- Around the Commonwealth
- Commonwealth initiatives
- In Commonwealth Europe, UK farming involves the use of advanced technological equipment requiring only a few people to run a huge farm of thousands of hectares. In Malta and Cyprus land is small and highly fragmented precluding many mechanised methods of agriculture.
- In Commonwealth Africa agriculture is a major contributor to GDP although its underperformance has hampered poverty reduction and development in many countries.
- For many years a successful export-oriented focus dominated agricultural production in the Caribbean part of the Commonwealth, but the sector now faces major challenges because of the elimination of European Union (EU) trade preferences for major agricultural exports together with the general impact of trade liberalisation.
- In North America, Canada’s success makes it the largest agricultural exporter in the Commonwealth.
- Farming in the Pacific island member states is predominantly small scale, low in productivity and based mainly on family labour, with limited use of modern technology. In contrast, Australia and New Zealand, which are more developed and much larger have done exceptionally well with significant agricultural exportation.
- India, which was dependent economically on agriculture for all of the 20th century, has successfully diversified into other areas. It nevertheless still generates the greatest agricultural output in the Commonwealth. In general, South Asian member states have successfully increased agricultural productivity which was largely made possible by the “Green Revolution” of the 1970s and 1980s.
- As for South East Asia: Agriculture in Malaysia has strongly supported the economy, especially plantation crops. Singapore, even with its small land mass, has benefitted from exports from small scale forms of agriculture.
Overview: Agriculture in the Commonwealth
Commonwealth countries, many of which are developing, are farmed largely by families as small-holdings. For the most part agriculture ensures food security and employment in the Commonwealth where more than half of the population in 31 of the 53 countries, reside in rural areas. Naturally, commercial or mechanised methods predominate in agricultural production in the industrialised part of the Commonwealth. Ghana, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have the greatest dependence on agriculture* – all above 35% of GDP – whereas at the other end of the scale the more developed Trinidad and Tobago, Brunei Darussalam, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada rely the least on agriculture* with GDP contributions all below 3%.
*includes fisheries and forestries
Agriculture around the Commonwealth by region
Commonwealth initiatives in agriculture
The Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) is the most active agricultural organisation in the association of nations. The organisation, which promotes itself as ‘Commonwealth Civil Society representing agriculture’, has organised over 20 international conferences since its foundation in 1957. Working through its membership of over 50 leading national and regional agricultural societies and research bodies, it has brought together the talents of agricultural experts from around the Commonwealth in advancing farming methods in developing member countries.
A specialised department at the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Enterprise and Agriculture Section, is working to strengthen agricultural and enterprise competitiveness, particularly at the level of small and medium-sized enterprises. The department assists with sectoral strategy and policy formulation and building institutional capacity to enhance competitive advantage.