Strategy 2030

Rural Resilience for Food Security

Promoting Rural Development and Food Security

Lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic isolated rural communities and severely disrupted food supply chains. In 2020, ADB and its financing partners worked together to fund projects that would strengthen resilience and improve the connectivity of rural communities, while enhancing agricultural value chains to ensure food security as the Asia and Pacific region transitions to post-pandemic recovery.

  • COVID-19 lockdowns and trade restrictions have affected domestic and international food supply chains, amplifying food security risks across the region.
  • In 2020, ADB and its financing partners funded 42 projects that targeted rural development. Of these, 28 projects amounting to $382 million addressed agriculture, natural resources, and rural development.
  • ADB’s financing partnerships focus on the risk of food insecurity by monitoring agricultural value chains and ensuring that food systems continue to function despite COVID-19 challenges.

Strategy 2030 aims to

  • accelerate rural development to emphasize improved rural services, increased private sector investments, and more jobs in rural areas
  • improve the efficiency of agricultural value chains to produce and distribute food efficiently from farms to consumers; reduce post-harvest losses; improve farmers’ profitability; and provide sufficient, safe, nutritious, and affordable food; and
  • create resilient food systems to ensure food security by sustainably producing more with fewer resources while addressing malnutrition and nature-based green recovery effectively combined with climate-smart practices.

COVID-19 and Rural Vulnerabilities

While cities grapple with overwhelmed healthcare systems because of the pandemic, many rural communities in the Asia and Pacific region do not even have basic healthcare systems to begin with. Hospitals and clinics are few and far between, without modern medical equipment, and do not have enough doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Like cities, though, rural areas are also facing daunting economic and health challenges brought by the pandemic.

Lockdowns and trade restrictions have affected domestic and international food supply chains, amplifying food security risks across the region. Domestically, agricultural workers are facing reduced work hours and job losses, in addition to health risks. Fruits, vegetables, and other perishable farm goods do not reach urban markets. They are sold cheaply or become spoiled, reducing income for farmers. Because of adverse weather conditions in major producer countries, disruptions to production and distribution due to the pandemic, and combined with panic buying, the economic hardship of the low- and middle-income non-farm groups has been rising. Moreover, rural areas are facing an economic downturn that could impact on national and regional economies.

In promoting rural development and food security as part of its Strategy 2030, ADB has been advocating the use of smart technologies, catalyzing public and private sector investments, and promoting transformative changes to build the resilience of rural communities against external shocks, such as disasters, climate change impacts, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, ADB and its financing partners funded 421 projects that addressed rural development. Of these, 28 projects amounting to $382 million directly focus on agriculture, natural resources, and rural development. Thirteen are cofinanced by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR). Indirectly, these projects will help rural communities strengthen resilience to ensure food security in post-pandemic Asia and the Pacific.

Check out the 2020 cofinanced projects tagged against the operational priority Promoting Rural Development and Food Security.

Rural Transformation and Connectivity

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted not only inequalities between cities and rural communities, but also urban–rural interdependence and the importance of rural connectivity in sustaining national economies. In 2020, ADB and its financing partners funded a wide array of projects that continue to transform rural towns into resilient communities. To close the urban–rural development gap, the projects covered various sectors including water, energy, transport, education, finance, and public sector management to bring much-needed public services. Some of these projects were also designed to improve rural connectivity, like the transport project to improve roads to the Highlands region in Papua New Guinea, cofinanced with the European Union, and the energy project to modernize the power distribution system in Meghalaya state, India, cofinanced with the JFPR, to extend reliable and affordable electricity to remote rural areas.

Some rural development projects directly related to improving agricultural productivity also consider connectivity. In Cambodia, the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund, Agence Française de Développement, and the JFPR are cofinancing a project to strengthen value chains of competitive agricultural products by improving farm-to-market connectivity. In the Greater Mekong Subregion, ADB is strengthening climate-friendly, inclusive, and gender-conscious agri-food value chains and agribusinesses. With cofinancing from the People’s Republic of China Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund, the project involves piloting smart technologies for food traceability and quality assurance to promote domestic and regional trade and ensure compliance with international food safety systems.

In Pakistan, the COVID-19 pandemic combined with severe locust swarms gravely affected local farmers and raised concerns about agricultural production and food security. With cofinancing from the Netherlands Trust Fund under the Water Financing Partnership Facility, an ADB project is helping Pakistan improve its resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic, locust infestations, and other natural disasters by enhancing its food security system and the agriculture sector.

Ensuring Rural Prosperity and Food Security

ADB and its financing partners will continue supporting projects and programs on rural–urban integration, agricultural value chains, natural resources management, and food security. Primarily, partnerships will focus on addressing the risk of food insecurity in the region by monitoring domestic food and agricultural supply chains and regional agricultural trade flows and ensuring that food systems continue to function despite COVID-19 challenges. Applications of smart technologies in agriculture will also be prioritized by exploring new business models, innovations, and partnerships on the use of digital platforms to maintain food supply-chain networks, facilitate the rapid development of food delivery services, and expedite the widespread digitalization of financial payment systems.

ADB plans to establish a natural capital laboratory and financing facility to accelerate and scale up natural capital investments in the region. The laboratory will look at ways to enhance natural capital accounting, strengthen eco-compensation policy, and catalyze financing innovations. The related financing facility, focusing on agri-food fund and food security bond, will be launched to support cofinancing, innovation marketplaces, and technical assistance in the agriculture, natural resources, and rural development sectors.


Timor-Leste: Coffee and Agroforestry Livelihood Improvement

The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction is cofinancing this project that would train coffee farming households on good agricultural practices for the production of coffee and related crops. The project will also strengthen industry management and support initiatives to improve coffee quality and linkages with key markets. It supports Timor-Leste’s post–COVID-19 economic recovery by helping improve rural livelihoods.

Sri Lanka: Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Line of Credit Project

Small and medium-sized enterprises in Sri Lanka, including those led by women, will be provided a line of credit through 10 participating financial institutions. The project includes additional financing and an attached technical assistance that will support value chain development for the tea sector, funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction.

Afghanistan: Arghandab Integrated Water Resources Development Project

Cofinanced with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank, the project will improve the availability and management of water resources in the Arghandab basin in Afghanistan. The project will increase the storage capacity of the Dahla Dam, increase the reliability of irrigation water supplies, improve agriculture water productivity, and strengthen institutions in water resource management.

Bangladesh: Climate Resilient Livelihood Improvement and Watershed Management in Chittagong Hill Tracts Sector Project

This project will take a holistic approach to improve livelihoods and sustainable use of natural resources in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Netherlands Trust Fund under the Water Financing Partnership Facility contributed $500,000 to strengthen the project’s focus on climate resilience and food security.

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