Education for rural people to boost agricultural productivity in Latin America
FAO, UNESCO and other organizations join to fight illiteracy
2 August 2004, Santiago de Chile/Rome -- An international campaign on education for rural people aims to improve agricultural productivity and reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty in Latin American, FAO announced today.
The campaign will be launched at a regional workshop on "Food Security and Education for Rural People" (3-5 August 2004) in Santiago de Chile.
Organized by FAO and UNESCO, the workshop also involves the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the World Bank and the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS).
The FAO/UNESCO education campaign for Latin America is part of the global education for rural people partnership initiative, led by FAO and implemented in collaboration with UNESCO and more than 100 partners, including NGOs and universities. It is a follow-up to the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Globally, 1 billion people are illiterate of which about 130 million are children. Most of them live in the less developed regions where the majority of the 840 million of undernourished people are also concentrated.
The majority of the undernourished and illiterate people in Latin America live in rural areas, FAO said.
A recent regional study on education for rural people in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru will provide background for discussion.
In Guatemala for example, the country with the highest percentage of rural population in the region, the adult age group (25-59 years) in urban areas had an average of 6.5 years of schooling in 1998 while the same age group in rural areas had only 1.9 years of school attendance.
"Expanding and improving education can be one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Malnutrition rates decline with increased literacy, especially female literacy," FAO expert Lavinia Gasperini said.
Research shows that a farmer with four years of elementary education is almost 9 percent more productive than a farmer with no education. When inputs such as fertilizers, new seeds or farm machinery are available, the productivity increase rises to 13 percent.
An increasing number of countries in Latin America are recognizing the importance of education for rural people and are adopting policies to make it more accessible and relevant.
Almost half the rural schools in Colombia, for example, have adopted the "New School" model (Escuela Nueva). These are schools that emphasize participatory learning and employ a curriculum that combines the national core content with local modules relevant to the culture and needs of rural people.
Communities and parents are actively engaged in the schools. Drop out rates are far lower and third grade scores in Spanish and mathematics are significantly higher than in traditional schools.
In Mexico an education programme, Programa de Education Salud y Alimentacion (PROGRESA), provides cash transfers to more than 2.6 million poor rural families as long as they send their children to school.
The programme also provides nutritional supplements for infants and small children in participating families. After its first three years in operation, enrollment for the critical transition year from primary to secondary school increased by 20 percent for girls and 10 percent for boys.
About 100 policy-makers and development planners from Ministries of Agriculture, Ministries of Education and Civil Society Organizations will attend the workshop.
(+39) 06 570 53473
e-mail this article