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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Eradicating extreme poverty: what is the role of agriculture?

Florence Egal
Florence EgalFood Security and Nutrition expertItaly

I have read with interest the contributions and attempted to answer the questions. Apologies if this is off track. In general I am missing a chronological/historical perspective at local level: when did extreme poverty appear? why? how did people attempt to cope?

1.     Under what conditions can agriculture succeed in lifting people out of extreme poverty? Particularly those households with limited access to productive resources.

Two questions:

  • What do we mean by agriculture? If we include food processing, marketing and catering, but also eco-system services, eco-tourism etc, we stand a much better chance to improve the livelihoods of extremely poor households – in particular those with limited access to productive resources - and to contribute to sustainable local development
  • Who are the extremely poor people? Smallholder farmers who have fallen in destitution – often because they have lost their access to productive resources -, landless labourers, migrants from rural areas? Or people who have never been involved in agriculture before but re-engage in agriculture-related social and economic activities (e.g. community gardens, social and solidarity economy)?

2.    What is the role of ensuring more sustainable natural resource management in supporting the eradication of extreme poverty?

The productivist approach to agriculture development and the economic model which have been promoted in the last decades have often ignored sustainability and led to the degradation of natural resources (soil, water, forests, biodiversity) but also to the marginalization of vulnerable households, increased socio-economic differentiation and disruption/erosion of traditional social networks.  Social and environmental issues are closely related. Agenda 2030 can only be reached if we ensure that the social, environmental and economic dimensions of development are jointly addressed.

4.    What set of policies are necessary to address issues connecting food security and extreme poverty eradication in rural areas?

I am not sure why we should limit ourselves to rural areas. Food insecurity and extreme poverty exist in urban areas and in a context of accelerated - transitory and permanent - migration, it is increasingly difficult – and counter-productive - to draw the line.

We should first identify the policies responsible for increased food insecurity and poverty at territorial level, modify them and proceed with the necessary adaptation of the legal and regulatory framework.

We should adopt a territorial approach and promote sustainable local development, giving priority to local markets and resilience and generating employment in post-harvest activities.  Identifying and reviewing promising practices and feeding them back into policies and programmes (including removing regulatory and legal obstacles), as well as participatory planning and capacity-building of local institutions will be essential.