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Rural Poverty Reduction

Since 1990, the world has halved the number of extreme poor. According to World Bank estimates, however, there are still 767 million people living under USD 1.90 a day (2012).

Hunger and extreme poverty can be eliminated by 2030.

About 75% of the extreme poor live in rural areas; most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Yet, poor people are also the most hungry because they have no income to buy food and often live in areas affected by conflict and climate change. 

FAO’s flagship report, the State of Food and Agriculture 2017, demonstrates that inclusive agriculture off-farm economies can create jobs, provide an income and eliminate hunger in rural areas, giving poor people a chance to feed their families and live a decent life. 

Country legal frameworks are the backbone for improving the livelihoods of the rural poor. FAO helps countries develop evidence-based policies, strategies and programmes to achieve SDG 1 (No poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero hunger) together. This work includes promoting inclusive structural transformation, more and better access to land and resources, income diversification, decent jobs, gender equality and strengthening rural institutions and access to social protection for the rural poor.

Key policy messages

·        In low-income countries, investing in agriculture has a greater impact on reducing poverty than investing in other sectors, as it offers the most direct route for rural people to benefit from their main assets: land and labour. Investment in small-scale family farming and in the livelihoods of fishers, forest dwellers and herders, is an engine for sustainable poverty reduction.

·        However, promoting agriculture is not enough. Key policy approaches to end poverty also include boosting social policies, promoting coherence between agriculture and social protection; strengthening the capacity of producer organizations and rural institutions; and increasing investment in rural infrastructure, research and services to create new income generating opportunities in the off-farm sector for the rural poor.

·        Policies to reduce rural poverty must be harmonised and mutually supporting across government ministries, including Ministries of agriculture, public infrastructure and services, social affairs, employment, health, education, finance, planning and 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.

·        The SDGs call for leaving no one behind, and for FAO this means helping family farmers, small fishers, forest dwellers, and pastoralists, rural women and youth, and indigenous peoples to make a living from agriculture and rural areas.

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