With a big number of the world’s poor and malnourished people living in rural areas and dependent on the agriculture for food and livelihoods, addressing rural development needs is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This is according to the 2019 Global Food Policy Report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which was launched in Kigali on Friday
To address the problem, the report recommends that governments increase financial and policy support to rural communities.
According to the report rural areas continued to operate in crisis mode.
Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente delivers his remarks during the launch of the 2019 Global Food Policy Report in Kigali yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.
Globally, it states, 80 per cent of the extreme poor – those who live on less than $1.90 (Rwf1,600) per person per day and 75 per cent of the moderately poor – living on $1.90 to $3.20 per person per day – live in rural areas.
The prevalence of rural stunting is 26.8 per cent, as compared with 19.2 per cent in urban areas.
Speaking while officiating at the launch of the report, Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Edouard Ngirente, said that the report details evidenced-based facts, the urgency of rural revitalisation in order to address the crisis of food insecurity in rural areas.
“We strongly believe that this report will contribute to the emergence of global food policy shifts towards high investment and capitalisation for increased productivity and competitiveness of the agriculture sector,” he said.
Rural people continued to suffer from a lack of economic opportunities and even basic services, such as water, sanitation, and electricity; and those living in conflict-affected countries found themselves in a vicious cycle of instability and food insecurity, prompting migration and displacement.
The report also found that many African countries have experienced strong economic growth and rapid urbanisation, but not the industrial growth that has generated employment in other regions.
Urban migrants working in the services sector rarely find jobs that are demonstrably better than those in rural areas or have much growth potential.
Rural employment strategies, such as policies supporting agricultural commercialisation and off-farm employment, within broader strategies for agricultural transformation and development, the report recommended.
It also recommended the modernisation and diversification of agriculture to promote youth employment, including adoption of modern technologies and development of high-value crops.
It calls for complementary investments in basic services (electricity, communications) and human capital (education, healthcare) to promote vibrant rural areas and support better employment options.
In addition, the report calls for improved electricity generation to revitalise Africa’s rural areas, indicating that electricity brings numerous benefits – from lighting to sanitation to access to information – and even the potential to increase consumption of healthy, nutrient-dense foods where irrigation and refrigeration are introduced.
Yet, almost one billion people, most living in rural areas of Africa and South Asia, still lack access to electricity.
Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, told journalist, that the major aim of the report is to renew rural communities.
“Why is it important? It’s because 20 years ago, we paid attention to rural development, but then we forgot about it,” he said.
He added that in many parts of the world between 10 and 50 per cent of the youth are either unemployed or underemployment, with the latter implying that they may have jobs, casual or part time, but it does not guarantee them a good income.
He said that funding for agriculture is still lacking, citing Africa where, on average, countries spend between 3 and 6 per cent of their public expenditure, which is less than the recommended minimum of 10 per cent under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.
“We must make sure that investments come to rural areas to support agriculture, agriculture research, improving market and capacity,” he said, adding that they will help the youth to run businesses on their own, and get well-paying jobs.
Gérardine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that Africa should learn from countries like Korea and China, whose development was driven by strong investment in agriculture for 40 years.
This, she added, bolstered rural development, research and promoted marketing of farm produce.
“The report addresses various services needed for the rural areas to develop. Among them, it talks about agriculture as a business, which refers to food system including production, transporting produce, adding value to it, and its commercialisation,” she said.