Published:June 18, 2017 11:40 am
The BRICS countries are well positioned to take a leading role in helping achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Paris Climate accord, a top official of the UN food agency has said. “The BRICS countries play an important political role in the international arena. Developing countries around the world look to your successes in economic development over the past few decades as an example to follow,” Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, said at the 7th Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, in Nanjing, China last week.
BRICS is the acronym for an association of the world’s five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. “Your experiences provide a path that can help us all meet our global collective commitments, namely those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – its 17 Sustainable Development Goals – and the Paris climate accord,” she said. The UN official said the BRICS countries form an economic block that accounts for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 20 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Together, they produce more than one-third of global cereal production, with Russia becoming the largest wheat exporter in the world.
As the clock ticks towards the 2030 deadline for meeting global goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, the United Nations agriculture agency asserted that the five vitally important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping the world achieve these targets. Kadiresan pointed out that, despite trends towards urbanization, as poverty in the world today is primarily rural, accelerating rural development will be key to achieving the SDGs. “The question is how can we do this,” she said, adding “our experiences in countries in different parts of the world have shown that it can best be done through a combination of agricultural growth and targeted social protection, but also through growth in the rural nonfarm economy.”
She underscored that agriculture can be a driver of sustained and inclusive rural growth, saying “In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy.” Achieving agricultural growth would require research and development investments, in which BRICS countries could play a leading role as all five have strong agricultural research systems working on developing countries’ challenges. Biotechnology and agro-ecological approaches would also be essential, FAO official said.
The agency cited India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as key social programmes that play a vital role in rural development. It noted that agricultural growth, as important as it is, cannot eradicate hunger and poverty all by itself – social protection programmes can also play a key role in rural development. “These programmes have important poverty reduction and health benefits, and can also strengthen the confidence of family farmers, encouraging them to become more entrepreneurial. Brazil’s Fome Zero and India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are global references in this regard,” it said.
It said the information and communication technologies are becoming more widespread by the day, and they offer a promising approach to address many of the challenges small farmers face with regard to information on prices, weather forecasts, vaccines, financial services, and much more.