Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2006

Main Text > Part I JAPAN'S OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FOR WORLD PEACE AND PROSPERITY > Chapter 2 Specific Activities of Japan's ODA > Section 4. Agricultural Development

Section 4. Agricultural Development

Importance of Tackling Poverty and Hunger

Poverty and hunger are serious problems in developing countries. About one-fifth of the world's population (approximately 1.09 billion people) live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than one dollar a day, while one-seventh (approximately 800 million people) suffer from hunger. In order to improve this situation, developing countries must focus on achieving economic growth and alleviating poverty and hunger. At the same time, the international community must provide not only food assistance as emergency humanitarian aid, but also various types of support, including measures to boost agricultural production, secure water resources, and curb population increases in developing countries.

    Since approximately 60% of the population of developing countries reside in rural areas and rely on agriculture for most of their income, ODA in the agriculture and rural development sector is an important measure for reducing poverty through improving farmers' income and securing employment in rural areas. Agriculture occupies an important position in the economies of developing countries. Thus support for the agricultural sector is important for reducing the population in poverty through economic growth. Furthermore, factors such as population increases, shortages of water resources, and desertification in developing countries might tighten world food supplies, which constitutes a challenge affecting food security of the whole world.

Japan's ODA in the Agricultural Sector

Japan's ODA supports the self-help efforts of developing countries and places emphasis on the agricultural sector in order to overcome poverty and hunger. The ODA Charter and the Medium-Term Policy on ODA place global issues including poverty reduction and food security as some of the priority issues. These documents clearly state that Japan will provide support in such areas as policy-making in agriculture which aims at improving agricultural productivity; developing infrastructure like irrigation facilities and rural roads; disseminating agricultural production technology; and strengthening local organizations. The fundamental documents also indicate that Japan will assist in strengthening economic activities other than agriculture, including the promotion of agricultural product processing, market distribution, and food product sales in rural areas so as to raise incomes of the rural populations. Japan's development assistance in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors in 2004 amounted to approximately ¥58 billion, the highest of the DAC member countries and accounts for about 20% of bilateral assistance provided by the DAC member countries in this sector.

    As the international community is once again showing its interest in development issues in Africa in recent years, Japan, stressing the importance of agriculture and rural area development in Africa, expressed its intention to support efforts to realize the "Green Revolution" in Africa and to improve life in rural areas at the G8 Gleneagles Summit in July 2005. Japan's view helped incorporate the project in which G8 will comprehensively support the efforts of African nations to improve farm productivity, to strengthen urban-rural linkages, and to develop the capacity of the poor into the Gleneagles Summit's joint statement on African development. This trend leads to the stance of the international organizations, such as the World Bank, of attaching importance to agriculture in support of African development.

    One symbolic activity of Japan's support for Africa in the agricultural sector is assistance in the development and dissemination of New Rice for Africa (NERICA). In recent years, consumption of rice has been increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in urban areas. However, production cannot keep up with the increase in consumption. The imports of rice from Asia are increasing in many countries, thus using their precious foreign exchange. NERICA draws considerable attention in this context, as a desirable breed to increase rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa because of its resilience to drought, disease, and insect pests, and because it yields substantially larger harvests than existing rice varieties. Japan strongly supports research, development and dissemination of NERICA in cooperation with international organizations such as the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA: a research center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) and UNDP.

    In Uganda located in East Africa, the government actively encourages production of NERICA, but the country lacks sufficient knowledge and experience in rice cultivation technology. Thus JICA currently dispatches agricultural experts to Uganda to provide guidance in NERICA rice cultivation and training in manufacturing of threshers in cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Japan's support along with the activities of NGOs to spread NERICA cultivation and the production and sale of seeds by private companies has yielded the following results: cultivation area of NERICA rice in Uganda has spread out from approximately 1,500 hectares in 2002 to an estimated 10,000 hectares now. Farmers who cultivate NERICA rice claim that, since the start of cultivation of NERICA rice, they have been able to sell a higher-quality, more profitable crop than maize or millet, enabling them to pay for their children's school fees and medical fees with higher incomes. They also say that, thanks to the establishment of agricultural unions, the level of farmers' cultivation technology has risen. The support for the development and dissemination of NERICA rice has been mentioned in the progress report of the G8 Africa Action Plan as one of Japan's most important contribution to African development.

