Green agricultural policies and poverty reduction

At a Glance

Publication Date January 2015
Format pdf

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.38.37 AMGreen agricultural policies in developing countries must be carefully designed to reduce poverty, according to a new report published today (26 January) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science.

The study of 24 projects in 17 countries shows that poorly designed projects offering no choice for farmers can conflict with efforts to reduce poverty. Some green agricultural projects are even shown to have increased levels of poverty.

The authors of the report, Dr Stefania Lovo, Dr Mintewab Bezabiah and Gregor Singer, find that poorer households are more likely to adopt green agricultural policies if they are able to choose those policies best suited to their personal circumstances.

For instance, the successful N’hambita Community Carbon Project in Mozambique allows participants to choose from agroforestry options including tree planting, orchards or intercropping. Similarly, the Silvopastoral Ecosystem Management Project in Nicaragua had a considerable number of poor people taking part, likely because participants could choose from schemes of varying costs.

Dr Stefania Lovo says: “‘Take it or leave it’ initiatives risk undermining efforts to reduce rural poverty in the developing world. More effective green agricultural policies need to take account of local knowledge, given the range of sensitive economic, social and cultural factors that exist.”

“Allowing poor farmers to choose from a range of available green agricultural initiatives has the benefit of helping bypass local barriers – such as land rights, availability of credit and labor constraints – that governments and NGOs are often unable to overcome.”

The report outlines how green agricultural policies can be designed to help developing countries shift to low-carbon economies and also reduce poverty. It identifies a number of barriers that prevent poor farmers from participating in green initiatives.

For instance, the report finds that uncertainty and risk are major barriers to improved agricultural practices and that insurance schemes can help farmers share risk with one another. However, none of the 24 projects analyzed provided an insurance scheme for participating farmers.

Dr Mintewab Bezabiah says: “Green agricultural policies can achieve their aims of environmental conservation and reduce poverty at the same time, but only if some issues are properly addressed.”

“The lack of insurance schemes is an obvious oversight. If farmers from poorer households in the developing world take part in initiatives aimed at conserving the environment, they need to be assured that the welfare of their households will not be worse off as a result.”

The report on ‘Green agricultural policies and poverty reduction’ was produced as part of the Grantham Research Institute’s program on ‘Growth and the economy’, sponsored by the Global Green Growth Institute.