Challenges and Opportunities for Food Security and Inclusive Growth

Dr Jim Woodhill, AusAID Principal Sector Specialist for Food Security and Rural Development, visited the Global Food Studies on Thursday 22 August 2013. He presented some ideas and challenges for better linking between research, science and policy practise to achieve food security and inclusive growth.

Challenges facing agricultural development

Generally, no ‘one size fits all’ approach works in agriculture. It is often believed that there is largely a private sector space and, in contrast, donors cannot invest large amounts in public institutions. Many agricultural ministeries in less developed countries are notoriously weak. They particularly have weak capacities at field level. Issues in agricultural often involve difficult political issues such as land tenure, trade and domestic political stability. It is often believed that monitoring results and impacts of agricultural development assistance is hard. Agricultural development does not attract interests from educated elites either.

However, the above argument does not necessarily mean food and agricultural is not critical for development.

The importance of agricultural development

Some facts:

  • 2.7 billion people live on less than $2/day and depend significantly on agriculture
  • 25% of children are malnourished
  • 800 million people suffer from hunger and extreme poverty (58% of them live in Asia)
  • 525 million farmers in this world and 90% of them are smallholders who feed half of the world’s population
  • By 2050, 50% increase in urban population but rural populations do not decline significantly
  • Most farmers are woman and most trade and business players are men highlighting some gender issues.

Challenges for agriculture

Agricultural development programs tend to focus on identifying prospects for technical innovation especially on production side. There are growing interests in shifting from production-pushed to market-pulled programs aiming at better linking farm production and their markets and livelihoods where consumption and wellbeing is one of the main critical areas.

One of the main challenges is how to select farmers who can optimise the impacts of agricultural development programs and, at the same time, achieve inclusive market development. It is known that only 10% of farmers are commercial farmers, 5-10% have small investments, 40% are asset-limited small farmers and the rest are subsistence farmer.

The complexities of food security programs are becoming even more evident when all components of food security iec availability, access and utilisation (and stability of these three) are all taken into account. Dr Woodhill presented a framework for which challenges for achieveing global food sector productivity improvement, transforming rural economies and small-scale agriculture, productive social protection measures improvement and increase intake of healthy, sustainable and affordable food (nutrition). Some possible programs should involve considerations about domestic policy, trade and market access, private sector investment and engagement and food security as global public goods.


A reframing agenda may include a shift in paradigm from focusing on ‘poor countries’ to systemic global riks, regional and country hot spots and crisis prevention (resilience). It also includes a shift from producing more food to value chain and market development, eating smartly, reducing food waste and maximising environment efficiency. Also, transforming development projects to partnerships for global developmeny, catalysing inclusive private sector development, support to and enganging in advocacy and innovation initiatives.

At the end of the presentation, Dr Woodhill proposed some critical questions that should be further analysed. These include: how large could the benefits from a transformation of small-scale agriculture be? Is there a case for effective public private partnership investments in the agri-food sector? What are the impacts of urbanisation? How to make the case for global public good investment (including greater overseas development assisatnce in agriculture)?What could be the focus on a G20 agenda on food security?


*This summary was prepared by Risti Permani and may be subject to her interpretation of the presentation content.






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