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Agriculture and Food Security

ADB's efforts and strategy to achieve food security in the region emphasizes the integration of agricultural productivity, market connectivity, and resilience against shocks and climate change impacts as the three pillars to achieve sustainable food security.

ADB's Work in Agriculture and Food Security

ADB has shifted its strategic focus from agriculture to a comprehensive multi-sector food security engagement with the goal of curbing food insecurity, particularly among the poor and vulnerable.

ADB's efforts and strategy to achieve food security in the region are outlined in the Operational Plan for Sustainable Food Security in Asia and the Pacific.

The Operational Plan for Agriculture And Natural Resources: Promoting Sustainable Food Security in Asia and the Pacific in 2015–2020 guides ADB in meeting developing member country needs to promote rural development and achieve food and nutrition security by strengthening operations across three areas:

  1. improved market connectivity and agricultural value chain linkages to enhance connectivity and mobility between rural and urban areas;
  2. use of high-level technologies (i.e., satellite and drone-assisted applications and climate-smart farming technologies) to ensure efficient resource use; and 
  3. enhanced food safety through improved policies, standards, and institutions for food traceability and tracking.

Through the operational plan, ADB is addressing the three binding constraints to sustainable food security:

  • stagnating food productivity and production
  • lack of access to rural finance, infrastructure, technology, markets, and nonfarm income opportunities
  • the threat of climate change and volatility of food prices

ADB's goal is to help developing member countries strengthen inclusive food and agriculture value chains that enable integration of production, processing, markets, and distribution networks while improving farm and nonfarm employment opportunities, increased incomes, and better living standards of the poor, women, and other vulnerable groups.

Supporting agriculture research

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 has the effect of increasing 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 undertake research advances to improve rice varieties and crop management systems and practices. It is critical for national governments of developing member countries to help small farmers benefit from these advances.

Agriculture and Food Security Issues in Asia and the Pacific

Two-thirds of the world's one billion hungry reside in Asia and the Pacific. Rising food prices are bringing the specter of food shortages and undernutrition to millions more of the region's poor.

Both rural and urban poor spend more than half of their income on food. Recurrent food price spikes are a setback for attaining the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to poverty and hunger reduction.

It is estimated that close to 50% of the population will be living in urban areas by 2026. Supplying growing cities with adequate and affordable food is a major challenge, requiring massive investments in food distribution, storage, and marketing facilities.

This section highlights the issues and trends in agriculture, food security, and rural development faced by developing countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Agricultural and Food Productivity

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. Measures are needed to increase agricultural investments and put in place supporting national and international policies. These measures will help advance scientific and technological discoveries for long-term productivity, and help many poor farmers who have not benefited from past technological advances.

Asia also faces an acute water shortage. By 2030, demand for water is anticipated to exceed supply by 40%. Since 80% of water is used for agricultural production, lack of water leads to lack of food. To grow more food with less water in the region, the productivity of water will need to be improved substantially, through more efficient and sustainable management of water.


Access to Rural Finance, Technology, and Markets

Strengthening the links between food producers with their input suppliers as well as consumers creates a win-win arrangement for all players in the food supply chain.

Providing access and building connectivity include:

  • constructing rural roads, providing power, and developing market infrastructure, such as rural growth centers
  • facilitating agribusinesses and food trade
  • improving farm and nonfarm employment opportunities
  • small and medium enterprises development
  • creating or improving market information systems, food value chains, and food safety standards


Food Price Volatility

In 2007-2008, as world cereal prices peaked (rising by as much as 87%), global food stocks plummeted to levels not seen in two decades. Coupled with the global economic slowdown, surging food prices pushed an estimated 100 million more people into hunger, raising the total number of undernourished people globally to over 1 billion.

ADB economists predict that a 10% rise in domestic food price inflation in developing Asia could push 64 million more Asians into poverty. These unprecedented global food price surges expose vulnerabilities to food and nutrition insecurity not only of the region's households but also of its governments.


Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability

Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific are likely to face the highest reductions in agricultural potential in the world due to climate change. As a result, climate change will place an additional burden on the region, which could undermine its efforts to meet long-term development goals.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines resilience as "the ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organization, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change. It is also important for countries to effectively manage their natural resources and harness the use of renewable energy to ensure sustainability and to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on agricultural produce.


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