Priority Investment Category
Climate Smart Agriculture
Extreme poverty is a challenge that largely originates in the agricultural sectors of low- and middle-income countries. Worldwide, 80% of people in extreme poverty live in rural areas, and most of them are smallholder farmers who (according to a standard definition) work plots of land that are less than five acres in size.1,2 Because of market failures and other barriers that limit adoption of advanced agricultural practices, these farmers’ yields fall well below the average yields in more-developed parts of the world.3 Women farmers face especially high barriers to accessing resources that will allow them to farm more productively.4,5 As a result, smallholder families experience periods of food insecurity and hunger.6 Breaking the cycle of rural poverty starts with ensuring that farmers have access to essential resources, including key inputs like high-quality seeds and fertilizer, training in efficient agricultural practices, farm financing services, and markets in which to sell their products. According to multiple studies, interventions that address these needs increase crop yields and raise smallholder incomes.7,8,9 The potential for impact in this area is significant. In low- and middle-income countries, growth in the agriculture sector can be two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors.4 Progress on this front, moreover, makes it possible to reverse the cycle of hunger: Evidence shows that increases in agricultural yields and smallholder incomes can improve food security and nutritional outcomes.10
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1. Andres Castañeda, et al. “Who Are the Poor in the Developing World?” The World Bank Group, October 2016.
2. George Rapsomanikis. “The Economic Lives of Smallholder Farmers: An Analysis Based on Household Data from Nine Countries.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2015.
3. “Maize Yields, 2018.” Our World in Data (website).
4. Una Murray, et al. “Smallholder Farmers and Climate Smart Agriculture: Technology and Labor-Productivity Constraints Amongst Women Smallholders in Malawi.” Gender, Technology and Development, vol. 20, no. 2, 2016, pp. 117-148.
5. “Women’s Access to Rural Finance: Challenges and Opportunities.” FAO, 2019.
6. “World Bank Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development.” The World Bank Group, 2007.
7. Joshua Deutschmann and Emilia Tjernstrom. “The Impact of One Acre Fund’s Small Farm Program.” La Follette School of Public Affairs (University of Wisconsin-Madison), 2018.
8. Monica Fisher, et al. “Drought Tolerant Maize for Farmer Adaptation to Drought in Sub-Saharan Africa: Determinants of Adoption in Eastern and Southern Africa.” Climactic Change, vol. 133, 2015, pp. 283-299.
9. Gashaw Abate, et al. “Rural Finance and Agricultural Technology Adoption in Ethiopia: Does the Institutional Design of Lending Organizations Matter?” World Development, vol. 84, 2016, pp. 235-253.
10. “Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future.” United Nations Development Programme, 2012.