The rural poverty Report
By the experts of the international fund for agricultural development (IFAD)
As early as September 2010, momagri was pointing out the issue of rural poverty1: While the FAO’s latest figures were showing some decline in world hunger, it turned out that, in fact, 56 percent of those suffering from hunger were farmers in developing countries, that is to say one out of every two people!
And the very fact that farmers are the worst affected by the scourge of hunger can lead to dramatic consequences for the world’s future, since they make up the foundation of the fight against food insecurity.
In its latest “Rural Poverty Report”2 published in January 2011, the IFAD once again assesses rural poverty and, in the excerpt we are publishing below, reminds us that if we want to fight hunger and curb poverty, sustainable farming must be the keystone of a wide-ranging development policy.
Momagri Editorial Board
Between 2006 and 2008, international food prices doubled. The effects of the price surge reverberated globally, though the worst hit were low-income, food-deficit countries with meagre stocks. In total, about 100 million poor rural and urban people were pushed into the ranks of the world’s hungry. While international food prices have declined since mid-2008, they are still substantially higher than prior to the price surge, and they are likely to remain at 2010 levels or higher for the next decade. To date, much of the production response to higher prices has come from rich countries. Looking to the future, however, it is calculated that feeding a global population of just over 9 billion in 2050 will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production, while ensuring food security for all will demand that issues of access and affordability are also addressed. This will require that agriculture – particularly smallholder agriculture – play a much more effective role in these countries, and that greater and more effective efforts are made to address the concerns of poor rural people as food buyers.
For decades, agriculture in developing countries has operated in a context of low global prices for food products coupled, in many countries, with unfavourable domestic environments. Low levels of investment in agriculture, inappropriate policies, thin and uncompetitive markets, weak rural infrastructure, inadequate production and financial services, and a deteriorating natural resource base have all contributed to creating an environment in which it has frequently been risky and unprofitable for smallholders to participate in agricultural markets.
In recent years, there has been renewed interest in agriculture as a key driver of development and poverty reduction. And in the aftermath of the food price surge, a number of global initiatives have emerged that seek to revitalize agriculture in developing countries. At the same time, growing attention is being given both to issues of adaptation to climate change in smallholder agriculture, and to ways in which poor rural people can participate in, and benefit from, market opportunities linked to environmental services and climate change mitigation. Also, the role of the state in agriculture and rural poverty reduction is being reassessed, and there is new interest in thinking through the role that public policies and investment can play in mitigating market volatility and assuring national food security.
There is broad agreement that growth in agriculture usually generates the greatest improvements for the poorest people – particularly in poor, agriculture-based economies. This report recognizes that agriculture, if better suited to meeting new environmental and market risks and opportunities facing smallholders, can remain a primary engine of rural growth and poverty reduction. And this is particularly true in the poorest countries.
In all countries, however, creating new opportunities for rural poverty reduction and economic growth requires a broad approach to rural development, which includes the rural non-farm economy as well as agriculture. A healthy agricultural sector is often critical for stimulating diversified rural growth. But there are also new, non-agricultural drivers of rural growth emerging in many contexts, which can be harnessed.
The basic premise put forth in this report is that the need of poor rural people to manage the multiple risks they face constrains their ability to take up new opportunities, in agriculture and the non-farm economy alike. Throughout the report, emphasis is placed on the crucial role that policies, investments and good governance can play in reducing risk and helping poor rural people to better manage them as a way of opening up opportunities. However, new forms of collaboration between state and society also need to be cultivated, involving rural people and their organizations, the business sector and a variety of civil society actors. These are crucial for the development of effective tools for risk management and mitigation.
1 Please see momagri September 27, 2010 article: http://www.momagri.org/UK/editorials/World-Hunger-There-may-be-more-than-meets-the-eye_746.html
2 The report is available from the IFAD website: http://www.ifad.org/rpr2011/index.htm