Total Factor Productivity (TFP) is a measure of efficiency, but it is also a strong indicator of the capacity to manage risk.

In the case of livestock production, for example, healthy animals are more productive animals. They generate more output per animal and need less feed, water, and other resources. Animal care practices to support productivity growth include vaccinations, protective housing, monitoring animals for signs of illness, isolating sick animals for treatment, and eliminating breeding grounds for disease vectors, like ticks. These same practices are essential to preventing and managing pandemic-style outbreaks of diseases, such as an avian flu or African Swine Fever.

The OECD report on agricultural resilience calls appropriate investments in agricultural productivity growth a “no-regret” strategy to strengthening resilience. The report recommends investments in, “the provision of information, education, infrastructure, and research and development,” all of which are essential public goods advocated for in the GAP Report.29

These policy goals, explored in more detail in the online edition of the GAP Report, have benefits for producers, consumers, and the environment. These goals provide agricultural producers the innovations and knowledge they need to increase their output more efficiently, improve profitability, reduce waste and loss, and create opportunities for economic growth. These policies and investments protect productivity gains during times of crisis and ensure greater productivity in the future.

Invest in public-sector research and extension services

Public sector agricultural R&D and extension services generate innovation and information that facilitate environmentally sustainable agricultural output growth, improve human health, and support a vibrant agricultural economy. Public-sector R&D generates the scientific knowledge that is translated into tools and information used to prevent and respond to pandemic-scale outbreaks. Agricultural extension systems, and other farmer training networks, deliver information that helps farmers evaluate their risk landscape, and take appropriate measures to prepare for and adapt to crises.

Embrace science- and information-based technologies and practices

Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Science- and information-based technologies and practices enable producers of all scales to manage environmental and economic risks by improving their sustainability, resilience, and competitiveness. Pests and diseases that attack and destroy crops and livestock are caused by complex pathogens carried by vectors that cross geographies with ease. They can also mutate, developing resistance to previous treatments. The next generation of scientific technologies, including CRISPR-Cas, will be vital tools for preventing and managing these pernicious threats. Biological crop protection technologies such as fungi, compliment conventional chemical approaches to pest and disease management. Sensor technologies and mobile agronomic information services are used at all scales of production to identify and control pest and disease outbreaks.

Improve infrastructure and market access for agricultural inputs and outputs

Efficient transportation, communications, and financial infrastructures, as well as affordable and equitable access to markets for agricultural inputs, services, and outputs support sustainable economic growth, diminish waste and loss, and reduce costs for producers and consumers. Improving transportation infrastructures would increase access to crop protection products and livestock vaccines for many of the world’s farmers. Strengthening mobile communications networks is especially vital in pandemics, enabling large numbers of producers to receive up-to-the-minute information about outbreaks and how to respond. Affordable financial services provide a vital lifeline during crises, allowing producers to hold on to their most valuable
capital assets, including land, machinery, and livestock.

Cultivate partnerships for sustainable agriculture, equity, and improved nutrition

A child eating.
Credit: Bart Verweij / World Bank

Public-private-producer partnerships supporting agricultural development, equity, and nutritious food systems leverage public and private investments in economic development, natural resource management, and human health. Technology alone is not sufficient to strengthen productivity and resilience. Partnerships play an important role in strengthening human capital, a set of skills and knowledge possessed by producers and others in the agricultural value chain, that are essential in a time of pandemics. Likewise, social networks among people who live and work in a particular society provide many forms of support during pandemic-scale challenges.

Expand and improve regional and global trade

A photo of people unloading milk from a truck.Forward-looking trade agreements, including transparent policies and consistently enforced regulations, facilitate the efficient and cost-effective movement of agricultural inputs, services, and products to the people who need them. Trade plays several important roles during times of pandemics. It brings food to places where food crops have been devastated by pests. Animal vaccines and crop protection products, such as pesticides need to be brought into impacted areas. Access to agricultural inputs, such as seed and fertilizer, helps farmers recover quickly following a crisis.

Reduce post-harvest loss and food waste

Reducing post-harvest losses and food waste increases the availability and affordability of nutritious food, eases the environmental impact of food and agricultural production, and preserves the value of the land, labor, water, and other inputs used in the production process. COVID-19 has underscored for many people around the world the critical importance of reducing food waste. When food was not as readily available in stores, many consumers realized just how much they were wasting and took measures to waste less. However, COVID-19 also saw a significant increase in post-harvest loss as a lack of agricultural labor and sluggish supply chains meant thousands of tons of food and livestock products never left the field or the farm.

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