About half the global hungry are themselves farmers. Improving farm productivity and profitability is a key route to reducing hunger and malnourishment.
Social development is a main pillar of sustainable agriculture, indicating that the agricultural sector can – and shall – contribute to the economic and social development of rural communities and to the well-being of farmers and farm workers.
Agriculture plays a key role in local communities, particularly in developing countries where it is often the major economic sector. A major socio-economic role of agriculture is the provision of quality food, contributing to food security as well as food safety – and the creation of jobs and income opportunities along the food value chain.
Engine for Growth and Development
The global agriculture sector employs about a billion people in agricultural production alone, and creates the foundation for agribusiness and related enterprises. The development of sustainable agriculture has a major impact on world society in general and on rural communities in particular.
For hundreds of millions of people, agriculture offers an opportunity for employment and income. In terms of return on investment in economic and social development, investing in agriculture can yield better results than in other sectors, because it stimulates economic activity, especially within the food value chain. With women dominating agriculture in many societies, investment in farming can also have the positive impact of improving the lives of women and children.
In several African regions, smallholders still constitute the main body of agricultural activity. However, a large segment of such farmers are unable to run their farms efficiently and profitably. Ironically, small-scale farmers are among the world’s most food insecure. For sustainable and profitable food production to develop, smallholders, many of whom are women, have to become entrepreneurs – running viable businesses.
Supporting such a development, a key strategy within the African Green Revolution is to generate investments and create income opportunities in agricultural growth corridors, a concept launched by Yara in 2008.
Economic and Social Challenges
Economic difficulties within the agricultural sector affect the individual farmer, but also have an effect on the local community in areas where farming is still an important part of business as well as culture. The loss of predominantly small farms, along with the expansion of larger farms in the developed world, has contributed to the disintegration of rural communities.
Due to the economic non-viability of small-scale farming, similar migration is seen in some developing areas. The growth of urban areas has itself caused productive farmland to be lost and forced farmers to move, often into the cities. Improving productivity and profitability can increase resilience in rural communities.
The social dimension of sustainable agriculture includes working conditions and safety of farmers and farm workers. One health hazard lies in the improper use of agricultural products, especially chemical implements such as crop protection agents, which calls for education. The use of mineral fertilizers doesn’t entail any direct health hazard, but improper use may harm the environment – and hurt the farmer’s economy. Suppliers of crop nutrients, such as Yara, also have a role in educating farmers, most often through agents and agro-dealers.
Food Security and Safety
Whereas food security is a major concern in developing regions, food safety is high on the agenda in economically developed societies. Both are keys to human well-being and intimately related to sustainable agriculture. Food security implies that all people, at all times, have access to adequate food of high nutritional quality and at affordable prices. Food safety mainly implies that the food on offer is of high quality, and does not represent a health risk for the consumer, either in its original or processed form.
Food security is a universal goal requiring improved agricultural productivity and increased food production, but also market access and purchasing power. The issue has been high on the agenda in recent years, partly as an implicit part of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and was highlighted by the global food crisis of 2007/2008. Yara has committed to support the MDGs, and does so particularly by promoting agricultural productivity.
Food safety is a national or regional requirement regulated by laws and regulations that call for stringent quality-control systems. The issue is high on the agenda in developed countries, with consumer demand for approved quality and assurances of safety. Yara exercises stringent control over its part of the value chain using its Product Stewardship principles.