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Of the billion people classed as extremely poor worldwide, three-quarters live in rural areas and are largely dependent on farming. For this, they need access to

Major challenges

The EU is playing a full part in international efforts to:

It also addresses agriculture/rural development issues in individual strategy documents for each country.


 Trade in farm products

For developing countries, internationally traded agricultural commodities (e.g. sugar, coffee, cotton, bananas, cocoa, rice, tea and tobacco) are crucial for:

  • individuals - providing jobs and income
  • national economies as a whole ? providing export income.

But dependency - coupled with slow and difficult progress on strategies to improve competitiveness and diversification - brings vulnerability in terms of:

  • volatile prices
  • a long-term downwards price trend
  • increasingly strong international competition


 Livestock farming and development

The focus of EU aid to promote livestock production has recently shifted from vaccination campaigns to developing surveillance networks and strengthening veterinary governance.

Worldwide, livestock production is set to double by 2020 as a result of population growth, urbanisation, changing consumption patterns and increasing incomes. Often seen as problematic - in terms of global warming and inefficient use of resources - livestock production is also a crucial source of income for the poorest, and can thus play a major role in reducing poverty.

Accordingly, poverty reduction strategy papers should give due weight to the growth potential of livestock production while taking care to limit environmental impact (greenhouse gases, chemical and organic pollution, biodiversity loss, world trade and public health).


  • What place for traditional extensive livestock farmers in modern African communities? Faced with economic, environmental, agricultural and social change, how can they adjust?
  • How to make livestock farming ? extensive or intensive ? sustainable in terms of its ability to compete with imports, access to raw materials, its social and environmental impact and funding?


 Agricultural research for development (ARD)

Research-led agricultural growth is reckoned to lift some 27m people out of poverty each year in Asia and Africa, and the average annual return on investment for ARD is estimated at 43%.

ARD can provide responses to the growing challenges of food security and sustainable development - associated with water shortage, climate change, land degradation and resistant diseases/pests.

EU approach to ARD (June 2008 guidelines)

  • recognises research as a generator of international public goods, including knowledge, technologies and capacity
  • recognises ARD is most effective if demand driven and part of an innovation system, integrating access to inputs, services and markets and extension
  • supports existing global/regional institutions/networks and builds capacity
  • also promotes reform and seeks a wider engagement with farmers (especially smallholders) and civil society.

The Commission coordinates ARD policies among EU countries (plus Norway and Switzerland) through the European initiative on agricultural research for development . The prime beneficiary is Africa, where agriculture usually forms a significant part of national economies. Recipients include:



There is a wide range of possible uses for biotechnologies. The EU aims to support capacity building in this field and to work with developing countries on a long-term research and development strategy, covering issues such as profitability, sustainability, safety and institutional development.

The EU will support developing countries- moves towards regional standardisation of the rules governing biotechnologies and the creation of a regulatory authority in each individual country, with a regional coordination committee where appropriate.

EU life sciences and biotechnology strategy ? adopted 2002, reviewed 2007.



Developing countries face similar energy problems to many EU countries - rising oil prices (creating balance of payments difficulties), over-dependence on fossil-fuel imports and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EU biofuels strategy (2006) and its impact assessment (2006) set 3 main aims:

  • promote biofuels in the EU and developing countries in ways that have a net positive effect on the environment
  • prepare for large-scale use of biofuels by improving cost-competitiveness through optimal cultivation of dedicated feedstock, research into -second generation- biofuels and boosting market penetration by scaling up demonstration projects and removing non-technical barriers
  • explore opportunities for developing countries - including those affected by the EU sugar regime reform - to produce biofuel feedstock and biofuels, and set out how the EU can promote sustainable biofuel production.


Last update: 17/02/2012 | Top