Investment in Agriculture: The Key to Poverty Reduction
——Interview With FAO Deputy Director-General Daniel J. Gustafson
Chang Hao, China Investment
China Investment : Poverty
reduction is a global issue and varies among different regions. As an
international organization, based on FAO’s poverty reduction practices
in rural areas across the world, what do you think is the key to success
of poverty reduction?
Daniel J. Gustafson:
As the question states, poverty reduction varies among regions, thus
poverty reduction strategies must adapt to those various contexts,
meaning that a universal strategy towards success does not exist.
international community has pledged to halve poverty and hunger by
2015. Extreme poverty remains in fact an alarming problem in the world’s
developing regions, despite the advances made in the 1990s. Progress in
poverty reduction has concentrated in Asia and especially in East Asia.
In all other regions, the number of people in extreme poverty has
Reducing poverty and hunger are at the
heart of FAO’s work and they are central goals of countries worldwide.
By 2030, Member States have committed to eradicating extreme poverty for
people everywhere. FAO is helping countries develop and implement
evidence-based pro-poor policies, strategies and programmes that promote
inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods.
key to poverty reduction is broad-based economic growth, especially in
agriculture and the rural economy. A focus on the agricultural sector is
a necessary condition for sustainable poverty and hunger reduction.
Most extreme poverty is concentrated in rural areas (75%) . Moreover,
priority action needs to be taken to reduce hunger directly. In order to
achieve poverty reduction, and tackle rural poverty, strong leadership
is required, at all levels of government, accompanied by strong and
transparent institutions. Moreover, a multi-sectoral approach is
necessary in order to bring together agro-industry development, food
security, social protection, health, education and ecological
restoration. It is very important to advocate specific targeting and
identification of poverty, in order to provide better and precise
support to pressing challenges. Finally, innovation has played a major
role in poverty reduction, especially in the agricultural sector.
Introducing ICTs in remote areas not only allows for better productivity
and connectivity with markets, but also knowledge and information
Although each country, region, town or
village need their unique approaches for poverty alleviation, I would
say that the key to success are those components: focus on agricultural
development, strong leadership and institutions, a multi-sectoral
approach, targeting and innovation. This is also what FAO does, actually
by using this approach. FAO, through its reform conducted during the
last years, has put poverty reduction at the heart of its mandate
through a much more focused, and targeted strategy, linking what we do
in the agricultural sector with what is being done in the social
protection sector. Countries need to establish a national vision of how
agriculture and social protection can work together to move people out
of poverty and hunger.
China Investment: Reducing
poverty is no easy job and involves complicated factors. What do you
think are the challenges for poverty reduction?
Daniel J. Gustafson: While
considerable progress has been made in fighting global hunger and
poverty, reducing poverty is no easy job, and there remain pressing
challenges. Poverty remains deeply entrenched in the rural areas of many
ecosystems, unsustainable natural resource management and climate change
are disproportionally affecting the poor. Climate change has made
poverty eradication even more of a challenge. The goal of eradicating
poverty will remain elusive if these trends are not reversed.
Eradicating poverty continues to be a major challenge, especially in
sub-Saharan Africa where the absolute number of poor has continued to
Moreover, after such accomplishments, the
last phase of poverty reduction is the most challenging and identifying
the most vulnerable populations in order to implement targeted
strategies becomes increasingly complex. The main challenge currently
faced is thus the targeting of poverty, and the most vulnerable
population. In fact, addressing all aspects of the remaining poverty is
very demanding, as particular characteristics vary and the targeting
system needs to be very strong.
reduction has been achieved in contexts of rapid economic growth.
However, economic growth is not a panacea for inclusive development.
Rural poverty has persisted where policies failed to provide access to
social services, social protection. Poverty largely concerns smallholder
farmers, women left behind in remote rural areas, and children. Without
efficient targeted policies on social services and provision, it will
be difficult to break the vicious circle of poverty.
China Investment: What is the role of the SSC in achieving the SDGs, such as eradicating hunger and poverty?
Daniel J. Gustafson: South-South
Cooperation has been a very successful programme that has brought
together China and other developing countries with the aim to share
experiences, technology and knowledge concerning specifically
agricultural development. Under the SSC, FAO commits to facilitating
dialogues, networking and mutual exchange of poverty reduction and food
and nutrition security solutions between China and other developing
countries in the world. Information gives people options and
alternatives, and the sharing of experiences can have optimal benefits
for developing countries with similar challenges. The exchange of
information through the SSC platform is key for policy-makers to gain
inspiration and thus adapt successful strategies to a different context.
China has offered great support in the context of
the SSC. Having sent over 1000 experts and technicians for nearly two
decades to Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, China has been a major
contributor to poverty reduction and nutrition security. Countries that
are seeking to apply innovative development solutions have sought
advice from countries that have implemented such successful approaches.
Through knowledge sharing, technical support and expertise, growth and
development can reach the poorest and introduce sustainable, long-term
The SSC has been an important
contributor to the MDGs in terms of eradicating hunger and poverty, and
ensuring food and nutrition security and should play a key and
increasing role in the framework of the SDGs.
instance, in rice production, overuse of pesticides and chemical
fertilizers decreases terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity while
negatively impacting human health. In the long term, it contributes to a
loss of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. Resources need to be used
more efficiently in order to increase production in a socially,
environmentally and economically sustainable manner. Through the SSC,
Rice-Fish farming techniques were promoted to other developing
countries. Farmers using the Rice-Fish systems benefit from diversified
revenue streams from the same plot of land, thereby increasing marketing
opportunities, diversifying products and achieving higher incomes.
