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How Does Agriculture Help Us Achieve the Economic SDGs?

The agriculture industry is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are many challenges and opportunities the industry faces on the road to sustainability, but by advancing agriculture we will make significant strides towards achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While it might be easier to see agriculture’s connection to Goal 2: Zero Hunger, as the industry works to supply the world with enough food, and Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, as it promotes proper nutrition and diet, the agriculture industry is also closely connected to the rest of the SDGs. Transforming agriculture through investment and action in three distinct areas: innovation and technology, markets and business, and political strategy, will in turn impact and drive other social, economic, and environmental sustainable development goals.(1)

Economic Goals

Investments in agriculture are twice as effective at alleviating poverty than any other sector.(2) Strengthening economies can support Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

It is people living in rural communities in developing countries that make up 70 per cent of the world’s extreme poor, and 86 per cent of these people rely on agriculture for their livelihood and basic food needs.(2) Feeding this population is the challenge, but connecting smallholder farmers to markets, modern technology, and education that create economic development and prosperity is the opportunity. For example, an investment of $239 billion (over the next fifteen years) in transportation infrastructure and electricity would help farmers get their products to market and improve cold storage; these improvements would generate $3.1 trillion in benefits by curbing food waste. Likewise, investing $88 billion (over the next fifteen year) in agricultural research would improve crop yields by making them more resilient and nutritious; this would produce $2.69 trillion in benefits.(3)

In Canada, the agriculture industry employs over 2.3 million Canadians and is the fifth largest agricultural exporter in the world.(4) However, farmers still face many economic challenges. Unpredictable weather, pests, and diseases can devastate a crop; animals can become sick; markets can become unstable, as demand changes and food prices slump; and input costs, such as feed, seed, pesticides, equipment etc., can be high. The national debt for Canadian farms exceeded $100 billion in 2018,(5) interest prices are currently increasing, and the net income of many farms can’t keep up. In 2016, 44.4 per cent of farm operators did off-farm work as a way to increase their income.(6) Keeping farmers in business when the country and world rely on them to feed a growing population is the challenge. The opportunities arise when new financial practices are implemented, education in business resiliency increases, and safeguards are put in place to protect farmers. Using debt wisely as an investment that will create profit and thinking ahead by implementing risk management systems can help create a more stable farming economy. The Government of Canada, with the goal of assisting farmers, has also created programs in times of economic distress. For example, AgriStability protects farmers against decreases in income due to “production loss, increased costs and market conditions.”(7) AgriInvest assists with cash flow, helping farmers to save and invest by receiving government contributions and tax breaks.(8) AgriInsurance is the last of the offered risk management programs, and it protects farmers against natural hazards such as weather and disease that cause production losses.(9)

Did You Know?

26%–40% of the world’s annual crop production is lost due to weeds, pests, and diseases.(10)

For more information on The Sustainable Development Goals explore our Nourishing Minds publications here.


5 Statistics Canada—Farm Debt Outstanding

6 Statistics Canada—2016 Census of Agriculture

7 Government of Canada—AgriStability

8 Government of Canada—AgriInvest

9 Government of Canada—AgriInsurance

10 Farming First—Sustainable Development Goals


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