40 years of poverty-reduction gains to be wiped out if farmers’ income stays stagnant­–ADB

A farmer starts plowing his rice field in Pampanga after a brief rainfall.

The Asian Development Bank  (ADB) has underscored the compelling reason to improve farmers’ income in the Philippines and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, warning failure to improve farmers’ lot could wipe out the poverty reduction gains made in the past 40 years.

In his speech at the Rural Development and Food Security Forum on Monday, ADB President Takehiko Nakao said farmers continue to face risks that threaten to cut their incomes.

Nakao noted farmers in the region are unable to earn a decent living from tilling the land and are constantly faced with risks, such as weather, diseases and financing.

“But the market risk is the most devastating to farmers’ income. Prices of most farming products vary widely within a year, as well as year-on-year. Market infrastructure and related policies and regulatory frameworks in most developing member-countries require significant improvements,” Nakao said.

“The continued inability of farmers to generate a livable income risks rolling back many of the poverty reduction gains we have made in the last four decades,” he said.

Nakao said significant gains in reducing poverty has been made in Asia and the Pacific. In 2010, he said the region was able to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, five  years ahead of 2015, the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The ADB president said extreme poverty, defined as $1.90 per day threshold, has declined in developing Asia from 69 percent in 1980 to about 7 percent in 2015.

However, Nakao said over 300 million people in the region are still living below the poverty line. He added that 900 million are living on less than $3.20 per day and are constantly at risk of falling back into extreme poverty.

Nakao said the inability of farmers to generate sufficient incomes is compounded by agriculture issues such as “practically nonexistent” cold chain infrastructure and staggering postharvest losses.

“Cold chain infrastructure is practically nonexistent in most developing member-countries. This results in postharvest losses of 30 percent to 40 percent, lowering the quality of produce, and generating worm and bacteria contamination. This issue is especially serious for perishables, such as fruits and vegetables,” Nakao said.

Nakao said helping farmers earn a decent living, as well as ensuring that people in developing countries have sufficient nutritious and safe require modern technologies and creative policies.

Under the new corporate Strategy 2030, Nakao said promoting rural development and food security is one of ADB’s seven operational priorities.

ADB said it will incorporate climate-smart technologies and enabling policies into its operations and catalyze public and private sector investments for rural development.

It also aims to promote transformative changes to make farming profitable, gender-responsive, highly productive and attractive to youth.

“ADB will proactively assist our developing member-countries to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, enhance food safety, and improve climate resilience and sustainability,” Nakao said in opening remarks to the forum. “We are committed to supporting our member-countries to supply sufficient, nutritious, safe and affordable food.”

The ADB, in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Rice Research Institute, is hosting the forum, with the theme “Transformative Changes for Rural Prosperity and Nutritious Food.”

The 3-day forum is part of ADB’s call to its member countries to prioritize rural development and promote effective land and water resources management to ensure sufficient and sustainable food production.

Image credits: Laila Austria



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