Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

WATCH: Future Investments to Address Food Security at Scale

This post was contributed by ACDI/VOCA and is part of Agrilinks' partnership with USAID's LEO (Leveraging Economic Opportunities) project.

The USAID Bureau for Food Security, in partnership with the Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) project, has launched a brownbag series to discuss emerging research concerning achieving poverty reduction and food security at scale. In the third presentation of the series, Prof. Thom Jayne, a renowned agricultural economist at Michigan State University, reviews the research evidence on how governments can most effectively address food security and the need to scale technology holistically to provide transformational growth in the developing world.  

Dr. Jayne stresses the fundamental distinction between agricultural growth achieved by a relatively small segment of well-equipped farmers and inclusive forms of growth that lead to a transformation of the economic system. There is a tendency to focus on the rate of growth at the national level instead of the degree of inclusiveness of this growth process. If growth occurs only in a narrow segment of the population, it will not translate into poverty reduction and job creation. Broad-based growth generates multiplier effects that ripple through the rest of the economy.

In this sense, transformational growth takes place in a broader system, and the ability to sustainably scale technologies requires attention to the system as a whole, including not only the market but the institutional architecture and environmental systems that surround it. One of the most binding and increasingly recognized constraints to inclusive agricultural growth is soil degradation. Research shows that, with realistic projections of yield growth, many African smallholder farmers will not be able to break out of poverty through agriculture alone because of land size constraints and widespread soil degradation, which dramatically reduces the efficacy of fertilizers, improved seed varieties and other modern production technologies.

While agricultural value chain investments today can help farmers improve productivity and incomes, many will need to find future livelihoods in opportunities generated by the multiplier effects of value chain growth and in sectors outside of agri-food systems. Nonetheless, the current small size of non-agricultural sectors means that agriculture must continue to absorb roughly half of the 17 million young Africans joining the labor force each year for the next 10 to 20 years. Support for smallholder agriculture therefore remains an important intermediate objective in the process of the region’s economic transformation. Moreover, farm productivity growth will be required to reverse the increasingly large gap between food consumption and food production in the region. To the extent that consumption continues to outstrip production, employment in African agri-food systems are being lost to farmers and value chain workers in other regions.

For more information on the LEO program please visit www.acdivoca.org/leo.

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