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More than a billion people in developing countries suffer from chronic hunger. Long a neglected topic, the role of agriculture in promoting pro-poor growth is attracting renewed attention in the United States and internationally. CGD’s work in this area focuses on how rich countries’ agricultural policies and practices impact people and economic development in the poor world.
Three out of four people in the developing world live in rural areas and depend on agriculture to support themselves and their families. Yet, since development traditionally involves moving people from subsistence farming into higher-productivity activities in manufacturing and services, governments and donors have neglected agriculture for decades. The spike in food prices in 2007–08, coupled with the consequent increases in hunger and poverty, returned food security issues to the policy agenda.
Senior fellow Kimberly Elliott, author of Delivering on Doha: Farm Trade and the Poor, focuses on how rich countries' agricultural policies and practices affect poor people in the developing world. Non-resident fellow Peter Timmer has written extensively on the role of agriculture and food security in the economic development process. Non-resident fellow Jenny Aker conducts research on food aid in the Sahel and on the importance of mobile phones on food prices.
CGD research on food and agriculture analyzes several other topics:
Trade policies and farm subsidies that protect rich-country agricultural producers from competition at the expense of developing countries
The effect of biofuels production on poor people, including through food prices.
The impact of rich-world consumption of "fair trade" agricultural products, such as coffee and chocolate, on poor people and on development.
Feed the Future has succeeded in bringing much needed attention to the pressing challenge of food security. But there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to encouraging country ownership and increasing transparency.
With the situation in Syria deteriorating every day, and conflict elsewhere displacing millions more from their homes and livelihoods, desperately needed food aid is falling short. Donor fatigue and budget constraints are a problem worldwide, but reform would allow the United States to help millions more people with the same food aid budget.
To explain why ending hunger has been so hard, Peter Timmer highlights four main themes: the complex role of markets, the importance of government policies, the historical process of structural transformation, and the need to identify the appropriate time horizon for analysis and interventions. These themes are not new, but integrating them into a coherent approach to ending hunger seems to be original
Launched in response to the 2007-2008 global food price crisis, Feed the Future is the Administration’s flagship initiative for addressing global hunger, food security, and agricultural livelihoods. Along with Power Africa, the Initiative looks to be a key component of President Obama’s development legacy. This latest report provides a glimpse into what this $1 billion a year effort has achieved over the last five years. Even with this new report in hand, there are still more questions than answers.
What does the 2016 election mean for America’s future position in the world? It’s likely too early to tell at this stage of the campaign cycle. Many of the early Republican contenders — such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker — have been relatively quiet on foreign policy issues or have focused almost exclusively on Iran, Israel, and Russia. That’s to be expected at this point. Yet, other candidates — like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — are already outlining a more comprehensive vision for advancing American interests.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released proposed targets for blending biofuels with gasoline and diesel for 2014 (18 months late) and for the current year (6 months late).
At the beginning of the new millennium, a key development concern was the impact of agricultural policies in high-income countries on poor farmers in the rest of the world. Over the ensuing decade, the focus swung from the role of price-suppressing farm subsidies to the role biofuel policies play in driving food prices up. While development advocates are right to criticize the trade-distorting costs and environmental risks of current biofuel policies, agricultural subsidies and trade barriers in rich countries remain in place and the distorting impact of those policies will rise again when prices decline.
Recently the UN warned that 20 million people are facing famine in four countries. How can the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) help? Gilbert Houngbo, former Prime Minister of Togo and new IFAD president, joins the CGD podcast to discuss IFAD's impact and unique mandate.
In Global Agriculture and the American Farmer, Kimberly Elliott focuses on three policy areas that are particularly damaging for developing countries: traditional agricultural subsidy and trade policies that support the incomes of American farmers at the expense of farmers elsewhere; the biofuels mandate, which in its current form can contribute to market volatility while doing little if anything to mitigate climate change; and weak regulation of antibiotic use in livestock, which contributes to the global spread of drug-resistant super bugs. While noting that broad reforms are needed to fix these problems, Elliott also identifies practical steps that US policymakers could take in the relatively short run to improve farm policies—for American taxpayers and consumers as well as for the poor and vulnerable in developing countries.
Scarce resources. Climate change. Population growth. Rising food prices. Feeding the world’s hungry will require a giant leap in agricultural innovation. In a new working paper, senior fellow Kimberly Elliott explores how advance market commitments could pull the private sector into producing for the world’s poor.
The net effect of supermarkets in the developing world will be to improve the welfare of consumers, but the extent of that benefit and how well it is distributed are open questions. Many factors, including the fate of small farmers, traditional traders, and mom-and-pop shops, will come into play, and any judgment of the supermarket revolution has to consider them all. In this CGD working paper, non-resident fellow Peter Timmer draws from many perspectives to assess the effect the supermarket revolution may have on poverty alleviation.
This CGD Brief, based on Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country, by senior fellow William Cline, explores the implications of global warming for world agriculture, with special attention to China, India, Brazil, and the poor countries of the tropical belt in Africa and Latin America. The brief shows that the long-term effects on world agriculture will be substantially negative: India could see a drop in agricultural productivity of 30 to 40 percent; China's south central region would be in jeopardy; and the United States may see reductions of 25 to 35 percent in the southeast and the southwestern plains.
This brief summarizes the findings of the CGD Global Trade Preference Reform Working Group and its recommendations to make preference programs better promote prosperity and stability in the world's poorest countries.