JICA's cooperation in agricultural and rural development aims to ensure a stable food supply to people in both rural and urban areas and reduce poverty in rural communities — thereby driving economic development at national and regional levels. Through these activities JICA strives to contribute to achieving goals and targets of the SDGs.
For this reason JICA has established the following three specifi c cooperation objectives.
Risks involving the food supply are a complex combination of short-term and long-term factors. Short-term risk factors include poor harvests owing to bad weather and accompanying speculation. Long-term factors involve population growth in emerging countries, changes in the demand structure in those countries, limitations on production resources such as land and water, vulnerability to climate change, and competition between rising demand for biofuel and food. JICA is aiming to achieve sustainable agricultural production while addressing the problem of poverty.
In its approach to enable stable agricultural production, first, JICA provides aid for drafting agricultural policies reflecting the characteristics of the partner country's overall agricultural sector. Based on these policies, JICA provides cooperation from the perspective of the overall value chain, from production to distribution and sales. Initiatives include establishing, maintaining, and managing infrastructures for agricultural production such as irrigation systems; improving the procurement and use of seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural production materials; and establishing and utilizing production technology for grain, livestock and other items while supporting institutional strengthening of associated organizations.
In addition, JICA is taking action regarding increasing the resilience of agriculture to climate change. Activities include facilitating sustainable land use, development and study on appropriate technology, developing second-generation biomass energy that does not compete with food production, introducing weather insurance, and promoting the private sector's entry into the market.
Furthermore, along with their rising incomes, citizens of developing countries are increasingly demanding high-valueadded agricultural and livestock products as well as taking a greater interest in such food issues as quality and safety. These issues also need to be addressed.
A JICA expert providing instruction on rice cultivation in Uganda, a CARD member country (Photo by Yuji Shinoda)
Sustainable production is the premise for the provision of a stable food supply to the people of a country. In addition, ensuring a stable supply requires the establishment of food supply and demand policies for an entire country that reflect international food security. Creation of a framework for food imports and the proper use of food aid are also necessary.
Africa accounts for the largest portion of people suffering from malnutrition in the world, estimated at 23% of the total population in 2014–2016, and is in great need of expanded food production. The amount of rice consumed in Africa is growing rapidly and there are excellent prospects for achieving sustainable growth in rice production. Therefore, rice is believed to be the key to eradicating the lack of food security on the continent.
With other donors, JICA launched an initiative called the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) in 2008. In order to contribute to food security, the goal is to double rice production in Africa from 14 million tons to 28 million tons over the 10-year period ending in 2018. To reach this target, JICA is providing aid for the formulation of National Rice Development Strategies in the 23 rice-producing countries in Africa and for boosting rice production in line with the strategy of each country. As for the entire Sub-Saharan African region including CARD member countries, rice production increased from 14 million tons in the reference year to 25 million tons in 2014.
For rural development that reduces poverty, it is important to aim for social changes and invigoration in rural villages from the standpoint of developing agricultural economies and enhancing the livelihood of people. Accomplishing this goal requires going beyond simply raising productivity. For instance, the distribution and sale of food must be improved, the food processing sector energized, export promotion measures strengthened, and agricultural management must also be upgraded to increase non-agricultural income and such.
Furthermore, aid is needed that brings together a diverse range of fields. Local administrative functions must be strengthened and rural infrastructures such as community roads and drinking water supplies established. The rural living environment must be improved and level of health and education for residents enhanced. Among other examples of aid is the narrowing of the gender gap.
Moreover, for post-conflict countries, because agricultural and rural development is often a key component of aid, JICA gives priority to these activities.
To stimulate rural development, JICA supplies aid to local administrative institutions in drafting development plans with the participation of rural residents. JICA also provides aid for the establishment of implementation systems that enable the community to raise income and improve people's livelihood, through improving the processing, distribution and sale of agricultural products.
For example, the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment Project (SHEP, 2006–2009) and the following Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion Unit Project (SHEP UP, 2010–2015), the technical cooperation projects implemented in Kenya to support improvement of smallholder farmers' livelihoods, have supported the farmer groups to change their attitudes from "grow and sell" to "grow to sell," introducing the concept of "Farming as a Business." As a result of various support activities—the SHEP approach—to make farmers manage market-oriented agriculture by themselves, the horticultural incomes of the farm households involved in the projects have increased. The effectiveness of the SHEP approach has been recognized by other donors such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also touched on it at the opening session of the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) in 2013. In response to this, JICA places priority on implementing the SHEP approach in other African countries by conducting the JICA Knowledge Co-Creation Program (Group and Region Focus) as well as providing careful follow-up monitoring and technical guidance, covering 20 countries as of May 2016. To broaden the scope of utilization, a computer game is currently under development as a new public relations tool for technical officers in Africa. This game will enable them to have a simulated experience of the SHEP approach.