of women; and establishing safety nets for vulnerable people.

The world has the knowledge and technology necessary to cut hunger and poverty in half by 2015. We know what to do; we need the political will to get it done.