‘Crises in rural areas threatens   progress in poverty reduction’

28Mar 2019
Correpondent
WASHINGTON D.C
The Guardian
‘Crises in rural areas threatens   progress in poverty reduction’

Rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world, threatening to slow the progress towards the global Sustainable Development Goals – particularly as regards climate targets and improved food and nutrition security.

The crisis is marked by a deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, according to the 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) released yesterday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The report says rural areas remain underserved compared to urban areas and face a wide array of challenges across the globe: rural areas struggle with environmental crisis in China; severe agrarian crisis in India, and acute shortage of jobs for the growing youth populations in Africa.

To overcome these challenges, the report calls for rural revitalization and highlighting policies, institutions and investments that can transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work and raise families.

“Revitalising rural areas can stimulate economic growth and begin to address the crises in developing countries and also tackle challenges holding back achievement of the SDGs and climate goals by 2030,” said IFPRI director general Shenggen Fan.

“Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” noted Fan.

A majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas: rural populations account for 45.3 per cent of the world’s total population, but 70 per cent of the world’s extremely poor. The global poverty rate in rural areas is currently 17 per cent, more than double the urban poverty rate of 7 per cent.

“Rural transformation requires a holistic economic approach to connect rural and urban economies. Strengthening these connections can spur growth and diversification in the farm and non-farm sectors, closing socio-economic and quality-of-life gaps between urban and rural areas,” said Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme and co-author of the lead chapter in the report.

The report emphasizes that rural areas could become premiere hubs of innovations in just under a decade. It recommends revitalising rural areas with a focus on five building blocks.

These are creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities, achieving gender equality, addressing environmental challenges, improving access to energy, and investing in good governance.

Job creation is critical to reducing poverty in rural areas, especially in the rural areas of Africa south of the Sahara, where poverty is high and youth populations are large.

Policies that encourage investments in rural transport networks, telecommunications and human capital in African countries can prepare rural youth for new jobs in rural and urban areas, and bridge rural-urban gap, according to the report.

Ousmane Badiane, director for Africa, IFPRI and co-author of the report chapter on Africa, meanwhile noted: “Rapid urbanisation in Africa is creating new opportunities for rural transformation and revitalisation, mainly due to growing demand for food in urban areas, and investments in new staple food processing technologies as seen in the case of Ghana, Mali, Tanzania and Senegal.”

In south Asia too, there is a greater emphasis on growth in rural employment and agricultural productivity by strengthening the agriculture-based rural non-farm economy, said Pramod Joshi, IFPRI director for South Asia and co-author of the report chapter on South Asia.

To ensure that all can participate and benefit from growth and transformation of rural areas, the report recommends investing efforts in reducing general disparities.

“Empowering women can improve agricultural productivity, overall well-being of mothers and children, and increase their capacity to contribute to rural revitalisation,” said Hazel Malapit, IFPRI researcher and co-author of report chapter on gender equality.

Beyond economic progress and human capital, rural environments must also be restored and improved to secure the many services they provide.

“To engage rural residents as custodians of valuable natural resources, their rights to these resources should be recognized in law and practice,” said Claudia Ringler, IFPRI deputy division director and co-author of the report chapter on environment.

Achieving these policy goals require investments in good governance. The report identifies three aspects of governance critical for rural revitalisation: appropriate and predictable laws and regulations; effective policy implementation and enforcement; and accountability of those in positions of power and authority.

This year’s report also features chapters on how Europe’s experience can provide lessons for rural revitalisation in developing countries; food policy trends from Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions; updated data on food policy indicators and more.

The report is the latest in an annual analysis of developments in food policy around the developing world, based on the most recent available evidence.

“With perseverance, 2019 can become the year when the will to eliminate hunger and malnutrition finally gathers momentum, forging a bright future for poor people around the world,” said IFPRI’s Fan.

IFPRI seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. It was established in 1975 to identify and analyse alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries.