Structural changes in the rural development and farming environment are a ubiquitous fact and as such they have always been witnessed throughout all of sedentary human history. Participants agreed and also shared the view that it was a fundamental task of development cooperation and national policies to not try to countervail occurring economic trends – which are a form of adaptation to changing environments – but to support positive facets, while ensuring negative social impacts were cushioned with adequate interventions. The basic conclusion heard everywhere nowadays that the world needs to raise agricultural productivity to feed a growing population was not questioned at the symposium. But based on the discussion, it became clear that this conclusion is not obvious. A few voices indeed highlighted that positive impacts of raised productivity induced by development cooperation in the past, such as in Malawi, had actually been crippled by tremendous population growth. The development avenue via productivity increases surely would prove to be cul-de-sac in some instances.
Distinctions on what is meant by raising agricultural productivity evolved and disagreement surfaced with regards to which kind of professionalisation was actually more conducive towards the alleviation of poverty. Some participants made a strong case for the importance of labour productivity, as a raise in personal incomes of farmers. Others argued to view agricultural productivity as units per hectare as this acknowledges the fact that natural resources are limited, a fact that becomes increasingly important. Measuring productivity in drops of water used would even go one step further and bring in the ecological perspective on the subject.