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Agriculture, Water and Investment

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Agriculture is on the frontlines of nearly all urgent global challenges, from hunger to climate change to rising inequality.

We provide high-quality advice to governments to help transform public and private investment into a vehicle for change: strengthening food security and livelihoods, while protecting land rights and responsibly managing natural resources.

Over 800 million people go to bed hungry every night, 70 per cent of whom live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Agriculture provides a livelihood for more people globally than any other sector, representing almost 50 per cent of total employment in poor countries. Investment in agriculture has a greater poverty reduction effect—especially amongst the poorest people—than investment in any other sector.

This is why increased investment in agriculture and food systems in low- and middle-income countries is desperately needed. When done right, increased investment can help boost production, generate employment, increase incomes and promote economic development. But when done badly, it can exacerbate existing inequalities, undermine the livelihoods of small farmers, particularly women, and significantly deplete land, water, soil and other natural resources.

Ensuring positive impacts from foreign investment requires robust policies, laws and practices. IISD works with governments and policy-makers to build the laws and policies needed to maximize the benefits—and minimize the risks—of foreign investment.

We also work to improve the flow of public investment to agriculture. We joined forces with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to measure the scale of public spending needed to end hunger. We found that it will cost an extra USD 11 billion per year from now until 2030 to largely eradicate hunger, a central part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Along with IFPRI and Cornell University we have now embarked on a new project, Ceres2030: Sustainable solutions to end hunger, which combines state-of-the-art modelling techniques with expert evidence to build consensus on the best way to end hunger sustainably, with costs and effective solutions.

  • Report
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  • Policy Brief
    COVID-19 and Food Export Restrictions: Comparing today’s situation to the 2007/08 price spikes

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  • Policy Brief
    Could Food Export Restrictions Worsen a Looming Food Crisis?

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  • Blog
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    Global food supply is at an all-time high, yet so is hunger and malnutrition. The right policy changes can account for such complexity and set us on a sustainable path, but we must act now.

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    Tomorrow Needs Us Today: IISD’s 2020-2025 Strategic Direction

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    We are guided by five core priorities—Climate, Resources, Economies, Act Together and Engage—which form our CREATE strategy, presented in this document.

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  • Commentary
    Foreign Investment in Decline: An opportunity for more responsible and sustainable food systems

    Foreign Investment in Decline: An opportunity for more responsible and sustainable food systems

    UNCTAD predicted last month that COVID-19 would cause a 40% drop in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020. Developing regions will be the worst hit given their heavy reliance on extractive industries and global value chains, which have been impacted by the pandemic. A dramatic drop in FDI could worsen the situation and lead to a race to the bottom as low- and middle-income countries compete for dwindling levels of FDI in agriculture.

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  • Commentary
    Ensuring a Balance of Power in the Face of COVID-19

    Ensuring a Balance of Power in the Face of COVID-19

    Half the world’s population is subject to varying degrees of lockdown in an attempt to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with an unprecedented crisis, should governments offer solutions that sidestep requirements of transparency, accountability, and responsibility?

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  • Blog
    We Can Prevent a COVID-19 Hunger Crisis if We Look Back and Learn

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    The world now faces the risk of a dramatic rise in hunger, barely 12 years after the devastating food price crisis. What can be learned from the past?

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    What National Farm Policy Trends Could Mean for Efforts to Update WTO Rules on Domestic Support

    What National Farm Policy Trends Could Mean for Efforts to Update WTO Rules on Domestic Support

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  • Briefing Note
    IISD Contributes to Inclusive and Resilient Food Security

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    Food systems are on the front lines of nearly all urgent global challenges. That is why agriculture and food security are such a vital part of IISD’s work.

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