Poverty and hunger are enormous problems. Nearly 1 billion people in the world go hungry, and more than 1 billion live on just US$1.25 a day. Seventy-five percent of the poor live in rural areas, and the majority of them depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Food prices are high and rising—a situation that points to continued challenges in food security in the coming years.
Despite global efforts to overcome these problems, one of the most promising tools for promoting development and reducing poverty—pro-poor, sustainable agricultural growth, particularly for small producers—has been underexploited. Evidence shows that agricultural growth reduces poverty by twice the rate of growth in non-agricultural sectors, but this growth has been held back by failures related to policies, institutions, and markets, and will be further challenged by emerging trends such as climate change and natural resource scarcity.
Agricultural growth has also been constrained by a narrow focus on agriculture that excludes macroeconomic dimensions, environmental inputs and outcomes, and important enabling conditions, such as rural infrastructure, effective markets, and complementary services like credit and agricultural extension.
It is precisely here that the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets can make a critical contribution. It will establish how these challenges and failures can be overcome so that policies, institutions, and markets can be used most effectively to reduce poverty, improve food security, and increase small producers’ incomes.
Under business as usual, projected growth in agricultural productivity in the next two decades is unlikely to meet effective demand for food without significant price increases. Small agricultural producers face enormous challenges, but they also have great potential to feed the world—if they can get access to the inputs, technologies, markets, and public services they need.
The adoption of evidence-based policies, inclusive institutions, and equitable and efficient markets—based on sound and cutting-edge research focused on the complex agricultural development process—can help achieve this goal. Policies, Institutions, and Markets addresses this challenge by producing a body of knowledge to support pro-poor agricultural growth.
Developing countries not only face a tremendous variety of development challenges, but also vary greatly in their policy, institutional, and market capacities. Consequently, a distinguishing feature of Policies, Institutions, and Markets is its emphasis on supporting country-led, country-driven, and country-owned development processes through collaborative research, partnership, and capacity building. This country-led approach has so far received too little attention in the research and development community, including in CGIAR.