Agricultural Development Sector Approach

February 13, 2015

We live in a world where 2.8 billion people — nearly half of the population — survive on less than $2 a day and an estimated 850 million people are undernourished.1 Yet, an estimated 64 percent of the world’s total land surface that is suitable for crop production remains untapped. Simultaneously, agriculture productivity has the potential to increase, offering potential high returns in terms of food security, nutrition, and rural income gains.

Taking advantage of agricultural opportunities requires that we address multiple challenges: encouraging overall economic development and poverty alleviation; recognizing and helping to manage increased competition for alternative uses of land and water resources; adapting to extreme weather events due to climate change; and contributing to biodiversity preservation and fragile ecosystem restoration — all while meeting the nutritional needs of an increasingly affluent and growing world population.

Promoting agricultural systems that combine economic growth, nutritional diversity, and agricultural productivity and efficiency will increase the resilience of the communities with whom we work, and help alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Particular emphasis needs to be placed on closing the gender gap in productivity associated with unequal access to resources, inputs and markets. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent and reduce the number of undernourished people by 12–17 percent globally. Similarly, involving youth in productive agricultural employment can also increase overall agricultural productivity, resilience, economic sustainability and nutrition for farm families and local communities.

Our Approach

Mercy Corps adopts a holistic approach to agriculture to ensure agro-systems are economically productive, nutritionally diverse and efficient, both today and in the future. With the goal of improving the lives and livelihoods of those in agricultural value chains, including smallholder farmers and pastoralists, Mercy Corps’ agricultural interventions are designed to favorably impact populations on three fronts:

  • Increase income for all participants across agriculture value chains including farmers, pastoralists, processors, traders, wholesalers, credit suppliers, retailers and consumers.
  • Build resilient farm families and communities who are better prepared to face and respond to recurring shocks and stresses.
  • Support populations to be nutritionally secure to ensure they reach their full economic potential.

Recognizing both the potential of improved agricultural systems on rural livelihoods and the complexity of the many challenges involved, Mercy Corps acts at the intersect of markets, farm productivity and household diet.


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