By Dr. Margaret M. Zeigler, Executive Director, Global Harvest Initiative
The Global Harvest Initiative’s (GHI) annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®), was released on October 17, before an audience of global thought leaders, agricultural industry experts, farmers, and international development professionals. This is the third annual GAP Report® released by GHI since the organization’s inception in 2009, and the first since my appointment as Executive Director.
As in 2010 and 2011, GHI has chosen the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, as the venue for the release of the 2012 GAP Report®. The World Food Prize brings together farmers, professionals, companies and organizations across the value chain and offers them a unique opportunity to visit, collaborate and learn.
That Dr. Daniel Hillel was awarded this year’s World Food Prize for his leadership and innovation in micro-irrigation has special significance, because not only does the 2012 GAP Report® focus on the state of global and regional agricultural productivity, but on solutions to improve agricultural productivity for food and nutrition security. Dr. Hillel’s work in improving water productivity for agriculture is a perfect example of how innovation, technology, and collaboration can result in more sustainable solutions that use less of our planet’s finite natural resources and improve the lives of people.
GHI’s GAP Report® also features an updated GAP Index™, a unique benchmark that measures global agricultural productivity growth against demand growth. The GAP Index™ gives us a snapshot of the progress, or digression, in our ability to increase the rate of global agricultural productivity across the value chain, and to sustainably meet the needs of 9 billion people by 2050.
While the global findings of the 2012 GAP Report indicate that the current rate of global agricultural productivity (1.84 percent) is on track to meet the 1.75 percent necessary to meet the needs of 2050 (GAP Report®, 2010), we realize this reflects investments that were made over a decade ago. Maintaining and accelerating this rate over the next 40 years will be challenging, and will require the right set of policies and sustained investments.
At the same time, the report’s regional projections highlight concern about food and nutrition security in several regions: East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East-North Africa. These regional gaps will need to be met through a combination of agricultural productivity increases, imports from regions that can sustainably produce more, sustainable expansion of cropland, and government safety net food assistance programs.
In contrast, developed countries, transition countries (Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union), and the Latin America and Caribbean region all have potential to continue to increase output through productivity growth.
To address these regional challenges while maintaining the current global rate of agricultural productivity, the 2012 GAP Report® details opportunities for improvement through the following recommendations:
- Increase levels of public and private sector funding in agriculture
- Improve agriculture research funding, structure, and collaboration
- Embrace science- and information-based technologies
- Remove barriers to global and regional trade
Meeting the demands of a growing world requires innovative leadership at every level: farmers and pastoralists, national governments, United Nations agencies, foundations, the private sector, and civil society organizations. Producing enough food also requires that investments be made today, and in the future, to continue the accelerated agricultural productivity growth needed every year through 2050. We must look to leaders like 2012 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Hillel, whose leadership and innovation demonstrate our ability to forge new solutions to help feed the world.
The Global Harvest Initiative invites you to read the 2012 GAP Report® on our website, www.globalharvestinitiative.org, where you can also join the discussion on our Harvest2050 blog, and find news articles, videos and other resources about improving global agricultural productivity to address global food and nutrition insecurity.
About the Author: Dr. Margaret M. Zeigler is Executive Director of The Global Harvest Initiative, a private-sector voice for productivity growth throughout the agricultural value chain to sustainably meet the demand of a growing world. Dr. Zeigler has dedicated her career to addressing global hunger and food security, most recently serving as the Deputy Director at the Congressional Hunger Center, where she spent the past 18 years working closely with the public and private sectors, non-profit organizations, industry leaders and policy makers to promote food security and reduce hunger. Dr. Zeigler is a recognized thought leader on food security issues, serving as a media commentator and writer for several publications and news networks around the world.