To end poverty and hunger by 2030, the world needs USD 265 billion more in annual investments. Of this, USD 140 billion must focus on agriculture. Parliamentarians are key to ensuring that investments in agri-food systems are responsible and adequate for reducing hunger and poverty.
(Photo: ©2017CIAT/GeorginaSmith )
The social, economic, and environmental footprint of investment in agriculture and food systems cannot be underestimated. The world’s population is expected to reach almost 10 billion in 2050, requiring a significant increase in the amount of affordable, healthy, and nutritious food that is produced. Investments in agriculture and food systems are generating great optimism in terms of their potential to ensure the livelihoods of millions of people working along the agricultural value chains and improve the environmental sustainability of the sector.
A world free of hunger and poverty cannot be achieved by 2030 without a substantial increase in capital flows in agriculture and food systems.
More and better investments in agriculture and food systems
An annual investment of USD 265 billion is needed globally to achieve the two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on ending poverty and hunger. USD 140 billion of this investment must focus on agriculture.
Investments promise to bring in much-needed capital in support of national agricultural modernization, as well as the potential to positively contribute to a range of national development objectives. Achieving the SDGs will require a significant increase in the quantity and quality of investment in agriculture and rural areas.
Agricultural investment is 2.5–3 times more effective in increasing the income of the poor than is non-agricultural investment. But it is important to note that not all kinds of investments are equally beneficial—for some kinds of investment, especially large-scale private and foreign investment, the negative impacts can outweigh the potential benefits. Negative impacts can include violation of tenure rights, environmental degradation, and harm to local food security. Poorly planned and executed investments can also entail economic losses for the investor and the host country.
The COVID-19 pandemic could add up to 132 million people to the ranks of the undernourished in the world in 2020 and reverse progress made to alleviate poverty and end hunger. In order to generate sustainable benefits for all, it is essential to ensure not only more but, above all, better investments. Investments that:
Prioritize local food security and nutrition
Uphold decent work
Promote secure land rights, and
Ensure equitable access to natural resources and the benefits of economic growth.
These types of investments are supported by inclusive and participatory decision-making processes that are accessible to, and protective of, the most vulnerable in society.
Leveraging governance frameworks
As is the case for all internationally agreed standards, responsible investment principles are anchored in soft law, meaning they are voluntary and unenforceable through judicial mechanisms. They are grounded in the assumption that their ownership depends on the extent to which the principles are accepted and implemented by the different stakeholders.
Emerging from an international consensus, the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS RAI), adopted by the Committee on World Food Security in 2014, are the most comprehensive international guidance instrument for agricultural investments (Figure 1). They serve as a framework to guide the actions of all stakeholders engaged in agriculture and food systems. The CFS RAI emphasize sustainable economic development, poverty eradication, gender equality and women's empowerment, youth participation, respect for land tenure, and natural resource management and conservation. They aim to promote safe and healthy agriculture and food systems, and incorporate transparent and inclusive governance structures, procedures, and redress mechanisms.
Figure 1. THE 10 PRINCIPLES FOR RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SYSTEMS
To promote real change at the national and regional levels, parliamentarians have a tremendous role to play. This is because the transposition of the CFS RAI into domestic legal frameworks will help ensure uptake and will ultimately lead to the achievement of more positive outcomes from agricultural investment. Parliamentarians are therefore key to supporting the implementation of international instruments that guide public and private investments in agriculture to increase sustainable productivity, raise incomes, and create job opportunities, particularly for the benefit of smallholders, women, and family farmers.
Parliamentarians can be the agents of change
Responsible investments in agriculture and food systems: a practical handbook for parliamentarians and parliamentary advisors is a practical handbook which provides a comprehensive and systematic overview of the role that Parliamentarians can play in the creation of an enabling environment in the range of areas related to investment in agriculture and food system.
Developed by IISD and FAO based on each organisation’s long-time experience in working with parliaments, the handbook is an invaluable tool for informing and inspiring parliamentarians and their advisors. The handbook aims to guide the reader on how to mainstream the CFS RAI into the public agenda, in the legislative drafting process, and in the approval of budgets and the oversight of policies.
The new handbook guides them in the creation of key policies, legal frameworks and incentives. The Handbook does not provide a blueprint for implementation and thus do not provide a catalogue of prescriptions. It provides tools for action and outlines the key policy responses required to increase coherence, participation and sustainability. The handbook also provides examples of efforts already underway in applying responsible investment in agriculture in a diverse range of countries, reflecting the relevance of working jointly with a multitude of stakeholders (Figure2).
Factors impacting an investment are indeed the enabling legal and institutional framework in the host country, the terms and conditions of the investment contract and the social and economic conditions in the investment. While governments wield the necessary authority to foster improved alignment between agricultural investments and national development strategies, parliamentarians are key players for enacting laws and regulations that enable responsible investments based on or connected to the CFS RAI Principles. They can advocate and demand accountability for the implementation of strong, coherent, and comprehensive legal and policy frameworks for preventing and mitigating the effects of investment in agriculture.
“In my village we decided to establish a network of local women with the aim of improving their livelihoods through economic empowerment. By strengthening the existing community-led money saving schemes, also known as 'Adashé’, women were encouraged to collectively save money to support capacity building initiatives that were aimed at increasing their participation in agrifood value chains.”
(Photo: ©2010CIAT/NeilPalmer )
"The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), committed to a clean and healthy environment, passed its landmark Polythene Materials Control Law in 2017. I am proud that we, as EALA members, have been able to enhance responsible land use management for sustainable development, promote recycling and work towards a green and clean East African Community."
Parliamentarians’ strategic position is fundamental, on one side, they can promote the enhancement of public responsible investments into the agricultural sector, for instance for the provision of public goods and services, including infrastructure, energy, research and development, especially in rural areas. They can also contribute to put in place the conditions to increase private responsible investments, made by smallholders, by youth-led and women-led small and medium enterprises, by medium-sized enterprises and by larger scale agribusiness investors, while ensuring well-defined safeguards are in place to protect legitimate interests and prevent damages to the environment and communities. Finally, they can put in place actions that facilitate complementarity between different kinds of investments.
In addition to their essential role for the enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets, and of ensuring accountability of governments for the effective implementation of commitments, parliamentarians and parliamentary advisors are custodians of their respective country’s plans for sustainable development and have a strategic responsibility to raise awareness of citizens on issues of paramount importance.
With this work FAO and IISD aim at helping parliamentarians be the agents of change the world needs to make investment in agriculture and food systems more sustainable, inclusive and resilient, while mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figure 2: ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SYSTEMS
- Launch of ECOWAS Network of Parliamentarians on Gender Equality and Investments in Agriculture and Food Security
- Parliamentarians Action #1 | Gender Equality and Food Security as a Response to COVID-19 - Webinar 17 June 2020
Parliamentarians Action #2 | Advancing gender equality in the context of family farming - Webinar 22 July 2020
- Parliamentarians Action #3 | Protecting and Promoting Women’s Land Rights in the Face of COVID-19 and Beyond-Webinar 17 September 2020
- Parliamentarians Action 4 |Engaging young women and men in rural and agriculture development and resilience building in the face of COVID-19 and beyond - Webinar 12 November 2020
- Promoting Sustainable Investments in Agriculture: Legal and policy options in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire - Event 13 December 2015 and workshop report.