Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

High-Level Meeting on Poverty Eradication:
Rural development is a gateway to poverty eradication

Remarks by the FAO Director-General, Dr. QU Dongyu 

June 30, 2020

As delivered


Entering into the Decade of Action to achieve the 2030 Agenda, we find ourselves facing multiple challenges

  • 740 million people still live with less than 1 dollar and 90 cents a day. 
  • And measures to contain the virus have pushed the world into a deep recession. 
  • The World Bank predicts that the global economy will contract by 5.2% this year, pushing about 100 million people into extreme poverty. 
  • Conflict and extreme climate conditions continue to pose a threat.

All this undermines decades of progress on poverty reduction. 

To protect and keep up progress achieved, we need new champions to lead the effort towards achieving SDG1, that is directly linked to SDG2.

And we also need to keep rural development, agriculture and food systems at the frontline of national development agendas.

After all, 80% of the extreme poor live in rural areas. 

Rural development offers the most direct route for rural population to benefit from their assets — land and labour. 

Reducing rural poverty requires increasing productivity of small-scale agriculture, diversifying economic activity and investing in human capital. 

And agriculture is the backbone of the economy in many developing nations. 

Evidence shows that investing in agriculture has a greater impact on long-term poverty reduction than investing in other sectors. 

This is especially so in low-income countries. 

So agriculture is crucial for ensuring food security as well as ending extreme poverty. 

Promoting specific crops and value chains can have a big impact on poverty reduction, and also generate nutritional benefits. 

For example, smallholder farmers can have a comparative advantage in growing high-value and labor-intensive products, like fruits, vegetables and specialty crops. 

Inclusive value chains can generate jobs with living wages and create demand for the production and services of smallholder farmers. 

Agriculture is also at the heart of our food systems, which employs 1.3 billion people globally. 

And that’s not counting 3.2 billion people who have informal jobs in the food systems. 

A food systems approach to rural development can promote access to markets, strengthen rural-urban linkages and support more sustainable agriculture production. 

A food systems approach to combating poverty focuses on the transfer of assets and skills to smallholder farmers, particularly women and young people. 

It provides them with access to markets, credit and connectivity to enhance their productivity. 


The role of agriculture and food systems is even more relevant now, as countries work to mitigate the social and economic fallout of COVID-19. 

The pandemic has hit the rural areas hard. 

Restrictions on movement disrupted agricultural production and food supply chains: 

  • Producers couldn’t access inputs and markets. 
  • Seasonal workers lost wages. 
  • Unharvested produce rotted in fields. 

One third of jobs and livelihoods in our food systems could be wiped out.

The pandemic has laid bare deep inequality in our society

As incomes fall and food prices rise, households compromise the quantity and quality of their food. 

Women and marginalized populations are especially vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. 

In order to protect poor and vulnerable people, countries must help small-scale producers manage risks and increase their productivity. 

Countries must promote non-farm economy by fostering entrepreneurship and providing skills trainings. 

They have to scale up social protection systems, and build rural infrastructure, including energy, transportation, water and sanitation. 

Finally, rural institutions need to be strengthened.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The food systems-based, multi-sectoral approach I described so far, is at the heart of the Hand-in-Hand Initiative

Launched in 2019, it is a country-owned and country-led effort based on strong partnerships to improve the agricultural potential of countries, thereby reducing poverty and eliminating hunger. 

FAO works with countries by investing in innovative and inclusive value chains and building human capital. 

To guide our efforts to achieve SDG1, we also launched the Rural Extreme Poverty Framework last year. 

Together with IFAD, FAO leads the implementation of the Decade of Family Farming to help countries strengthen smallholder production and inclusion in markets. 

A newly established FAO Office for Small Island Developing States, Least Developed and Landlocked Developing States makes sure that no one and no territory is left behind. 

Another recently created office, the Office of Innovation ensures that adoption of technologies works for the rural poor. 

FAO also leads the preparation of the Secretary General’s report on eradicating rural poverty in collaboration with UNDESA and other UN agencies. 

This is a recognition of FAO’s key role in addressing rural poverty.

And we are deeply committed to support the eradication of extreme poverty with our technical knowledge and our 75 years of expertise

FAO stands ready to strengthen South-South and triangular Cooperation, work with national governments, our partners, and the civil society toward this important goal. 

Let us join hands for a world free of poverty and hunger! 

Thank you.