Investment : What is GIAHS’ significance and its potential for global
poverty reduction, as well as its contribution to China’s rural
Daniel J. Gustafson: The GIAHS Program fosters in fact an integrated approach that combines sustainable agriculture and rural development.
poverty eradication strategies are largely based on creative and
innovative solutions to agricultural challenges. Combining traditional
food systems with innovation has proven to be highly successful. China
is now considered a leader – or a champion – in GIAHS designations.
Thanks to continuous innovation and conservation strategies, China has
managed to maintain biodiversity and essential ecosystem services.
resilience of many GIAHS sites has been developed and adapted to cope
with climatic variability and change, new technologies and changing
social and political situations or natural hazards to ensure food and
livelihood security and alleviate risk.
instance, Qingtian County was the first area to receive the GIAHS
designation, and is now home to research on agricultural techniques. The
farmers combined rice farming with aquaculture, growing fish in their
flooded paddy fields. The rice paddies offered protection and organic
food for the fish, and the fish softens the soil and provides nutrients
and oxygen for the rice crop. The traditional wisdom of Chinese
ancestors has been preserved, and complemented by an ecological and
organic agriculture system. Villages such as the one in Qingtian have
not only improved productivity, ensured sustainable and ecological
systems, but have also become famous, therein promoting agro-tourism as
well. Villages like that one that were suffering from out-migration and
poverty have now turned into traditional, self-sufficient Agricultural
Heritage systems, encouraging in-migration, tourism and thus
contributing to China’s rural vitalization.
Poor and small farmers have found food and livelihood security through the GIAHS Programme in a sustainable manner.
fact, China has 13 GIAHS sites, 8 of which are located in
poverty-stricken counties involving a total number of 9 million farmers.
Promoting the products, such as through e-commerce platforms, from
these sites would also be important for poverty alleviation and rural
revitalization. We are now in discussion with various partners for this
Meanwhile, agribusiness development has
been identified as a key poverty reduction strategy of China, and the
government has put a lot of efforts in that regard, such as sending
technical experts to help identify the crops to grow, as well as
establishing and enhancing cooperatives. This combination of traditional
food systems with new systems will certainly help reduce poverty.
China Investment: How do you see the role of agriculture cooperation under the BRI initiative?
Daniel J. Gustafson: The
Belt and Road Initiative aims to help promote policy coordination,
infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and
mutual understanding among the people of the participating countries.
Agriculture plays a crucial role in the concerned economies. It accounts
for more than 25 percent of GDP, as well as for over 40 percent of
employment in many countries involved in this initiative. Investments
in infrastructure will facilitate connectivity and access to markets,
resources, information and services.
with the rest of the world is crucial, especially considering that
regions along the Belt and Road are often highly dependent on the
agricultural sector, are under-developed and do not have the necessary
infrastructure to prosper and grow. However, infrastructure is not a
panacea for growth and development. Policies and reforms will need to be
implemented in order for those investments to promote inclusive growth
and reach the poorest.
Specifically, a focus on
agro-business development will be necessary. Most countries along the
BRI are characterized by labor-intensive, agricultural economies, and
rural poverty remains a common and major challenge. Through better
infrastructure, innovation could reach those areas and they could
benefit considerably from the BRI and the knowledge exchange that it has
Agricultural cooperation is a main
pillar for inclusive growth. FAO has found that investing in agriculture
is approximately four times more effective at improving the poorest
peoples’ lives than investing in any other sector.
文｜本刊记者 常浩 翻译｜曾一巳
——专访联合国粮食及农业组织（FAO）副总干事丹尼尔J.古斯塔夫森（Daniel J. Gustafson）
丹尼尔 J. 古斯塔夫森：正如问题所述，各地区之间的贫困状况各不相同，因此减贫策略必须适应各种不同情况，也就意味着不存在一个通用的成功策略。
丹尼尔 J. 古斯塔夫森：虽然目前在应对全球饥饿和贫穷问题方面已取得了相当大的进展，但减贫并非易事，仍然面临着棘手挑战。贫困在许多低收入国家的农村地区依然根深蒂固。
丹尼尔 J. 古斯塔夫森：南南合作（SSC）是一个非常成功的计划，它将中国和其他发展中国家汇聚一堂，旨在分享经验、技术和知识（特别是农业发展方面）。南南合作下，联合国粮农组织致力于促进中国与其他发展中国家之间就减贫、粮食和食品营养安全解决方案的对话、联络和交流。信息为人们提供了选择和替代方案，分享经验则可以为面临类似挑战的发展中国家带来利益最大化。通过南南合作平台交流信息是政策制定者汲取灵感的关键，从而使成功战略适应不同环境。
丹尼尔 J. 古斯塔夫森：全球重要农业文化遗产计划实际上是一种结合可持续农业和农村发展的综合方法。
丹尼尔 J. 古斯塔夫森：“一带一路”倡议旨在促进沿线各国之间的政策沟通、设施联通、贸易畅通、资金融通和民心相通。农业在相关经济体中发挥着至关重要的作用，占许多沿线国家国内生产总值的25％以上。基础设施投资将加强联通度，便利市场进入，以及资源、信息和服务的获取。