Looking Into the Future for Agriculture and AKST | 349 Impacts of development

Development is expected to reduce some of the risks of cur­rent human, plant, and animal diseases, with new commu­nicable diseases arising in their place. Communicable dis­eases are the primary cause for variations in life expectancy across countries, so reducing the burden of communicable diseases will increase life expectancy in low-income coun­tries. Significant challenges will continue for several decades in building capacity to reduce emerging infectious diseases in low-income countries. Developing countries need labo­ratories and research centers (and the human and finan­cial resources to staff and maintain them), along with re­sources in primary health care systems to identify, control, and treat disease outbreaks. High-income countries need to commit to additional resources for research and develop­ment on communicable diseases. Although progress is be­ing made for some diseases, history suggests that diseases will continue to emerge faster than they are identified and controlled—infectious disease control is an ongoing process with long-term improvement, but without the possibility of eradicating all infectious diseases.

     While agricultural and income growth are contributing to rapid reductions in the overall number of underweight children, the global decline masks differences across regions that will continue to adversely affect development over the coming decades. Unless more attention is paid to the problems of micronutrient deficiencies, the human health consequences will reduce the ability of nations to achieve development and sustainability goals (Welch and Graham, 2005).

     Key forces that will affect development over the com­ing decades include demographic change; rate and degree of increase in climate variability; trends in ecosystem ser­vices; impact of climate change on freshwater resources, agricultural systems, livestock, wildlife, forests, and marine systems; economic growth and its distribution; rate of tech­nology development; trends in governance; degree of invest­ment in public health and other infrastructure.

     A trend expected to continue is the highly inequitable distribution of health workers (WHO, 2006). The level of health expenditure is an indication of the resources for pub­lic health. Regions with the lowest relative need have the highest numbers of health workers, while those with the greatest health burden have a much smaller health work­force. Africa suffers more than 24% of the global disease burden but has access to only 3% of health workers and less than 1% of the world's financial resources, even when loans and grants are included. The Americas (Canada and the U.S.) experience 10% of the global disease burden, have 37% of the world's health workers, and spend more than 50% of the world's financial health resources. Policies to facilitate achievement of development and sustainability goals

Reducing the threat  of emerging infectious diseases re­quires enhancing disease surveillance and control programs through (1) strengthening existing research and monitoring facilities and establishing new laboratories and research centers for disease identification and control, (2) improving primary health care systems, and disease surveillance and control at local and global levels, and (3) developing the


capacity to understand the interactions of factors that drive disease emergence. Developing these programs requires ad­ditional resources. Multidisciplinary collaboration, particu­larly across health and agricultural sectors, will facilitate identification of policies and measures to reduce the burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases. One ap­proach for reducing the burden of human and animal epi­demics is the development of national networks for emer­gency response, with the human and financial resources to interpret forecasts, detect signs of emerging plant, animal, or human diseases, and environmental crises, and develop and implement effective responses.

     Reducing undernutrition requires greater attention to food security, not just to crop yields. Although there is prom­ising research arising on modifying crops and soil fertility to improve micronutrient content, considerable additional research is needed on new cultivars and approaches to im­prove the lives of billions of people worldwide. Additional resources are needed to be able to effectively deploy current and emerging technologies and cultivars. An issue likely to continue to be important is how low-income countries can afford the costs of new seeds and inputs. Development of effective policy options (including enforcement) can reduce current food safety issues. Regional differences

As noted previously, there are large regional differences in the burden of infectious diseases and undernutrition, with the largest burdens in Africa and South and Southeast Asia. The burden of chronic diseases is now similar across most countries.

5.5.2 Information and communication technology and traditional and local knowledge The promise ofICTs

ICT is increasing in importance for agriculture particularly for those producers who have access to markets. It is possible to attract investments when natural resource management activities are linked to the outside world (e.g., remittance workers sending funds that are invested in farm inputs) or across sectors (e.g., municipalities aggregating their health, education and local government needs for bandwidth). It follows then that the broad promise of ICTs tends to be described at the macro level:

•     There is a positive link between telecommunications infrastructure and GDP, suggesting that a 1 % increase in telecommunications infrastructure penetration might lead to a 0.03% increase in GDP (Torero and von Braun, 2006).

•     The welfare effect of rural households is most closely associated with rural telephony which brings about im­mediate savings to the users (Kenny, 2002; Torero and von Braun, 2006) which is referred to as consumer sur­plus (Kayani and Dymond, 1997) and has been reported to represent a savings ranging from 4-9 times the costs of a single phone call (Bayes et al., 1999; Richardson et al., 2000).

•     The promise of ICTs is most directly related with those MDGs that relate to health and education (Torero and von Braun, 2006).