Relationship Between Agriculture and the Millennium Development Goals
In 2000 the member states of the United Nations adopted the Millennium Declaration as a renewed commitment to human development. The Declaration includes eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), each with quantified targets, to motivate the international community and provide an accountability mechanism for actions taken to enable millions of poor people to improve their livelihoods. The MDGs are as follows:
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health
Combat human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), malaria, and other diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Develop a global partnership for development.
About 70 percent of the MDGs' target group live in rural areas, particularly in Asia and Africa, and for most of the rural poor agriculture is a critical component in the successful attainment of the MDGs. Even though structural transformations are important in the longer term, more immediate gains in poor households' welfare can be achieved through agriculture, which can help the poor overcome some of the critical constraints they now face in meeting their basic needs. Thus, a necessary component in meeting the MDGs by 2015 in many parts of the world is a more productive and profitable agricultural sector.
While the linkage with agriculture is particularly strong for the first MDG, or MDG 1--halving by 2015 the proportion of those suffering from extreme poverty and hunger--all MDGs have direct or indirect linkages with agriculture. Agriculture contributes to MDG 1 through agriculture-led economic growth and through improved nutrition. In low-income countries economic growth, which enables increased employment and rising wages, is the only means by which the poor will be able to satisfy their needs sustainably.
MDG 2, on universal education, has the most indirect linkage to agriculture. A more dynamic agricultural sector will change the assessment of economic returns to educating children, compared to the returns from keeping children out of school to work in household (agricultural) enterprises. Agriculture contributes to MDG 3 directly through the empowerment of women farmers and indirectly through reduction of the time burden on women for domestic tasks. Agriculture contributes to reduced child mortality (MDG 4) indirectly by increasing diversity of food production and making more resources available to manage childhood illnesses. Agriculture directly helps improve maternal health (MDG 5) through more diversified food production and higher-quality diets, and indirectly through increased incomes and, thus, reduced time burdens on women. Agriculture also directly helps to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases (MDG 6) through higher-quality diets, and indirectly by providing additional income that can be devoted to health services. Agriculture practices can be both direct causes of and important solutions to environmental degradation (MDG 7). More productive agricultural technologies allow the withdrawal of agriculture from marginal, sensitive environments. Developing a global partnership for development (MDG 8) will help maintain the steady increase in agricultural trade and significant increases in development assistance offered to the agricultural sector, increases that help sustain the benefits from agriculture in the longer term.