Overview of Australia's assistance for agriculture and food security

How we are helping 

2018-19 Budget Estimate: 
$247.7 million

Agriculture was one of Australia’s first industries and remains one of the main pillars of the Australian economy.

In addition to supplying agricultural products to global markets, Australia supports basic food security and efficient water management internationally. In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Australia promotes agricultural, fisheries and water development through innovative partnerships with the private sector, civil society and partner governments.

Australia advocates a comprehensive approach to agriculture and food security that targets the immediate needs of the poorest, while also strengthening the foundations of agricultural industries through improving agricultural productivity and opening markets. Market-oriented economic, trade and agricultural policies, good governance and infrastructure underpin private-sector investment and agricultural innovation.

Australia has a strong focus on women’s empowerment, given the important role women play in agriculture and food security. Australia also recognizes the role agriculture plays in addressing the complex problem of improving nutrition and encourages nutrition-sensitive agricultural investments.

Australia provides immediate humanitarian food assistance delivered through agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Our overseas development assistance—including through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)—helps improve agricultural productivity and reduce post-harvest losses. Aid program initiatives also broaden opportunities for agricultural business growth, trade and market access, and increase the ability of the poor to access food by increasing incomes and driving economic growth.

Why we give aid

Agriculture plays a vital role in economic growth and poverty reduction and key to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, most especially global goal 2: Zero Hunger. Investing in agriculture is essential to improve food security for the majority of the world’s poor, who rely directly on agriculture for subsistence, income and employment.

Food security is an important global issue. Australia’s recent Foreign Policy White paper underscores

  • the pressures which growing populations and climate change will place on demand for food; and
  • the risks this poses to future prosperity and stability.

As well as contributing to food security, agriculture is a major source of pro-poor growth in developing countries with large, poor rural populations. Meeting future food demand in a sustainable way will require major advances in productivity, market systems, natural resource management and governance. As the world’s population grows, demand for food and agricultural products will continue to rise. These pressures compounded by climate change, will strain the world’s resources in a way that could limit future prosperity and contribute to conflict and population displacement. 

How we give aid

Through its aid program and broader economic diplomacy efforts, Australia is helping Indo Pacific countries to realise agriculture’s potential contribution to sustainable economic growth. In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Australia promotes agricultural development through innovative partnerships with the private sector, civil society and partner governments. This work is guided by the Government’s Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in agriculture fisheries and water, (2015), which identifies three priority areas of engagement:

  1. Strengthening markets: To help increase small-scale farmers and fishers participation in markets and address constraints to agri-food business, including by leveraging private sector investment and innovation (with an emphasis on women’s economic empowerment).
  2. Innovating for productivity and sustainable resource use: to improve productivity along food and agriculture value chains and promote more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, using international and Australian research and expertise.  
  3. Promoting effective policy, governance and reform: to assist partner countries achieve more effective policy settings to promote sustainable and inclusive growth and open trade and improve the enabling environment for business, investment and innovation.

Australia supports a range of agricultural initiatives across its bilateral, regional and global programs (see section below).  Australia also has highly valued technical and managerial capabilities in agricultural research which are being harnessed to improve agricultural productivity in developing countries. Through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the Government funds research to improve the knowledge and understanding of the challenges our partner countries face. The research also provides an evidence base to evaluate the impact of our work and improve the quality of the Australian aid program. In addition, DFAT and ACIAR work closely with research institutions such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and research organisations in developing countries to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and enhance rural livelihoods.

Other elements of Australia’s aid program—such as providing financial services for the poor and supporting the development of rural infrastructure—also help increase rural people’s incomes, assets, access to markets and resilience to shocks.


Last Updated: 11 May 2018
A man inspecting a maize crop
Seeds of life maize: One of the high-yielding maize varieties (SW5) that has been tested through the Seeds of Life program in East Timor. Photo: ACIAR / DFAT.