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Agriculture and Food Security

ADB scales up nature-based solutions and supports for climate-smart agriculture across the entire agriculture and food value chains, including the blue economy.

ADB's Work in Agriculture and Food Security

Asian agriculture is crucial to the region’s development. One in three of developing Asia’s workers are still employed in agriculture. But the sector is beset by low productivity and incomes. An estimated four out of five people living below the poverty line in the region are in rural areas. This means that raising agricultural productivity is critical to poverty reduction and advancing the region’s economic transformation.

Agriculture plays a central role in safeguarding the region’s food supply and achieving the second UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. In addition, agriculture is absolutely central to achieving regional food security, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture. But agriculture in developing Asia faces challenges from changing consumer demand, demographics, inefficient value chains, climate change, and water shortages.

Food security

Despite the region’s growing prosperity, malnourishment persists. In the past two decades, developing Asia has made significant progress in its fight against hunger, lifting more than 200 million people from undernourishment. This progress is impressive, but more than 300 million in the region are still food insecure.

ADB takes a comprehensive multi-sector approach to food security and sustainable development. The bank is working with its DMCs to help integrate food production, processing, marketing, and distribution networks to strengthen resilience and efficiency of food and agricultural value chains. The bank also aims to boost food and agricultural employment opportunities to help raise living standards for the poor, women, and vulnerable groups.

Food security
Farmers are generating more income through increased agricultural products in Cambodia. Photo: Chor Sokunthea/ADB

ADB understands the importance of improved food policies, standards, institutional support, and partnerships. Other issues in the region that are holding back food security include: low food productivity; lack of access to rural finance; infrastructure and technology; the threat of climate change; and volatile food prices, among others.

Productivity

To keep pace with population growth and urbanization, food production in the region must increase through improved land and labor productivity, along with access to financing and agricultural inputs. Measures are needed to substantially increase agricultural investment, underpinned by national and international policies and support. Technological and ICT solutions must be applied to boost long-term productivity and efficiently integrate farmers along the value chains. Investments in nutrition-smart technologies and practices enabling farmers to decide on what and how to produce are likewise critical in addressing malnutrition while improving farmers’ income. ADB also supports nature-based solutions and innovations that rehabilitate and restore the environment to support improved and sustainable food production.

Productivity
Collecting wheat after threshing during Pakistan’s COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Rahim Mirza/ADB

As urbanization rapidly increases in the region, supplying growing cities with adequate and affordable food is a major challenge, requiring massive investment in food distribution, storage, agri-logistics, and marketing. As Asian economies become richer and more urbanized, food demand is not only increasing, but also moving towards animal products that are much more resource intensive and environmentally unfriendly. Meeting this growing regional demand for meat poses many problems, such as the contribution to climate change from widespread livestock farming. ADB is exploring opportunities for plant-based meat, alternative protein sources, and sustainable environment-friendly livestock production.

Water

Asia also faces an acute water shortage. By 2030, demand for water in the region is anticipated to exceed supply by 40%. Since 80% of water is used for agricultural production, lack of water seriously hampers food production and security. To grow more food with less water in the region, ADB is promoting the adoption of more efficient and sustainable ways of managing this precious resource.

Water
Beneficiaries checking the header tank in Bangladesh. Photo: Abir Abdullah/ADB

Value chains

Strengthening the links between food producers and their consumers creates a win-win for all players in the food supply chain. This involves constructing rural roads, providing power, and developing market infrastructure, including strengthening the role of information and communication technologies. Asia's increasingly complex food chains demand regional action to improve food safety and traceability. Greater Mekong Subregion countries are addressing this by cooperating on better food handling and inspection systems. ADB and partners are promoting the integration of innovative technologies to better connect producers with consumers and markets, reduce post-harvest loss, and overall improve value chain efficiency.

Value chains
Farmers from the Kalasin-Khao Kho Organic Agricultural Cluster display their produce. Photo: Ariel Javellana/ADB

Climate resilience and environmental sustainability

Climate change is already impacting markedly on agriculture and food production in developing countries in Asia and the Pacific. Rising temperatures, flooding rivers, melting glaciers, and other extreme weather events will greatly challenge regional food security. As warming of 2°C continues, crop production is expected to decrease significantly, particularly rice, wheat, and maize production. Not only will cereal consumption patterns be affected but the price of feed will also increase, which will increase the price of animal products.

As a result, climate change will place an additional burden on the region, which can easily undermine development and impair progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate resilience and environmental sustainability
The High-Efficiency Horticulture and Integrated Supply Chain Project in Armenia is supporting 30 hectares of climate-controlled greenhouses. Photo: Eric Sales/ADB

It is important for countries to effectively manage their natural resources and harness the use of renewable energy to ensure sustainability and resilience, and to mitigate the effects of climate-related disasters on agriculture. ADB builds climate change resilience and adaptation into its agriculture projects. For example, some projects focus on agricultural systems that need less water, other projects address reducing the carbon footprint of certain types of agricultural production.

Food Price Volatility

ADB is committed to reducing the fluctuating price of food. When world cereal prices rose by more than 80% in 2007-08, global food stocks plummeted to levels not seen in decades. Coupled with the global economic slowdown and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, surging food prices pushed an estimated 100 million more people into hunger, raising the total number of undernourished people globally to over one billion. ADB economists predict that a 10% rise in domestic food price inflation in developing Asia could push 64 million more Asians into poverty. ADB and its partners are working to implement short-, medium- and long-term solutions to help prevent another possible food crisis.

Food Price Volatility
Small traders wait for customers at the new Kacha Bazar market in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Abir Abdullah/ADB

Agricultural research

ADB supports research that boosts agricultural productivity, incomes, and livelihoods. This includes studies to reduce yield gaps, increase crop yield potential and ways to reduce crop losses during harvest, storage, or processing. ADB also works with international agricultural research groups on issues like stress tolerant varieties and better crop management.

Education Reform
The Agriculture and Rural Development Project in Mongolia is helping agribusiness enterprises develop supply value chains and deliver premium products. Photo: Tsogtbaatar Khishigdorj/ADB

Multi-Sector Approach

The food security challenge is a broad concern that needs to be approached from a multisectoral standpoint.

How other ADB areas of operation relate to food security

Infrastructure
  • Water productivity (irrigation, drainage, and water storage)
  • Access to public infrastructure services (rural roads, rural electrification, market infrastructure, and rural town development)
  • Resilience against natural disasters (flood and drought risk management).
Environment
  • Integrated water resources management
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation (biogas and/or rural renewable energy, and natural resource management)
Regional cooperation and/or integration
  • Food and agriculture trade, and food safety and standards
  • Regional emergency food reserve system
  • Cross-border water resources management
  • Regional disaster risk management
Finance
  • Access to micro credit and rural finance services
  • Rural enterprise development
  • Resilience against emergencies (risk insurance and safety net)
Education
  • Skills development (vocational training)
Agriculture
  • Small farmers' access to markets (food and agricultural value chain facilitation)
  • Agricultural research and dissemination of innovative knowledge and technology
Health
  • Nutrition status of women, children, and the poor
Disaster and emergency assistance
  • Early warning and information systems

Operational Plan for Agriculture and Natural Resources

Operational Plan for Agriculture and Natural Resources

Scaling-up of agriculture operations and an increased emphasis on natural resources management are actions needed to address food security concerns across Asia and the Pacific. Agriculture and food security should be viewed in the context of the broader economic transformation in Asia and the Pacific.

Operational Priorities

Strategy 2030 sets seven operational priorities, each having its own operational plan. The operational plans contribute to ADB’s vision to achieve prosperity, inclusion, resilience, and sustainability, and are closely aligned with Strategy 2030 principles and approaches.

Experts

Qingfeng Zhang
Qingfeng Zhang

Chief of Rural Development and Food Security (Agriculture) Thematic Group

Yasmin Siddiqi
Yasmin Siddiqi

Director, Central and West Asia Department

Thomas Panella
Thomas Panella

Director, East Asia Department

Mio Oka
Mio Oka

Director, South Asia Department

Jiangfeng Zhang
Jiangfeng Zhang

Director, Southeast Asia Department

Mukhtor Khamudkhanov
Mukhtor Khamudkhanov

Director, Pacific Department

Martin Lemoine
Martin Lemoine

Principal Investment Specialist and Head, Agribusiness Investment Team