The global food system plays a central role in meeting the World Bank Group’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Ending poverty will not be possible without raising the incomes of the rural poor, which account for 78% of poor people worldwide.1 Schultz remarks that “most of the world’s poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture, we would know much of the economics of being poor.”2 Moreover, some 800 million people currently suffer from hunger across the globe3 and the demand for greater variety and better quality food from a growing, urbanized population continues to increase. Agriculture has a strong record as an instrument for poverty reduction and can lead growth in agriculture-based countries.4 In fact, growth originating from agriculture has been two-to-four times more effective at reducing poverty than that originating from other sectors.
To meet the challenges ahead, food systems must not only be able to provide food security to the growing world population but they must also deliver diverse, nutritious diets that are affordable and accessible to all. Improved agricultural productivity must be coupled with increased resilience to climate change and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, for agriculture to deliver on its full potential, value chains must be strengthened, smallholder linkages to markets improved and agribusiness expanded.6 The agricultural sector is a significant source of employment, even as countries traverse different stages of agricultural structural transformation. Globally, 30% of all workers are employed in farming, while in low-income countries the share is 60%. As economies grow and develop, the importance of agribusiness relative to farming increases, leading to significant opportunities for employment growth and value added.7 Central to achieving this will be the investments, performance and success of key players across agricultural value chains—from farmers, to input and service providers, to large and small agricultural businesses. Enabling the Business of Agriculture 2017 (EBA17) aims to foster a more conducive environment for agribusiness. By providing key data on regulatory frameworks that are globally comparable and actionable, it strengthens the information base that can be used for policy dialogue and reform. Such efforts can stimulate private sector activity and lead to more efficient and effective agricultural value chains.
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