UC Berkeley Professors Alain de Janvry and Elisabeth Sadoulet, core team members of the 2008 World Development Report, point to ways agriculture can be better used as a development instrument.
Every year the World Bank prepares a World Development Report (WDR) that deals with a development topic of significance. Recent reports have addressed such issues as equity, the environment, the role of the state, poverty, and health. The last WDR on agriculture was in 1982, marking the beginning of a 25 years hiatus during which the attention given to agriculture by governments and development agencies declined — a period during which huge changes have occurred in globalization, integrated supply chains, technology, institutions, and the environment, making it imperative to revisit the issue. Indeed, many of the themes that today dominate the international development agenda relate to agriculture and rural societies: hurdles to progress with trade negotiations, the persistence of poverty and hunger, rising conflicts over water, the impact of climate change, the spread of epizootic diseases, food security in a context of rising prices and biofuels as an option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide alternative sources of energy. It is striking how a sector that had been seen as a “sunset activity” and a drag on development may now emerge as an important source of growth and business opportunities and the solution to many development problems. Revisiting the question of how agriculture can serve development is indeed timely. This is the objective of WDR 2008, Agriculture for Development. Here we review the main messages of WDR 2008 and how they apply — with a difference — to Latin America.