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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.
Andrew Natsios has vowed to continue to push for reform of U.S. food aid after his departure as the head of USAID next month. In a keynote address to some 200 relief and development specialists at a CGD event, he described reform of U.S. food aid as a "moral issue" that could save thousands of lives every year. "If people think this issue is going away they are wrong," he said.
This CGD Note by C. Peter Timmer explores the alliance between US farmers, processors and shippers that forms the political foundation of the US food aid program. The Note outlines the current winners and losers of US food aid, and argues that surprisingly, the recipients are most often the losers.
After two decades of neglect, interest in agriculture is on the rise. This new working paper by one of the leading thinkers in rural development argues that the reach and efficiency of rural infrastructure, coupled with effective investment in agricultural research and extension, hold the key to unlocking the potential of agriculture for poverty reduction.
This paper reviews research on the impact of rice prices on the poor, on real wages in rural and urban areas, and on the broader macroeconomic consequences for investments in labor-intensive manufacturing.
Paradoxically, in most successfully developing countries, especially those in the rice-based economies of Asia, the public provision of food security quickly slips from its essential role as an economic stimulus into a political response to the pressures of rapid structural transformation, thereby becoming a drag on economic efficiency. The long-run relationship between food security and economic growth thus tends to switch from positive to negative over the course of development. Because of inevitable inertia in the design and implementation of public policy, this switch presents a serious challenge to the design of an appropriate food policy.