*I have been stimulated by the responses to this forum so far. Dr. Maxwell's excellent article presents a comprehensive vision of the narrative on agriculture. Yet, there are some other important aspects to consider: 1. The concept of agriculture is changing. For so long agriculture has been associated with primary production. Then later it began to include the value added chain, the idea of from farmer to fork. Then the Europeans brought the idea of the multifunctionality of agriculture and though this was in many ways a guise to maintain subsidy, it was an important contribution of how we need to see agriculture. In Latin America the New Rurality broadened the idea of agriculture to include health, education and well-being. So when agriculture is examined from this multidimensional perspective, each of the seven reasons in Maxwell's article take on a different nuance and in some cases their meanings are transformed. For example, sustainability from this more holistic perspective of agriculture means much more than sustained growth and environmental management - it implies social networks and new business networks where environmental concerns can be good business. Changes in the supply chain, would not only look at food but other fiber products and how they can be integrally managed from a systems perspective. In our work in Latin America and the Caribbean we have been promoting a territorial approach to rural development. This demands that we look at the combined resources within a given geographical space (at different scales i.e. local, municipal, state, national...). These resources include natural resources for ag production and non ag economic activities, social networks, cultural patrimony and history, image and perceptions of consumers, inter-territorial relationships, infrastructure, human talents, skills and capabilities. Looking at the present use and possible potential of these resources can provide information on how to improve competitiveness. In this sense the idea of territorial competitiveness (LEADER +) is relevant and we have been trying to develop some models to look at profitability not just in its private sense, but in the sense of social profitability. The concept of public goods also becomes important as we try to quantify social profitability as a mechanism to invest in the regeneration of public goods. Water pricing is a good example. 2. Multiple source income families. Most rural households derive incomes from multiple sources. The focus on the importance of remittances bears witness. Lipton has argued since the eighties of the urban bias in development and this continues on a conceptual basis when rural is almost exclusively associated with agriculture. The diversification of income sources has been a contributing factor to the increasing complexity of agriculture's relationship to the wider economy. How to approach poverty reduction strategies that look at agriculture in its complexity is the challenge we face. No longer can we take for granted that small holders have "excess labor"; this labor has many opportunity costs. The Brazilians in their agricultural technology research seek technologies for small and medium producers that minimize labor effort. This has led to technologies like new plows that minimize the effort and time of small farmers, improving yields and taking the factor of time as a factor of production. 3. Agriculture's true contribution to the economy. We recently completed a study using social accounting matrices to demonstrate that agriculture's contribution to GDP is not just primary production, but also the value added transformation into food and beverage products, restaurant sales and employment that has a much more far-reaching contribution to the economy. In calculating Ag GDP this way, ag's contribution can go from 11% to 32% (Costa Rica) or from 0.7% to 8.1% in the United States. The way that statistics are presented generates a bias that must be factored into how agriculture is valued by society and by economists. When agriculture is conceived of in its complexity and its contribution truly valued, then we can see that there is an enormous shortfall in investment. more later on interventions and DfID's possible roles Kind regards, Mark Meassick Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture <mailto:<address removed>> *these views do not necessarily represent the official position of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
Please visit dfid-agriculture-consultation.nri.org.