Productivity at the Forefront of Food Security

To keep pace with population growth, food production in developing Asia and the Pacific will need to increase mainly through improved land and labor productivity. In both cases, measures are needed to (i) increase available resources for agricultural investments, and (ii) put in place supporting national and international policies. These measures will help continue the advances in scientific and technological discoveries for long-term productivity, and help many poor farmers who have not benefited from past technological advances exploit these opportunities.

The key challenges confronting food and agricultural productivity include:

  • declining yields in agricultural crops,
  • food price hikes caused by heightened demand for cereals for consumption and livestock production, and
  • climate change, which threatens agricultural production.
Facts to consider:
  • Two-thirds of the estimated 1 billion to 1.5 billion people who are food insecure and poor live in Asia. By 2050, the world will have 2 billion more people, most of them living in Asia and the Pacific.
  • To feed the world’s poor, food production must be increased by 70%, requiring about $83 billion per year of new investments in agriculture.

Initiatives to raise agricultural productivity

Research as a long-term vehicle to agricultural productivity

The internal rate of return of investments in agricultural research has been remarkably high: 20-40% average in Asia and the Pacific. Agricultural research, together with technology and innovations, increases productivity, income, and livelihoods.Areas for agricultural research that ADB has identified for the next 10 years include reducing yield gaps; increasing yield potential of crop varieties or hybrids; and reducing crop losses during harvest, storage, or processing.

ADB also supports and partners with international agricultural research centers that continuously undertake research advances to improve rice varieties and crop management systems and practices. It is critical for national governments of developing member countries (DMCs) to help their small farmers benefit from these advances.

Investing in agricultural productivity

ADB's contribution to agricultural productivity in Asia and the Pacific has reached $985 million in loan investments in 2009. This accounts for 51% of total ADB food security investments in that year. The projects mainly involve building basic infrastructures such as irrigation systems and rural water supply, and strengthening of vocational training, among others.

The Development Effectiveness Review in 2010 reports how outputs in three of ADB's core operational areas (finance, transport, and water) have contributed to food security.

Indicator Outputs Delivered
  2006–2009 2007–2010
Microfinance accounts opened/end borrowers reached 3,609,000 3,651,000
SME loan accounts opened/end borrowers reached 395,200 399,500
National highways, provincial, district, and rural roads built of upgraded 42,100 km 44,200km
Land improved through irrigation services, drainage, and flood management 1,231,000
Water supply pipes installed or upgraded/length of network 17,100 km 14,000 km
*Includes output of 11.8 million hectares improved through Yellow River Flood management Sector Project: ADB. 2010. Project Completion Report: Yellow River Flood Management Sector Project in the People’s Republic of China. Manila.

Independent Evaluation of ADB's support to Agriculture and Natural Resources

The study Policy Implementation and Impact of Agriculture and Natural Resources Research updates an earlier evaluation conducted in 2000 in response to developments in the agriculture and natural resources (ANR) sector in DMCs and in the world. Key emerging concerns include the increasing scarcity of inputs such as land and water for agriculture, and the impact of trade liberalization, global climate change, and biofuel development. ADB has also made several changes to its policies, institutional setup, and operational guidelines since 2000 in relation to ANR sector.