Agritech key to tackling poverty and climate shocks – World Bank
Agricultural technology is the key to eliminating poverty, meeting food demand and dealing with climate change, according to a new report from the World Bank.
The 269-page document highlights the fact that nearly 80% of the world’s extreme poor live rurally, most relying on farming for their livelihood. At the same time, climate change and deteriorating natural resources are exacerbating poverty, harvest failures and conflicts.
Precision farming systems, real-time crop management advice and various other agritech innovations will be critical in minimising these risks, but there is an “innovation paradox” , according to the report: research and development (R&D) has been stagnating or falling in the countries that most need it, resulting in a persistent productivity slowdown.
In 2011, the developed world spent 3.25% of its agricultural GDP on R&D, compared with 0.52% in developing countries; investment is declining in half of African nations. This is despite innovations allowing farmers to raise yields, manage inputs more efficiently, adopt new crops and production systems, improve product quality, conserve natural resources and adapt to climate shocks. Productivity improvements in agriculture have a larger impact on poverty reduction than any other industry – roughly twice that of manufacturing.
The researchers also highlight that insufficient R&D into communication makes it difficult for farmers to access information, finance and insurance. They encourage the removal of onerous regulations, reduce market participation restrictions and strengthen intellectual property rights to boost R&D spending.
“New technologies are improving access to information, finance and insurance in all sectors,” said Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, World Bank vice president for equitable growth, finance and institutions. “This can help raise the productivity of low-skilled farmers, but only with incentives and capabilities to develop and scale these technologies.”