International research in agriculture and sustainable management of natural resources has been shown to have a positive impact on poverty reduction and food and nutrition security in developing countries. The EU supports demand-led international agricultural research for development (ARD).
Current estimates suggest that the world needs to produce between 50 and 70% more food by 2050 in order to meet the rising demand and changing food preferences of a growing population. These production increases must be achieved from a natural resource base that is declining in quantity and quality.
This decline in natural resources is due, notably, to climate change impacts that are generally negative. They will particularly affect developing countries, where the greatest increases in production are required, disproportionately affecting poor communities with limited capacity to adapt. While some of the technologies to face these challenges are already available, continued research is required to combat growing stresses and to increase the efficiency of agricultural systems by reducing the considerable losses that commonly occur.
In addition to developing technologies, there is a need to strengthen the evidence base so as to understand what works in particular geographical and institutional setting and to use this knowledge to guide policy making. In order to achieve the development objectives of the EU policies on resilience, food security and nutrition, investment in public goods such as knowledge are required at the global, regional and national level. Further investment will be needed to make these goods accessible to poor people and support their capacity to use them.
However, it would be an over-simplification to suggest that the challenge to food security is one of production. Access to food, as well as utilisation and resilience, are also well recognised as key aspects of sustainable food systems. How to use land and water resources more efficiently while preserving their quality, and how to reduce waste both on-farm and post-harvest are also among the problems being addressed.
There is evidence, both at the macro-level and through case studies, that ARD investment contributes to food security and poverty reduction. Published estimates for the developing world indicate an average return on investment of 43% per annum for ARD. They also suggest that about 27 million people are lifted out of poverty per year in Asia and Africa by research-led agricultural growth.
When research is led by the demands of farmers and research systems are linked to extension and development, these impacts are most direct. Potential synergies exist between investments in research through thematic instruments and the support for extension and rural development provided through country programmes.