South Asia is home to the largest concentration of poverty on the planet. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s poor earning less than a dollar a day live in the region. South Asia generates less than 2 percent of global income, yet supports 22 percent of the world’s population.
Most of the South Asian poor depend on agriculture for their livelihood and survival. Approximately sixty percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture and the sector accounts for about 23 percent of GDP. Agriculture in the region is dominated by smallholder farms with an average holding size of 1.6 hectares. It is therefore critical that policies affecting agriculture lead to beneficial outcomes for millions of people in South Asia, especially the poor.
In 2002, IFPRI launched the South Asia Initiative (SAI) to better understand and analyze emerging challenges to agriculture in the region, and to assess their implications on food security and poverty alleviation. SAI is a multi-divisional effort at IFPRI and is housed at the Institute’s New Delhi office.
SAI employs a three-pronged strategy— policy dialogue, applied research, and capacity strengthening—to address the following challenges facing South Asia:
The challenges of this region have a wide range. A few examples are:
- Trade/market reforms and food security.
- Agricultural diversification and farm-firm- consumer linkages.
- Shrinking land holding size and related problems.
- Role of private sector in agricultural inputs/outputs.
- Institutional and pricing reforms in major agricultural inputs, especially irrigation and power.
- Household food insecurity in the midst of national food self-sufficiency.
- Natural resource degradation and sustainable use of agricultural resources.