052 Transforming food and agriculture to end extreme poverty and hunger


  • FAO
  • Dominican Republic
  • IFAD


Achieving the 2030 Agenda will depend on the transformation of agriculture and rural areas, where most of the extreme poor and hungry live. Since the 1990s, rural transformations have lifted more than 750 million rural people above the poverty line, but progress has been uneven.

Today, about 783 million live in extreme poverty. They are also the ones who face highest levels of food insecurity and hunger. Extreme poor households spend substantial portions of their income on food compared to others, which makes them more vulnerable to hunger in the face of income shocks. They have also less access to nutritious and quality food and their diets are less diversified. Paradoxically, the majority of poor and undernourished live in rural areas and most rely directly, or indirectly, on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods.

Agriculture and the related off-farm sector have the potential to provide jobs, food and income to the fast-growing world population and lift millions of people out of extreme poverty and hunger. As countries develop, jobs will shift from agriculture to other sectors, but the need for food will keep growing, as much as the world population will do. Projections leave no space for doubts: the extreme poor will continue to depend at least partly on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods for many years to come.

To make rural transformation inclusive and leave no one behind, countries will need to invest in rural people who will be at the centre of the transition to sustainable agriculture. This includes boosting small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, expanding the reach of social protection systems, and creating off-farm employment in food supply and value chains. Governments will also need to invest in dedicated programmes that can address the specific vulnerabilities and social and economic exclusion of the extreme poor. Growing more food and ending extreme poverty will need to happen in a context of increasingly changing climate and scarce natural resources.

This side event aims to discuss the role of food and agriculture in ending extreme poverty and hunger, focusing on the experiences of different country. Discussion will focus on:

  • the characteristics of today's extreme poor
  • how hunger and extreme poverty are related
  • the different strategies that countries, IOs, and CSO are proposing to end extreme poverty and hunger from the perspective of food security, agriculture, food systems and sustainable management of resources
  • how well embedded these sectors are in poverty reduction strategies
  • how the international community is supporting countries in ending of extreme poverty
  • actions needed to meet SDG 1 and 2

Key speakers/presenters

  • Key note presentation: What is extreme poverty and how is it related to hunger?
  • Mrs. Ana Paula de la O Campos, Strategic Programme Advisor, Rural Poverty Reduction, FAO

Interactive panel discussion:

  • H. E. Mario Arvelo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Dominican Republic to the UN Agencies in Rome.
  • H.E. Mohammad Hossein Emadi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of I.R. Iran to the UN Agencies in Rome
  • Ms. Carla Montesi, Director for Planet and Prosperity, Directorate General International Cooperation and Development  (DEVCO C1), European Commission
  • Ms. Sofia Monsalve, Secretary General, FIAN International
  • Ms. Aslihan Arslan, Senior Agricultural Development EconomistResearch and Impact Assessment Division, IFAD
  • Ms. Nichola Dyer, Program coordinator of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme of (GAFSP), World Bank

Main themes/issues discussed

The side event ‘Transforming food and agriculture to end extreme poverty and hunger’ aimed to raise awareness on the role of agriculture, food systems, and the sustainable use of natural resources to reach SDGs targets 1.1 and 2.1 by 2030. The event addressed the following questions, focusing on the experiences of different country contexts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger:

  • What are the characteristics of today’s extreme poor in your country? Where do they live and where do they do for their livelihoods? What are key interactions of hungry and poverty?
  • What are the different strategies that countries, international organizations, and civil society are proposing to end extreme poverty and hunger from the perspective of food security, agriculture, food systems and sustainable management of resources? How well embedded are these sectors in poverty reduction strategies?
  • What are the different actors of the international community doing to accelerate the eradication of extreme poverty from these angles?

Summary of key points

Most of the extreme poor – about 80 percent – live in rural areas. The rural extreme poor are different from the urban extreme poor and the non-poor. Their incomes depend greatly on agricultural activities, either from work on their farms, or agricultural wage employment. It is this reliance on agriculture that makes the rural extreme poor highly vulnerable to climatic shocks and weather events. While agriculture plays a big role in their income and food security, the rural extreme poor also diversify their sources of income in other non-agricultural activities.

Numerous constraints however, impede their economic inclusion in various sectors, such as insufficient access to basic infrastructure (e.g. water, electricity, sanitation, and roads), and inadequate access to public services (e.g. health, education, connectivity, and markets). There are also great disparities among the extreme poor in rural areas. The rural extreme poor are often geographically concentrated in marginal rural areas – e.g. high mountain, pastoral, arid, rainforest jungle, small islands – with low population densities,
poor agroecological endowments, limited access to markets and few sources of employment.

Investments in infrastructure and basic services often do not reach these more isolated areas, which tend to be more disaster-prone. In contrast, extreme poverty is “individualized” in more favourable areas – with good agroecological conditions and connections to dynamic products and labour markets. The extreme poor in these areas – including rural youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities – have lower asset endowments (land, education, social capital), and fewer opportunities to increase the returns on those endowments. Therefore, strategies to eradicate extreme poverty need to consider the specific contexts and needs of the different rural extreme poor.
Extreme poverty, hunger and undernourishment often go hand in hand. Extreme poverty influences hunger and nutritional status, affecting the ability of individuals and households to access food through purchase or production. Extreme poverty is also linked to low access to essential health services and basic infrastructure, which are fundamental for food security. At the same time, hunger and undernourishment affect the future of young generations, causing learning difficulties, poor health, and lower productivity and earnings over a lifetime.

Key take away messages

  • A fundamental precondition for ending extreme poverty is countries’ commitment. This entails a strong political commitment, including dedicated resources, strong institutions and empowered citizens. However, the Representative of Iran emphasized that it is important to have a systems approach to the problem of hunger and poverty: if there are better food systems, there is also more employment for the rural poor.
  • Stimulate pro-poor economic growth and income generation opportunities, means fostering a pattern of growth and structural change that generates employment – and in particular more productive, decent and labour-intensive employment on a large scale – in sectors where the majority of poor and extreme poor people work – for example, in agriculture and the environmental sectors. The Representative of the EU stressed that there is growth potential, particularly in Low Income Countries, where the development of agriculture can attract further investment. She also emphasized the need to invest in research for innovation in small-scale production.
  • The application and implementation of the Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security contribute to the improvement and development of legal and organizational frameworks regulating tenure systems, enhancing transparency as well as the capacity of all persons concerned with tenure governance. These actions are particularly important in the current context of escalating killings of human and environmental rights defenders. The Representative of FIAN International highlighted the need to address poverty reduction from the perspective of rights, particularly the importance of access to land, in the context of megaprojects frequently been undertaken without consulting the local population, or seeking the right of free, prior, informed consent.
  • Technology innovation to reduce poverty and hunger has an important role, but it has to be adequate, and address the needs of the extreme poor. The representative of IFAD mentioned that sometimes simple technologies, like cellphones, can have the highest effects in poverty reduction, rather than complex technologies. More research is still needed in this field, as well as measure their effectiveness in poverty reduction. However, the discussion concluded that technologies are not neutral and bring positive results, but also exclusion. Technologies that are expansive or are not scale neutral can benefit the ones who can pay or the have larger benefit of scale, which is generally the case, and resulting in the increase of the poverty gap.
CFS Side Event 52 - Transforming Food and Agriculture to end Extreme Poverty and Hunger