DAVOS, SWITZERLAND — The private sector stands ready to partner and help drive solutions for sustainable agriculture worldwide, according to “Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture: A Roadmap for Stakeholders,” released Jan. 28.

The publication is part of a plan to significantly increase food production while conserving environmental resource and fueling economic growth. It was released under the auspices of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The forum is an independent international growth organization seeking to constructively shape policies around the world.

The plan targets ambitious objectives of 20% increases in agricultural production, 20% decreases in greenhouse gas emissions per tonne and 20% reductions in global poverty each decade.

The forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative was led by 17 global companies, more than half of which are U.S. based — Archer Daniels Midland Co.; BASF; Bunge Ltd.; Cargill; The Coca-Cola Co.; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.; General Mills, Inc.; Kraft Foods Inc.; Metro AG; Monsanto Co.; Nestle S.A.; PepsiCo, Inc.; SABMiller; Syngenta A.G.; Unilever; Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Yara International.

McKinsey & Co. served as a project adviser for the initiative.

“The (agricultural) sector is entering a new era, marked by scarcer resources, greater demand and higher risks of volatility,” the report said. “Since agriculture accounts for 70% of water use and up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, it contributes to and is threatened by environmental degradation. This will be exacerbated as the growing population demands more food — nearly double today’s levels by 2050 — and more resource intensive produce such as meat and dairy.”

The group noted that hunger afflicts nearly 1 billion people around the world, half of whom are farmers.
“And malnutrition severely impedes human and economic development,” the report said.

Announcing the initiative, two countries were identified as following the approach advocated in the group: Vietnam and Tanzania.

The effort focuses on identifying and addressing bottlenecks within the agricultural chain, often inadequate access to inputs, finance and storage.

President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania described at a press conference a public-private investment in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor, developed with support from the initiative.

“Developing this corridor could triple regional production, generate $1.2 billion per year, and lift 2 million people out of poverty,” he said. “My government is committed to realizing this opportunity to generate sustainable growth in the region.”

The corridor creates clusters of agricultural farming and services businesses to facilitate agricultural development.

“Business can help transform agriculture, but we can’t do it alone,” said Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever. “By working collaboratively with farmers, governments and others, we can achieve our common goals of increasing health and prosperity while protecting the planet.”

Government and donor organizations expressed support for the effort.

“Innovative public-private partnerships offer a powerful opportunity to achieve significant impact on global hunger and nutrition,” said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. U.S.A.I.D. is supporting Tanzania’s growth corridor and catalytic fund through Feed the Future, a U.S. government global hunger and food security initiative.

The report emphasizes the need for a “virtuous cycle of increasing skill and investment,” requiring governments to create an environment conducive to agricultural growth while businesses must innovate, invest and compete.
“Investing in agriculture is the best way to drive the virtuous circle, creating economic opportunity and helping eradicate chronic hunger and malnutrition for millions,” said Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive officer of Kraft. “That’s good for everyone.”