G8 Must Prioritize Agricultural Development

Global Women's Project | Thu, Jul 9, 2009

By Kristin Sampson
G8 leaders have committed to address food security and promote sustainable agricultural development, but will they?

Center of Concern partners in the Global and Regional Advocacy on Small Producers initiative, Themba Phiri, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Small Holder Farmer Association of Malawi and Bob van Dillen, of Cordaid in the Netherlands, have been in Italy at the G8 summit drawing attention to the mounting food crisis and calling for increased investment in agricultural development, targeted toward small-holder needs.

In remarks given at the Civil Society Forum on the G8, Themba noted that “Food security can not be achieved without making markets work for small producers in developing countries.” Regarding who should be targeted in agricultural development policies, Bob van Dillen of Cordaid argued "This does not mean that we focus only on farmers but also processors, distributors and traders of agricultural products, in fact on the various chain actors."

In the Summit declaration, G8 leaders recognize the pressing need for food security and economic development, committing to:

stimulate sustainable growth of world food production, by promoting increased investment in agriculture, including through development assistance, and with particular attention to small-hold farmers; promote well-functioning and transparent international, national and local markets as a means to reduce the volatility of prices and combat speculation; work with governments and regional organizations to strengthen national agricultural research systems; increase investment and access to scientific knowledge and technology…encourage appropriate land and natural resource management, the protection of biodiversity and the adaptation to climate change.

It sounds like a decent start, but commitments made at earlier summits have often gone unfulfilled. The G8 committed in 2005 to increase development aid up to 0.5% of GNP by 2010 and 0.7% by 2015. The U.S. is currently at 0.18%. A G8 expert review of implementation of country commitments on food security, show that during the period January 2008-July 2009, US$ 13.4 billion was dispersed, a bit more than originally committed in 2008. In perspective though, the UN Millenium Campaign reports that G8 countries have spent more on support to the financial sector in the last year, than on development aid over the last 49 years.

Despite my skepticism of G8 commitments, news reports that President Obama has galvanized world leaders around a new $15 billion food security program intended to build more sustainable, productive agriculture and food delivery systems in poor countries offers promise. The details will be announced on Friday, so for now, we’ll continue to call for agricultural policies that better address the food security and economic development needs of small-holder farmers and rural communities.

Hopefully this time the world community will prioritize developing country needs.