India’s G20 presidency faces a pivotal opportunity to steer global attention towards the challenges plaguing the Global South, particularly in the realm of agriculture. This month, the G20 leadership meeting is scheduled to convene in New Delhi, marking a critical juncture for India’s leadership and its agenda-setting role within the Agriculture Working Group. In this article, we will explore the key objectives and priorities that India should champion, drawing from previous Agriculture Working Group meetings and recognising the ongoing challenges faced by the Global South.
Agriculture holds a preeminent position in the economies of developing countries within the G20. Consider these statistics: Agriculture contributes approximately 25 percent of the GDP in G20 developing economies and engages a substantial 40 percent of the workforce. The vulnerability of developing economies to food price fluctuations is a pressing concern. The poorest G20 countries are the most sensitive to food price changes, with a 10 percent increase in food prices potentially resulting in a staggering one percent decline in GDP in these nations, thus impacting growth and equity in the global South. There is also a pressing need for market forces-driven resource allocation in agriculture for the developing nations for which India can play a guiding role.
Climate Change & Agriculture
Climate change casts a long shadow over agriculture. Anticipated lower crop yields, increased pest and disease pressure, and extreme weather events loom as climate change consequences. These changes pose an existential threat to agriculture in the developing and developed world alike. Fluctuations in supplies are found to significantly impact the openness of international agricultural trade and food inflation in the respective economies of the Global South. Besides, agriculture has also been estimated to be a significant contributor to climate change due to GHG emissions from irrigated farming and livestock agriculture. To protect the Global South from the impact of climate change, it is imperative to adopt climate-resilient agricultural technologies. Drought-tolerant crop varieties can mitigate water scarcity impacts while water-saving irrigation systems could help conserve water. Improved pest management practices and precision agriculture are critical in leveraging data-driven techniques for resource optimisation. Climate-resilient livestock breeds are essential for livestock farming sustainability. Shifting the Global South from pastoralism to intensive livestock farming and effective utilisation of livestock wastage is critical to reducing the impact of livestock agriculture on climate change and protecting the Global South from the vulnerability of the population dependent on pastoral livestock agriculture.
Facilitating Public-private Collaboration
Effective collaboration between the public and private sectors is pivotal. Governments must provide funding and regulatory support, while the private sector can lead in technology development and deployment. These partnerships accelerate the adoption of climate-resilient agricultural practices. The G20 can leverage existing initiatives such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program as ideal avenues for financing research and development. These platforms can also facilitate the adoption of climate-resilient technologies, ensuring continuity. To foster collaboration, the G20 may need to create fresh institutional mechanisms serving as hubs for knowledge exchange, resource pooling, and standard development, helping enhance agricultural resilience in the global south.
Regarding public-private partnerships in agriculture and climate change, one can quote the success of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA), a partnership between governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations. The GACSA aims to accelerate the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices in developing countries. This alliance has successfully developed about 100 climate-smart agriculture technologies, besides reaching out to about 10 million farmers with climate-smart agriculture training and information. Significantly, it has worked on the development of national climate-smart agriculture strategies in over 30 countries. Further, the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations have put much effort into developing and deploying agricultural technologies to improve food security and nutrition in developing countries. Efficient fund allocation while avoiding redundancy with UN organisations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank is vital. Collaborative strategies should align with the goals of these organisations to ensure that financial resources are used effectively, complementing the existing efforts.
Nutrition – A Core Objective
Crucially, India’s G20 leadership should underscore enhancing nutritional levels among populations. Investments in agriculture should boost productivity and resilience, and prioritise improving the nutrition of vulnerable communities. Here are several other areas where PPPs could be used to address the challenges facing global agriculture. These include developing and deploying climate-resilient agricultural technologies, improving agricultural productivity and efficiency, promoting sustainable agriculture practices, improving food safety and quality, reducing food loss and waste, increasing access to agricultural markets, and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
Representing the global North and South, the G20 Agricultural Working Group will mirror the right set of challenges facing global agriculture and trade. At the helm of the G20 presidency, India has a unique opportunity to set a comprehensive agenda. With agriculture’s pivotal role in the economies of the Global South and their heightened sensitivity to food prices, it is imperative to address these challenges comprehensively. Climate change underscores the urgency of deploying climate-resilient technologies fostered by public-private collaborations and innovative institutional mechanisms. By effectively channelling funds through established UN organisations besides the PPP mode, India’s G20 presidency can leave a lasting legacy in pursuing agricultural sustainability, food security, and improved nutrition.
V Shunmugam is Adjunct Faculty with National Institute of Securities Markets. Views are personal, and do not represent the stand of this publication.