    Japan's support for the development and dissemination of NERICA rice aimed at increasing agricultural productivity in Africa has been based on its successful experience in promoting the "Green Revolution" in Asia. Since the 1960s, the production of rice and wheat in Asia and Latin America has expanded remarkably, due to the dissemination of improved varieties of rice and wheat developed by the International Rice Research Institute and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (both are research organizations of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research). Japan's ODA for the development of irrigation, strengthening of agricultural technology, and provision of fertilizers and farming implements played an important role in the realization of the "Green Revolution" particularly in Asia.

    For example, for the purpose of augmenting the production of rice in Indonesia, Japan has provided continuous support for the construction and improvement of irrigation facilities to achieve efficient and stable water use as well as organizing farmers to maintain these facilities. The synergistic effects between Japan's assistance and the self-help efforts of the Indonesian Government for the development of crop varieties and provision of farming materials and equipment has realized the doubling of rice harvests and repeated cultivation thereby contributing substantially to the increase of farmers' income and the reduction of the poor population in Indonesia. Japan intends to make use of these experiences in Asia for African development through the development and dissemination of NERICA rice in Sub-Saharan Africa.

People selecting harvested NERICA rice (Photo: WARDA)
People selecting harvested NERICA rice (Photo: WARDA)

    The "Green Revolution" in Asia and Latin America is said to have an effect on curving price increases in the international grain market by easing the long-term supply-and-demand balance. According to a research,21 it is estimated that if there had been no "Green Revolution," international grain prices would be 35-66% higher than the actual level (as of 2000). Based on this estimate, the contribution of the "Green Revolution" in reducing the yearly gross amount Japan's imports of corn and rice (¥496.4 billion in 2004) has corresponded to a savings of ¥170 to ¥330 billion. Japan will proactively support improvement of agricultural production in developing countries through support to agricultural research and development in the form of contributions to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and through bilateral assistance on agricultural development and water.

    There is also a case when Japan helped foster important imported agricultural products through ODA. Owing to the execution of a temporary ban on soybean exports by the United States in the 1970s, Japan started in 1979 an agricultural development cooperation program in Brazil's Cerrado region to promote the cultivation of grains, particularly soybeans. This program, implemented through the joint investment and financing by Japan and Brazil, was designed to reclaim land, to develop infrastructure and to lend facilities and agricultural funds to farmers who had settled in the area through Brazilian financial institutions. Afterward, Japan provided continuous support to farmers through the dispatch of JICA experts for agriculture and management on a long term basis and other means. As a result, Brazil's Cerrado region developed into the major area for soybean, and the production expanded to an extent that makes it possible to afford exports. In 2004, the volume of exports of soybeans increased to about 19 million tons, corresponding to one-third of the world's 57 million ton soybean trade volume. In addition, soybeans now represent about 20% of Brazil's farm product exports. In the 1980s, Japan imported 96% of its soybeans from the US, but in 1999, imports from the US declined to 79% while imports from Brazil grew to 12%.

    Improving safety of agricultural products in developing countries is an important challenge for them to promote exports of such products. For Japan likewise, the strengthening of food safety measures of countries where Japan imports agricultural product becomes increasingly important as it is increasing the quantity and variety of imported farm products and is diversifying the countries from which Japan imports products.

Box I-2. Efforts to Disseminate New Rice for Africa (NERICA)

    With a view to the of the safety of these more diverse agricultural products, Japan provides support for the development of testing and inspection facilities and equipment for improving livestock sanitation and strengthening animal quarantine systems in developing countries. For example, Japan has provided technical assistance to Thailand since 1977 to improve livestock sanitation, thus contributing to improvement of livestock disease diagnosis techniques and to the revision of the quarantine system. Owing to this assistance, exports of chicken from Thailand increased from about US$30 million in 1980 to US$600 million in 2003, and now Thai chicken accounts for more than 30% of Japan's imports of chicken. After the outbreak of avian influenza in January 2004, however, Japan has suspended imports of fresh chicken from Thailand (with the exception of heat-treated chicken from designated plants). Japan has actively extended support through the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations so as to prevent the spread of avian influenza by strengthening veterinary administration, reporting systems, and immunization systems in Asian countries, including Thailand.