Thursday, March 28, 2019

Crises in rural areas threatens progress in hunger, poverty reduction

Marked by deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world, threatening to slow the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global climate targets, and improved food and nutrition security, according to the 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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. The report calls for rural revitalisation – to overcome these challenges –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 director general of IFPRI Shenggen Fan. "Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade," added 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," administrator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and co-author of the lead chapter in the report Achim Steiner said, adding that 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.
The report emphasises 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: creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities, achieving gender equality, addressing environmental challenges, improving access to energy and investing in good governance.
"In south Asia, there is a greater emphasis on growth in rural employment, and agricultural productivity by strengthening of the agriculture-based rural nonfarm economy," said director for South Asia at the IFPRI, and co-author of the report chapter on South Asia, Pramod Joshi. To ensure 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 researcher at IFPRI, and co-author of report chapter on gender equality, Hazel Malapit.
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 recognised in law and practice,” said deputy division director, and co-author of the report chapter on environment, Claudia Ringler.
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. 

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