Our Perspectives

Sustainable agriculture key to green growth and reducing poverty


palm oil in IndonesiaIndonesia’s palm oil smallholders, who produce about 40% of the country’s palm oil, are plagued by bad production techniques. Photo: UNDP in Indonesia

The Financing for Development summit in Addis is a decisive point in the process towards the post-2015 development agenda. World leaders, high-level policy makers, funders and finance ministers, among others, are expected to deliver the political will, policy reforms, and financial investments required to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Agriculture and nutrition is one of the four key focus areas at the summit, along with sustainable infrastructure, social protection and technology. Already at the core of much of what UNDP does every day across the globe, this reinforces agriculture as a key pillar of our poverty reduction efforts in over 170 countries.

The production of agricultural commodities, such as palm oil, beef, soy, coffee, and cocoa, plays a pivotal role in global efforts to improve livelihoods across the globe. Sadly, agriculture is also the main driver of deforestation today, and is threatening to devastate the very environment upon which we depend to survive.

UNDP is engaged in promoting sustainable agricultural practices to improve the lives of millions of farmers through its Green Commodities Programme (GCP).

If smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, are to be lifted out of poverty, we need to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of our key agricultural commodity sectors. By 2020 UNDP’s GCP aims to contribute to enabling eight million farmers, managing 20 million hectares, to improve the sustainability of their practices and as a result, their livelihoods.

Smallholder farmers mainly seek out a living by using outdated and poor production practices. Improving these production techniques will lead to increased efficiency, higher yields, and improved product quality. This in turn means increased household food security and higher household income, especially when money is saved through less fertilizer and pesticide use. There will also be a positive environmental knock-on effect.

The expansion of smallholder coffee farms in Peru, a direct result of low productivity and poverty, has contributed to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the highly sensitive Western Amazon. Indonesia’s palm oil smallholders, who produce about 40% of the country’s palm oil, are also suffering, plagued by bad production techniques. This perpetuates the deforestation cycle as farmers seek to boost productivity by carving out even more land from the pristine forests of the archipelago.

UNDP, through the GCP and its global network of country offices, is working with government, private sector, civil society, and the farmers themselves, to improve production practices, yields, and product quality while protecting the environment. In other words, all the stakeholders are working together to identify, understand, and really implement solutions to the major challenges. This will take time, as all long-term strategies that really want to have an impact on our planet must. But this type of collective action – that could catapult the development agenda into the post-2015 era – is what we need to see in Addis.  

Development Finance Sustainable Development Goals Peru Indonesia Magdy Martínez-Solimán Poverty reduction and inequality Environment Sustainable development

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