Agriculture Symposium Urges Holistic Investment

More than 150 experts in agriculture and development are gathering today in Washington D.C. to hear about the new CRS holistic and market-oriented agriculture strategy.  The strategy is being unveiled at the day-long CRS Agriculture Symposium being held at the prestigious Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The rainy weather here in DC hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for the groundbreaking projects being highlighted, including initiatives that integrate microfinance and agricultural development, promote agricultural sustainability and use small and sturdy laptop computers to gather vital data about crop diseases in the field.

“This is the kind of weather all of us love, because we’re all in agriculture!” said Dorrett Byrd, who leads CRS’ Program Quality and Support Department.”

Kicking off the day, CRS President Ken Hackett noted that we’re paying a price now for two decades of declining investment in agricultural development in the developing world. “Lack of investments by government and other donors has led to stagnating productivity and missed opportunities to take advantage of improved technologies,” he said.

But the tide is turning, partly as a result of heightened awareness in the wake of the global food crisis. In this context, CRS is launching “an integrated, market-oriented approach to help lift millions out of poverty,” he said. The new strategy integrates agriculture with four areas: emergency response, health, environmental stewardship and improving incomes. “For CRS, this is representative of a new way of thinking about development that is more inclusive and less compartmentalized than the approaches we’ve used before,” Hackett said.

The morning keynoter, Katherine Sierra of the World Bank, underscored the need to invest in agricultural development. She noted that agriculture had at one time been a focus of the World Bank, but had over time become less of a priority and funding fell off. “I think we’ve seen the impact of that falling off over the past 20 to 25 years,” she said. She noted that the World Bank will increase its agricultural funding to $6 billion annually by 2010.  

The rest of the day will highlight CRS agricultural programs from Africa, Asia and Latin America that cut across the four pillars of our new strategy.

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