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Oct 31, 2014

Why Agricultural Interventions are a Multi-faceted Form of Effective Aid

Seventy five per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas. This provides local and international aid agencies and governments with an opportunity to effectively reduce global poverty levels whilst addressing a number of other crucial issues such as climate change, malnutrition and environmental protection.

This opportunity presents itself in the form of agricultural interventions. Smallholder farmers already produce 80% of the food in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa[1]. 86% of the world’s rural poor also currently depend on agriculture as their source of livelihood, whilst also living on arable land which is in most instances suitable for both crop and livestock production, with the bulk of this arable land being found in Africa[2]. Therefore, these rural families are perfectly situated, with the right knowledge, skills and inputs, to feed their families and earn a decent annual income through farming. As previously mentioned, with the vast majority of the rural poor living on arable land, a large portion of these families also own varying forms of livestock. This allows Aid agencies and governments to provide minimal capital inputs whilst bringing the largest amount of families above the poverty line.

Livestock production currently supports or sustains the livelihoods of roughly 700 million rural families[3]. However, even with livestock these rural families are kept below the poverty line by several factors such as poor animal health and breeds and poor access to feed suppliers, vets and markets. Veterinary clinics, for example, are usually situated dozens of kilometres from the rural areas and the cost of calling the veterinarian out to the families’ smallholding is often too expensive for the family. This can result in poor animal health, reduced livestock life expectancy, the spread of easily curable diseases and limited offspring produced. Therefore, with the right amount of training, limited inputs to improve livestock breed and health and improved access to markets, millions of farming families can be lifted out of poverty. The simple and cost effective introduction and training of locally sourced Community Animal Health Workers alone, can greatly improve the profitability of the smallholder families’ livestock. Agricultural interventions such as the training of Community Animal Health Workers results in a far higher return on investment than other none agricultural interventions, as it improves what these rural communities already know and have.

The return on investment in agricultural interventions is also increased by the number of other crucial issues which are solved as a result of these agricultural specific interventions. Climate smart agricultural interventions provide the World’s rural poor with the ability to feed themselves and their families, whilst helping to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and protecting the environment. Practices such as bio gas allow families to harness the gasses produced by their livestock to power their stoves for cooking food and boiling clean water[4]. Bio gas not only provides an extremely cheap form of energy but also decreases the need for wood from local forests – reducing deforestation and protecting biodiversity and natural wildlife.

When implemented correctly, agricultural interventions can provide one of the best multi-faceted forms of community development intervention - interventions effectively reducing poverty and food insecurity, increases nutrition as prevention to diseases, regeneration of the environment and climate change mitigation and adaptation amongst several other key global needs, thus providing the greatest return on aid investment.


To find out more about agricultural intervention and Heifer International South Africa, please visit our website www.heifer.org.za or email us at heifersa@heifer.org.



[1] State of the African Farmer, 2014, Bongani Ngwenya, Heifer International

[2] Agriculture for Development, 2008, World Bank’s – World Development Report (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/SOUTHASIAEXT/Resources/223546-1171488994713/3455847-1192738003272/Brief_AgPovRedctn_web.pdf)

[3] State of the African Farmer, 2014, Bongani Ngwenya, Heifer International

[4] State of the African Farmer, 2014, John Tull, Heifer International