October 24, 2012

The Way Forward for Responsible Agricultural Investments

Considerable financial resources will be necessary to feed a growing global population, meet the needs of changing diets, and deal with natural resources and climatic challenges (see our post on climate-smart agriculture financing). According to FAO estimates, US$83 billion a year will be needed to achieve food security in developing countries. Furthermore, in Africa alone funding on the order of US$3 billion per year for adaptation in agriculture and that amount again for mitigation (not including avoiding deforestation) is anticipated. In tandem with this great financial need, there has been renewed attention to acquisition of rights to land, water and other natural resources by foreign investors, still a particularly contentious issue.

In an attempt to address the issues associated with land investments, the World Bank, FAO, UNCTAD, and IFAD have united to develop an international framework and guidelines to inform investment decisions. Last week, at the 39th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), officials launched the program of work to develop voluntary standards for Responsible Agro-Investment (RAI).

According to the program of work, the standards will:

  • address all types of investments in agricultural value chains and food systems, including forestry and fisheries, and including smallholder producers
  • address investments in agricultural research, extension and technology transfer
  • include foreign and domestic, public and private small, medium and large scale investments

While specifically tasked with promoting “investments in agriculture that contribute to food security and nutrition,” the RAI principles also include conditions for land and resource rights, participation and transparency, and social and environmental sustainability.

Such a framework for responsible investments will also help set a precedent for investments that try to achieve multiple goals – e.g. food security, local buy-in, and environmental protection. The proposed work plan lays out the next two years, including regional multistakeholder consultations over the course of 2013, and a finalized set of principles for approval by the CFS in October 2014. Visit the Platform for Responsible Agro-Investment to learn more and keep apprised of new developments.

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