By Anselme AKEKO
According to a report from the World Bank entitled “Harvesting prosperity: technology and productivity growth in agriculture”, investment in scaling up and introducing new technologies is the key to creating significant gains in agricultural productivity, increasing income and thus reducing poverty.
Technological innovation plays a fundamental role in increasing smallholder productivity and improving incomes. Provided that investments in agricultural research and development (R&D) are increased to develop these technologies and apply them on a large scale. This is the conclusion of the World Bank’s report published under the title “Harvesting Prosperity: Technology and productivity growth in Agriculture”.
According to this report, almost 80% of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and many of them work in agriculture. This is why poverty reduction must necessarily go through the increase in agricultural productivity, the very one that has more influence than any other sector on the improvement of incomes and, by extension, on the fight against poverty.
Investments in agricultural R&D
This approach, which has been adopted in China and other East Asian countries over the past 40 years, has improved access to information, finance and insurance services, but above all increased farmers’ yields, thus contributing to a dramatic reduction in poverty. By contrast, poverty reduction has been “disappointing” in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia, where farmers’ yields have simply doubled over the same period. According to the authors of this report, the situation is even more worrying when we know that agricultural practices in these regions are “unlikely” to be affected by climate change and the degradation of natural resources, which will exacerbate poverty. Furthermore, African agricultural producers face a number of difficulties which are: insecure land tenure rights, poor information about new technologies and the high level of market transaction costs.
According to this report, the observed differences in the adoption of new technologies to reduce poverty in the agricultural world are explained by the growing differences in R&D spending. In 2011, such expenditure amounted to 3.25% of agricultural GDP in developed countries, while in developing countries it represented 0.52%, with Africa and South Asia showing the lowest level of expenditure per capita. in relation to agricultural GDP. The bank’s experts go further by stating that investments in R&D have fallen in half of the African countries.
Reversing these trends requires creating more favorable general conditions to promote investment in R&D, including a significant contribution from the private sector; and remove barriers that hinder the adoption and spread of new technologies among farmers. Therefore, this report provides pragmatic advice on the measures to be taken. First, to ensure that markets function properly by redistributing land, labor and inputs to production. Second, to support institutions and policies that generate new technologies adapted to local contexts and ensure that these technologies are disseminated among farmers. In addition, address additional information, market access, financing and risk constraints that hinder farmers’ adoption of technology. By adopting this approach, Africa has everything to gain. By increasing productivity in the agricultural sector, more and better jobs can be created, while more people can leave the farm for other activities in the city.
Anselme AKEKOCio Mag Online Editorial Manager
Ivorian digital economy journalist and correspondent in Côte d’Ivoire