We ‘ignore agriculture at our peril’

Posted on by on March 25th, 2010 | 0 Comments »

The importance of agriculture in the scheme of government stability was underscored this week in a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmoud Qureshi. During a joint press conference on CSPAN Secretary Clinton noted that “60 to 70 percent of the people of Pakistan rely on agriculture and therefore “we ignore agriculture at our peril”. While Secretary Clinton’s words that “we ignore agriculture at our peril” may ring a bit ominous and alarmist, she is absolutely right in her assessment.

Indeed, Sen. Richard Lugar and Dr. Norman Borlaug in their paper Solutions to Close the Gap, they make the case for agriculture being the foundation for peace in writing:

World peace will not be built on empty stomachs or human misery. A world in which 40 percent of the total population is marginalized in the global economy is not one where peace or environmental stewardship will prosper. Modern agriculture is not the nemesis of the environment or socio-economic development. Rather it is one of their greatest allies. Famine and chronic food shortages can lead to mass migrations that can destabilize countries and entire regions. Governments that cannot feed their people invite their own downfall.

Secretary Clinton is right. In order for democracy and economies to flourish and prosper, there must be stability. Agriculture is a key to that stability. However, as Lugar and Borlaug wrote:

The need is evident. But achieving food security is complex and challenging. It will involve the insights and contributions of many different disciplines, significant and sustained investments, changes in behavior and in centuries-old agricultural practices, the waging and winning of difficult policy fights, and overcoming powerful political interests, in rich and poor countries alike. Another challenge will be apathy. Until rich-country voters and politicians are motivated, and poor-country leaders really begin to lead in this area, very little can be accomplished.

Read more about Sen. Lugar and Dr. Borlaug’s solutions to closing the gap here: GHIBooklet

Agriculture as a foundation for democracy and stability is not something that many global leaders discuss as a priortiy topic. So, it is refreshing to hear a leader like Secretary Clinton discuss agriculture in the same breath as democracy and economic prosperity. Agriculture is a difference-maker, and all leaders would do well to make it a top priority.

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