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Selected Publications

Agriculture for Development: Lessons from the World Development Report 2008

de Janvry, Alain and Elisabeth Sadoulet. 2009. “Agriculture for Development: Lessons from the World Development Report 2008” QA - Rivista dell'Associazone Rossi Doria, 2009(1):9-24.


While agriculture is rarely a sensational topic, it has been in the headlines across the world over the last two years, if for the wrong reasons. “The End of Cheap Food”, “The Silent Tsunami”, “Grains Gone Wild”, “Across the Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger” have been front page titles in The Economist and The New York Times. This surge of interest in agriculture and what it can do for development has been motivated by a conjunction of negative outcomes: sharply rising food prices with
associated food riots and rising hunger; an approaching deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that will not be unmet in most countries, while 75% of world poverty is rural and agriculture has to play a major role if the MDG of halving poverty is to be met; rising rural-urban income disparities creating political tensions in rapidly growing countries such as China and India; threats to the future of the family farm and excessively rapid rural exodus toward urban slums; new demands on agriculture to contribute to energy supply and to deliver environmental services; the destabilization of weather patterns and rising temperatures creating threats to the resilience of farming systems on which the rural poor depend; rising water scarcity and pollution of potable water sources with agro-chemicals associated with the intensification of cropping patterns; loss of biodiversity associated with deforestation and horizontal expansion of extensive farming systems; and pandemics such as the avian flu linking agriculture to human health. Agriculture clearly needs to do a better job for development as the developmental failures of agriculture have reached crisis proportion. Reassessing why agriculture has not been more effectively used for development is thus happening by popular demand.

Yet, can we expect that this reassessment will result in significant changes on the way agriculture is used for development? Or are we to return to “business as usual”, with a continued neglect of agriculture and the associated failed opportunities to use it to
stimulate growth in poor countries, reduce rural poverty, and improve sustainability in resource use, as occurred over the last 25 years following the debt crisis and the policies of the Washington Consensus. The World Development Report 2008 was a call to make better use of agriculture for development. Urgency of the call has been enhanced by the food crisis. Will governments and international development agencies hear the call and stop turning their backs on agriculture? What would it take for agriculture to be effectively used for development and to address the many crisis that have brought it to 2 the headlines? It is the objective of this presentation to raise these questions and discuss answers.

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