Rebuilding the Economy through Agriculture
On October 20, 2022, Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) hosted a panel discussion focused on “Rebuilding the Economy through Agriculture,” at the Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue. In honor of Nobel Prize-winning agronomist Norman E. Borlaug, the annual Dialogue hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation gathers agriculture stakeholders from around the world to discuss challenges facing the sector. This year’s theme, “Feeding a Fragile World,” focused on overcoming shocks to the global food system, like COVID-19, conflict and climate change, and featured a series of events including roundtables, side events and keynote speeches, covering a variety of areas within the overarching theme. This included CNFA’s “Rebuilding the Economy through Agriculture,” where four panelists from the public and private sectors discussed agriculture-related strategies that accelerate post-crisis rebuilding, drive economic growth and build resilience in the face of challenges. With extensive experience in agribusiness and natural resource management, CNFA’s Ed Keturakis guided the discussion as moderator.
Dr. Antonina Broyaka, one of the panelists, was formerly the dean of the faculty of economics and entrepreneurship at Vinnystia National Agrarian University in Ukraine but had to flee as a result of the Russian invasion and is now working at the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. In her current role, she researches the economic impact of the invasion on Ukrainian agriculture and global food security. When asked about changes needed and initiatives to prioritize when rebuilding Ukraine’s agriculture sector, she said, “It is important to understand that it is not enough to rebuild just what was damaged. The technologies, equipment, supply chain need to be modernized in order to ensure Ukrainian competitiveness in a bold market in the future.”
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Mike Michener also featured as a panelist and emphasized the impact one country’s food system can have on food systems globally. “The invasion of Ukraine has caused ripple effects around the world,” he said. “As you heard from the Administrator, we need to rethink how we grow, what we grow and who it benefits.” As an example, Michener mentioned the invasion’s impact on sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries, which benefit from Ukraine’s affordable grain exports.
Davit Kirvalidze, former minister of agriculture for the Republic of Georgia and CNFA Board member, followed up and shared his experience with rebuilding the agriculture sector in the Republic of Georgia after the Russian invasion there, where a rapid and innovative response helped it to mitigate and recover from these shocks. This included the implementation of a voucher card system to help struggling farmers access inputs.
Jay Vroom, former president and CEO of CropLife America, was the final panelist to be prompted. He talked about the importance of including the private sector in recovery efforts, highlighting Ukraine’s unique opportunity to increase business growth due its rich agricultural resources.
In the second half of the side event, each panelist was offered the opportunity to make a call to action.
In Dr. Broyaka’s call to action, she pushed for a diverse system of support for Ukraine to effectively rebuild its agriculture sector. “I would like to ask for more support, because we really need not only money, but also to transfer technologies, seeds, storage systems, etc,” she said. Dr. Broyaka also reiterated the impact the invasion has globally.
Michener discussed the importance of adaptability when addressing contexts impacted by shocks, “There is not a cookie cutter approach,” he said. “Every agriculture sector in every country in conflict has different priorities.”
Kirvalidze stressed the need for increased private sector engagement, with investment in initiatives that act quickly and facilitate the provision of much-needed agricultural inputs immediately post-shock. “If we want to be effective, we need to think about approximately the total amount of inputs needed,” he said. “We need to be ready to help them.”
Vroom called for agriculture sector actors and agribusinesses to use some of their excess profit to invest and help make Ukraine and other shock-impacted areas better. “It’s a long-term gain in food and agriculture,” he said. “We owe it to humanity to get this next reset right.”
As Keturakis concluded the panel, the panelists made it clear that rebuilding a country’s economy through agriculture is not straightforward, but with diversified support, context-specific strategies and increased private sector investments, agriculture can not only bounce back but be stronger than before. Food systems of countries dealing with crises, like Ukraine, heavily influence food systems globally and to “feed a fragile world” priority must be given to initiatives that accelerate post-crisis rebuilding, drive economic growth and strengthen resilience in the face of challenges.