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)
Goals related to social justice, inclusivity, and equality are just as important in the agriculture sector. To create a world where everyone is fed, the agriculture industry must also fight for peace, supporting Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Globally, conflict is the number one cause of food insecurity in the world today, with 75 per cent of all stunted children living in conflict-affected areas.(2) Root causes of conflict often stem from “political, economic, and social inequalities; extreme poverty; economic stagnation; poor government services; high unemployment; environmental degradation; and individual (economic) incentives to fight.”(3) Solving some of these root causes by supporting agriculture can encourage peace. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been partnering with the United Nations to support local peace deals around agriculture and natural resources; keep production active during hard times; and create early warning systems around changes in the market, such as food price volatility and food availability. By creating stability and resilience in the agriculture industry, these actions can help begin recovery and trust building, important steps towards healing conflict-ridden nations and providing food security for all people.
When reducing inequalities between groups, one of the goals in the agriculture industry is to support women. In developing rural regions, food insecurity can stem from women not having access to “land, financing, markets, agricultural training and education, suitable working conditions, and equal treatment.”(4) As women in developing rural communities are one of the groups most at risk for food insecurity, providing women with the same resources as men can increase production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 per cent. This can decrease the number of undernourished people in the world by 100–150 million.(5) Female labourers also make up 43 per cent(6) of the working force in developing countries, but only 10 to 20 per cent of them are landowners.(4) As a result, companies and organizations, such as The World Bank, are working to help educate female farmers and provide them with the technological support they need to be successful.
In Canada, a developed country with many career options, Canadians can be up to two generations removed from the farm, causing domestic employment in agriculture to be on the decline. Advances in equipment and technology have helped farmers to produce more with less labour, but 92 per cent of Canadian farmers still have no transition plan once they retire.(7) Who will take over the farm? This is the challenge. Over the last twenty-five years, 70 per cent of farmers under the age of thirty-five have left the industry.(8) Minority groups such as women and Indigenous Peoples still only make up 28.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent of farmers.(9) This is the opportunity. By helping new and young farmers break into the industry, and by increasing equality amongst minority groups, Canada can help ensure the future of its agriculture sector. Programs such as the AgriDiverstiy Program put forth by the Government of Canada, “aims to help under-represented groups in Canadian agriculture, including youth, women, Indigenous Peoples, and persons with disabilities, to fully participate in the sector by helping these groups address the key issues and barriers they often face for sector participation.”(10) These barriers can include funding, understanding of agriculture business and markets, and practical farming skills and mechanical know-how.
Did You Know?
Currently, only 10% of aid funding for agriculture reaches women.(11)
For more information on The Sustainable Development Goals explore our Nourishing Minds publications here.
1 Rothamsted Research—Putting the Sustainable Development Goals into Practice
4 National Geographic—Empowering Female Farmers to Feed the World
5 Farming First—The Story of Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals
6 FAO—The Role of Women in Agriculture, 2011
8 Country Guide—Does Canada Have Enough Farmers?
9 Statistics Canada—Aboriginal Peoples and Agriculture in 2016: A Portrait
10 Government of Canada—AgriDiversity Program
11 Farming First—Sustainable Development Goals