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Agriculture Micro-Projects might lift 1 billion out of poverty

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9 June 2013 – New York, USA – According to a new report from the United Nations (UN), Smallholders, Food Security and the Environment, an estimated 2.5 billion people who manage 500 million smallholder farm households provide over 80 per cent of the food consumed in much of the developing world, particularly Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Given the right conditions and targeted support, small farmers can unleash a new and sustainable agricultural revolution, the United Nations environment agency a partner agricultural development organization reported on 4 June 2013, on the eve of World Environment Day.

The report, commissioned by the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), also shows that most of the 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day live in rural areas and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

achim-steiner“Two decades of underinvestment in agriculture, growing competition for land and water, rising fuel and fertilizer prices, and climate change have left smallholders less able to escape poverty,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director (pictured right).  “Smallholder farmers can continue to be marginalized or be recognized as catalysts for a transformation of the way the world manages the supply of food and the environmental services that underpin agriculture in the first place.”

Earlier studies cited by UNEP and IFAD show that a one per cent increase in agricultural per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has five times the impact on the poverty gap than the same increase in GDP in other sectors.  One study demonstrated that for every ten-per-cent increase in farm yields, there was a seven-per-cent reduction in poverty in Africa, and a reduction of over five-per-cent in Asia.

The report makes it clear that investing in the agricultural sector offers the highest rate of return for those interested in overcoming poverty, Mr. Steiner said, and speeds progress towards reaching the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and building a post-2015 sustainable agenda.

“Smallholder farmers hold a massive collective store of experience and local knowledge that can provide the practical solutions needed to put agriculture on a more sustainable and equitable footing,” said Elwyn Grainger Jones, Director of IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division.  “To place these smallholders at the forefront of a transformation in world agriculture, they need appropriate support to overcome the many challenges they face.”

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization established in 1945 to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and world peace. Currently with 193 members states, the UN has five active organs: the General Assembly (the main deliberative assembly); the Security Council (for deciding certain resolutions for peace and security); the Economic and Social Council (for assisting in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development); the Secretariat (for providing studies, information, and facilities needed by the UN); and the International Court of Justice (the primary judicial organ).  Other prominent UN agencies include the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The UN also contains multiple subsidiary organizations to carry out its missions.  The UN Headquarters is in New York City, with other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. More information at http://www.un.org/en/

Source: United Nations