World Bank investments in agriculture are stable at around $2 billion for FY06. This year marked a notable lending increase in the Africa region, with investments rising from $295 million in FY05 to $685 million in FY06. The increase represents the highest level of lending in agriculture since FY90 for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Strategic Priorities for Agriculture and Rural Development
The most recent strategy for agriculture and rural development, Reaching the Rural Poor, was endorsed by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors in 2002. Currently, a large team of Bank staff and external experts from around the world are working on the 2008 World Development Report – a Bank-wide flagship research product which will focus on Agriculture for Development. Due to be published in October 2007, the report describes the role of agriculture as an engine for growth and development across different developing countries.
Separately, another team is assessing what the Bank has done over the past four years with regard to the strategy laid out in Reaching the Rural Poor. The objectives of that strategy, selected underlying issues, and recent activities are given below.
Fostering Broad-Based and Sustainable Rural Growth On and Off the Farm
Supporting the rural investment climate. Formal commercial activity in rural areas – market linkages, access to investment capital, business advisory services, and enforcement of commercial law and regulations – is critical to facilitate private sector development and improve services.
Providing rural financial services. Rural financial services are critical to developing the rural economy and helping the rural poor build assets that can decrease their vulnerability to shocks. These investments remained around $350 million a year over the FY05 to FY06 period.
Promoting reforms. The policy and institutional environment is still distorted in many developing countries. Thus, the Bank has emphasized the need to improve policy and institutional environments for rural and agricultural development through a significant amount of lending for policy and institutional improvements.
Promoting trade in agriculture. In the last two decades, agricultural exports from developing countries actually fell, partially because agricultural protection and subsidies has remained high. The Bank continues to analyze and advocate for global agricultural trade reform by both developed and developing countries. The Bank has invested over $581 million since FY01 in agricultural trade policy reform and about $152 million to address sanitary and phytosanitary and food safety standards that directly impact access to export markets.