Agricultural Technology for Development
Delivered to the United Nations by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 2 December 2013
An old African proverb teaches that “knowledge is like a garden: if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.” Today’s resolution is about improving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the developing world.
Agriculture is about more than simply producing food, fibers and fuels; it’s about helping communities flourish. In fact, agriculture is one of the most profitable commercial sectors. From the NASDAQ to the Nikkei, investors have their eyes on the stock exchange, but their ears to the ground.
The World Bank estimates that agricultural investment yields 2.5 times more benefits than investments in other sectors. From China to Nigeria, more than one billion people work in agriculture – making it the world’s second-largest source of employment.
Yet, far too many farmers do not taste the fruits of financial fortune. Most of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty are found in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. These struggling farmers have been trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, but given the right conditions they can break free and unleash a sustainable agricultural revolution.
The global population is growing, and with it is the need for technology to produce and preserve more food. Today’s resolution will support farmers’ ingenuity, imagination and innovation and will provide them with the technology to progress from poverty to prosperity.
Women comprise the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries. From planting to plowing and from fertilizing to harvesting, women are immersed in every aspect of agricultural production.
Yet owing to persistent discrimination, the productivity rate of female farmers is 30% lower than that of male farmers. No business in any country can make healthy margins by marginalizing half the population. By investing in female farmers, we can increase crop yields by 30% and feed an additional 150 million people each year.
This year’s resolution also includes a special focus on the struggle of rural youth. Each year, more young people are abandoning their rural communities, trading fields and farms for the bright lights of the big city. This migration is contributing to over-urbanization and growing unemployment in cities across the globe.
We need to address the wave of disillusionment with rural life, and replace it with a new wave of budding "agripreneurs.” We need to empower youth to take part in every step of the agricultural process from seed to market. Given the right tools and opportunities, they can acquire the Midas touch using their iPod touch.
This sort of technology is making it easier for farmers like Gilbert Egwel to share vital information. Gilbert is a 25 year-old fruit farmer from northern Uganda who learned how to manage a fruit farm from the instructions that were provided by a local radio agricultural talk show.
Gilbert took what he learned and was able to sell his fruits in a local market. He receives payment through his mobile phone along with weekly updates on market prices.
Imagine if every farmer had a smartphone to check prices in competing markets. From smartphones to smart farming to smart business decisions – technology can help a farmer know about a storm brewing on the horizon or a plague of pests devouring neighboring farms. Instead of looking to the heavens to find out when the next drought is coming, they can look at the live updates in the palm of their hand.
Today’s resolution focuses on capacity building, education and skills transfer – the essential building blocks of development. 114 nations from the jungles of South America to the mountains of South East Asia and from the plains of Africa to the islands of Oceana recognize the vast potential of agricultural technology.
Developing countries hold in their hands the seeds of the future – the potential for life and the potential for prosperity. From the coffee fields of Ethiopia to the rice paddies of Nepal, it is time to plant these seeds and reap the rewards. With this resolution, we are fortunate to help developing countries become masters in the field and masters of their own destiny.
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.