BRICS countries well placed to take a leadership role
in helping eradicate global hunger and poverty by 2030
The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa), form an important economic block. They account
for more than 40 percent of the world’s population and over 20 percent of
global GDP. Together, they produce more than one-third of global cereal
production. Last year, Russia became the largest wheat exporter in the world.
“The BRICS countries play an important political role in the
international arena. Developing countries around the world look to your
successes in economic development over the past few decades as an example to
follow,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO’s Regional
Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during a statement to the 7th Meeting
of the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, in Nanjing, China. “Your experiences
provide a path that can help us all meet our global collective commitments, namely
those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – its 17 Sustainable
Development Goals – and the Paris climate accord.”
Kadiresan pointed out that, despite trends towards urbanization, poverty
in the world today is primarily rural. As a result, accelerating rural
development will be key to achieving the SDGs.
“The question is how can we do this? Our experiences in countries
in different parts of the world have shown that it can best be done through a
combination of agricultural growth and targeted social protection, but also
through growth in the rural nonfarm economy,” Kadiresan said. “Agriculture can
be a driver of sustained and inclusive rural growth. In low-income countries,
growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty
as growth originating from other sectors of the economy.”
Equally important is that all the tools, approaches and technologies
developed must be useful and accessible to poor family farmers in developing
countries so that they can increase production and productivity. It was noted
that government-led initiatives such as South Africa’s Fetsa Tlala, which aims
to support subsistence and smallholder farmers expand cultivated land to food
production, was an excellent example.
BRICS strong in agricultural research
The Ministers heard that achieving agricultural growth would also require
investments in research and development, and the BRICS countries could play a
leading role in this, as all five countries have strong agricultural research
systems that are working on many of the challenges faced by developing
countries, such as feeding a growing population in a sustainable way.
Biotechnology would also play a key role in these advances, as would
agro-ecological approaches. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to
adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are becoming more
widespread by the day, and they offer a promising approach to address many of
the challenges smallholders face with regard to information on prices, weather
forecasts, vaccines, financial services, and much more. FAO is collaborating
with the G20, the OECD and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
in order to make sure these technologies benefit smallholders.
Agricultural growth cannot solve these issues on its own
Agricultural growth, as important as it is, cannot eradicate hunger and
poverty all by itself – social protection programmes can also play a key role
in rural development. These programmes have important poverty reduction and
health benefits, and can also strengthen the confidence of family farmers,
encouraging them to become more entrepreneurial. Brazil’s Fome Zero and India’s
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are global references in this regard.
Kadiresan stressed that it is important not to overlook the key role
played by the rural nonfarm economy in fostering rural development.
“As economies transform, most farm households obtain significant income
from activities other than farming. The income from these activities provides
not only a higher standard of living, but also a more stable one in many cases.
Governments play a key role in encouraging this transformation by investing in
rural health and education,” Kadiresan said. “While these investments are
typically not within the Ministry of Agriculture’s mandate, we must support
such investments, as they are in the interest of our rural constituents. Where
would any of us be today without the opportunities provided by our former
teachers and a strong educational system?”
The Ministers heard that international trade could also serve as an
effective instrument in promoting food security and act as an adaptation tool
to climate change. When an inevitable bad harvest occurs, as it does in every
country at some stage, timely imports can help to rebalance the domestic food
economy. In this regard, the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), a
G20 initiative led by FAO, makes an important contribution to ensuring
well-functioning and transparent global food markets.
Kadiresan welcomed the Government of China’s Belt and Road Initiative,
which she said would create a great opportunity for South-South Cooperation
among all countries involved. She also acknowledged the Government’s leading
role in supporting FAO’s South-South and triangular cooperation programme.
For further information, contact:
Allan Dow, FAO Regional Communication Officer (Asia-Pacific), firstname.lastname@example.org