The risk

As we by now know well, a large number of poor people directly or indirectly
depend on agriculture. Growth in the agricultural sector creates increased demand
for basic rural non-agriculture wage goods and services. Many of these goods are
mostly produced and consumed locally. A high growth in agriculture has great
potential for generating employment and income in the rural non-farm sector. The
World Development Report (WDR 2008) argues that agricultural growth is four
times as effective in reducing poverty and inequality as growth in non-agricultural
sectors. Another UN report entitled ‘Sustaining Growth and Sharing Prosperity’
(ESCAP, 2008) also says that persistent poverty in the Asia-Pacific region are the
result of decades of neglect of agriculture. The survey says that close to a third
of the region’s poor (i.e. an estimated 218 million), could be lifted out of poverty
if average agricultural labour productivity is raised. Growth in agricultural income
is therefore regarded as more effective in reducing poverty. You may note that the
rate of decline in poverty in India was greater during the relatively higher agricultural
growth period of 1980s than during the low agricultural growth period of 1990s.
For instance, rural poverty in India declined by 9 percentage point between 1993-
94 and 2004-05 while between 1977-78 and 1987-88, it had declined by 14
percentage points.
Inadequate accessibility of food is one of the main causes of poverty, hunger and
malnutrition which is widely spread in rural India. Due to malnutrition and hunger,
a worker would be physically too incapable to earn enough to feed himself and
his family. An increase in agricultural production and productivity would play a key
role in reducing poverty by raising agricultural wages and making food and other
agricultural commodities affordable to the poor households. However, agricultural
growth would be more effective in reducing poverty when supported by adequate
investment in human development components such as health and education. The
provision of basic education, as well as formal or informal training for developing
and upgrading skills, is crucial for farm workers, as they with sufficient knowledge
and skills are better able to respond to new technology, market opportunities, and risk

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