The World Bank’s 2008 World Development Report was presented on Thursday 8 November, at Crédit Agricole’s National Federation.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Michel Barnier, announced that one of the three conferences that the French Presidency of the European Union is preparing will deal with international food solidarity.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, former Prime Minister of Niger and current Executive Director of the Rural Hub in Dakar, called for a change in mindset, to give priority to the development of farming operations and support to peasants so that they can become business owners.
The World Bank’s Report on Agriculture constitutes an exceptional contribution, all the more so as it comes just when the increase in farming prices is raising political decision-makers’ awareness about the strategic importance of agriculture. The importance it gives to Africa, family-run farms, the competitiveness of production chains and the role of the State often matches the vision expressed by French players and FARM’s strategy in particular. As such, it paves the way to a new era in designing and implementing farming development initiatives.
Christopher Delgado, advisor on rural strategies and policies at the World Bank, presented the main conclusions from the World Development Report.
Agriculture, as an instrument for development, has several functions.
First, agriculture is a source of growth, in particular in agriculture-based countries. In such countries, it is the main sector of activity, in terms of the employment and GDP generated. Agricultural growth thus translates into significant growth in total GDP. Moreover, agricultural productivity determines the price of foodstuffs, for they are most often not perfectly exchangeable in agriculture-based countries. The price of foodstuffs, in turn, determines personnel cost and thus the competitiveness of exporting sectors. Farming productivity thus directly influences overall economic growth.
Agriculture is a major source of revenue in that, in developing countries, it involves 2.5 billion farmers and 900 million rural dwellers, living with less than 1 dollar per day.
The farming sector, admittedly, has negative effects on the environment (the use of water resources, greenhouse gas emissions) but it, too, is one of the main sources of environmental sources, such as carbon fixation and catchment basin management. Sustainable production systems must be promoted and the supply of environmental services promoted.
Moreover, Mr Delgado emphasised that “the growth in GDP from agriculture increases the income of the poor 2 to 4 times more than GDP growth not due to agriculture". In other words, agriculture triggers growth that benefits the poorest populations.
After asserting that “agriculture is vital to growth in sub-Saharan Africa”, Mr Delgado outlined an action plan for the region.
A revolution in the productivity of small farmers needs to take place, as “over 170 million poor people could benefit from it".
The increase in productivity could come through a green revolution, which will not be handled as in Asia : it will have to be “differentiating, decentralised, multi-sector and regional”.
Four factors could foster agriculture’s contribution to development : better-performing markets and production chains, competitiveness in small farmers (in particular in zones with medium- to high-potential production), an improvement in the productivity of subsistence farming, and a diversification of income sources for rural families, based on improvements in the non-agricultural rural economy.
Putting agriculture to work for development will also require determining new roles for the State, market and civil society. Producer organisations will therefore need to play an important part by bringing competitiveness to small producers, while the private sector will enable the creation of a production chain that goes all the way to the marketing of produce from small farmers. Lastly, the State will have to improve its governance and play a strategic part in public-private partnerships.
Following on that presentation, a number of political figures commented on the results of 2008 WDR.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Executive Director of the Rural Hub, called for a change in paradigm, focused on three priorities :
the development of farming operations ;
support initiatives targeting peasants so that they can become business owners ;
efforts to refocus the missions of administrative services.
He stated that the change in paradigm implies a change in mindset : “things change when power relationships change”.
Jean-Michel Severino, Director General of the French Development Agency (AFD), indicated that the report comes at the right time, for the backdrop has changed. A shift is underway from the triptych of “debt refinancing – social compensation – structural reforms in liberalisation” to a new paradigm, based on “investment – growth – equipment – the market”. In consideration for these components, the AFD’s priorities for action in the field of agriculture for Africa will be :
peasant organisations ;
financial engineering (which includes the use of microfinance and mesofinance, as well as risk management mechanisms) ;
development and local infrastructures ;
In emerging countries, the AFD’s farming projects will give priority to the fight against climate change.
Michel Barnier, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, commented in-depth on the report. He emphasised the importance of the report’s existence, in that it helps put the issue of agriculture into perspective – “the report raises the skyline higher”. The Ministry underscored the challenge it will be to increase productivity and, thus, financing. This is why he wholeheartedly wishes for a new direction for public development aid. Regarding global governance, he asserted that he does not believe that liberalisation is a positive move for the poorest countries, stating that Europe must play a part in regulating the global markets. Lastly, he indicated that he had initiated three conferences in the lead-up to the French Presidency of the European Union in Second-Half 2008 : nutrition and food, farming research, international food solidarity.
Round Table Participants :
Joseph d’Auzay, Director General of Crédit Agricole’s National Federation
Anne-Sophie Brouillet, Project Leader for the Impact Network
Jean-Marc Chataigner, Head of Cabinet for the State Secretary for Cooperation and French-Language Use
Kathy Sierra, Vice-Chairperson for the World Bank in charge of Sustainable Development