Agriculture-Driven Economic Transformation
Farmer's Weekly|November 23, 2018
Agriculture-Driven Economic Transformation

Recent research by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the International Institute for Sustainable Development analysed progress in agricultural development in 117 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to understand which policies have succeeded or failed. It then provided policy guidelines to help countries still at the subsidence farming stage to transform their agriculture sectors.

Inclusive economic growth is essential to achieving long-term poverty reduction and development goals. The transition from traditional, rural societies dominated by farm systems with low productivity toward more diversified, urban-centred societies with high productivity is a complex process that depends on a country’s resource endowments, institutions and other factors. Within the structural transformation of the economy, agricultural transformation has an essential role to play, and successes and failures in this sector have serious consequences for social outcomes, environmental impacts and economic efficiency.

Research conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the International Institute for Sustainable Development looked at government policies and public investments that drove agricultural transformation in African, Asian and Latin American countries between 1970 and 2015.


According to the findings, significant progress was made during this period to reduce undernourishment and provide employment opportunities outside of agriculture in lower and middle-income countries. The greatest success has been in Asia, Latin America and parts of North Africa, while sub-Saharan Africa has not experienced the same growth.

In 1970, most countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America were characterised by high levels of undernourishment, heavy dependence on agriculture for employment, and low productivity. By 2015, most countries had largely achieved transformation, with only sub-Saharan Africa lagging behind.

Today, only 10 countries are still in the earliest phase of agricultural transformation, namely subsistence agriculture, compared with 30 countries in 1970. They are the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Haiti, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Zambia. Farm systems in most countries have commercialised and use modern inputs. South Africa ranks among the top industrialised economies in terms of agricultural development.


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November 23, 2018