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Policy Support and Governance
©Sebastian Liste/NOOR for FAO

Rural Poverty Reduction

Income inequality is growing worldwide, poverty levels remain unacceptably high, and the number of poor in Africa is increasing. The World Bank estimates that 767 million people live on less than $1.90 a day (2012).

Hunger and extreme poverty can be eliminated by 2030.

About 75% of the extreme poor live in rural areas. The agricultural sector, therefore has a key role to play in poverty reduction and improving rural livelihoods. 

FAO provides evidence-based policy support, statistics and program design for rural development. This work includes promoting inclusive economic growth; long-term support to the rural poor; social protection; empowerment of rural women; decent rural employment; equitable access to land and resources; and strengthening rural institutions. 

Key policy approaches include boosting social policies, particularly social protection; strengthening the capacity of producer organizations and rural institutions; and drastically increasing investment in rural infrastructure and pro-poor services to create new income generating opportunities.

Key policy messages

·        In low-income economies, GDP growth from agriculture is 2 to 3 times as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating from other sectors. Investment in small-scale family farming and in the livelihoods of fishers, forest dwellers and herders, is an engine for sustainable poverty reduction.

·        Policies that support the productivity, profitability and ecological sustainability of small-scale family farming contribute to decent employment and rural poverty reduction. Other poverty reduction policy options include supporting non-agricultural rural sectors, providing social security measures and supporting the transition into alternative decent employment options.

·        Policies to reduce rural poverty must be harmonised and mutually supporting across government ministries, including not only agriculture but also public infrastructure and services, social affairs, employment, health, education and the environment.

·        Globally, 60% of employed women work in the agricultural sector. Policies to achieve rural poverty reduction must be gender-equitable and gender-sensitive and strengthen rural women’s economic empowerment.

·        Ending rural poverty is critical in order for Member Nations to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, and in particular Goal 1 on poverty and Goal 2 on hunger and food security. The SDGs call for leaving no one behind, and for FAO this means small fishers, forest dwellers, small family farms and herders, rural women and youth, and indigenous peoples.

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