Education Knowledge

October 2002

Compendium of experiences of Italian NGOs in basic education for rural people

by Marina Emiliani
in collaboration with Lavinia Gasperini
Extension, Education and Communication Service
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division

Part 1 of 3

1 2 3

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

This compendium is based on and acknowledges technical inputs received from the Italian NGOs quoted in the study.


I. A Call for New Partnership in 'Education for Rural People'

On 19 April 2002 a meeting was held on "Basic education for rural people: the contribution of the Italian non-governmental organizations" at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen partnerships in order to increase access to quality education for the rural poor, and to discuss the results of research undertaken on the same topic. Sixteen Italian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) plus various FAO staff members from different departments participated. The meeting was organized by the Education Group of the Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE), Sustainable Development Department, FAO.

The Compendium of experiences of Italian non-governmental organizations in basic education for rural people details research undertaken as part of FAO's initiative to support basic Education for rural people. The Compendium includes summaries of 37 education projects benefiting rural people which are identified among the activities of approximately 150 Italian NGOs.

Rural-urban disparities are issues of major concern for the international community and FAO member countries, as are disparities in education in rural areas. Seventy percent of the world's poor live in rural areas, where children's access to education, adult literacy and quality education are still much lower than in urban areas.

In this regard, F AO and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are reaching out to key partners to join them in their concern that the Millennium Development Goals1 of poverty and hunger eradication and universal primary education will not be achieved by 2015, if rural people do not have better access to basic education. While education is a right on its own, basic education2 is also one of the conditions for food security and sustainable development. This is why FAO and UNESCO are building a new partnership to support Education for rural people. The partnership, launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg on 3 September 2002, is a new flagship for a worldwide initiative on Education for all (EFA). The partnership is open to members committed to work individually or together to promote and facilitate basic quality education for rural populations. NGOs and other civil society organizations (under no financial obligation other than the one already undertaken through projects they promote in favour of basic education in rural areas) are invited to join FAO and UNESCO in a partnership designed to increase coordinated and collaborative efforts with, and for, rural populations.

1 United Nations Millennium Development Goals: 1)Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2) Achieve universal primary education; 3) Promote gender equality and empower women; 4) Reduce child mortality; 5) Improve maternal health; 6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) Ensure environmental sustainability; 8) Develop a global partnership for development. For more information see:

2Basic education refers to a whole range of educational activities that take place in different settings and that aim to meet basic learning needs as defined in the World Declaration on Education for All (1990). It thus comprises both formal schooling (primary and sometimes lower secondary) as well as a wide variety of non-formal and informal public and private educational activities offered to meet the defined basic learning needs of groups of people of all ages. The World Declaration on Education for All states in its first article that "Every person - child, youth and adult - shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs". It goes on to say that these needs comprise essential learning tools, such as literacy and numeracy, as well as the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes people require to function well and continue learning in their particular environment. It also acknowledges that "the scope of basic learning needs and how they should be met varies with individual countries and cultures, and inevitably changes with the passage of time". Source: Education for Rural Development and Food Security, Addressing Global Changes, Chapter II, pp 40 -41. FAO & UNESCO-IIEP, 2002.

II. A Summary of the Main Research Findings

The projects described in the Compendium indicate that Italian NGOs are serving a wide variety of vital learning needs for different subgroups of children, youth and adults. They address the poorer rural areas of the developing world, often reaching people who are not assisted by state interventions. Crucial issues for rural development and sustainable livelihoods are targeted, such as: literacy as a cross-cutting issue, basic life skills related to nutrition, health and HIV/AIDS, agriculture, small and micro enterprises, human rights and broadening community participation.
Some non formal education projects address similar learning needs as formal education, but target people who either have not had access to schooling or who were forced to abandon it due to poverty. These projects provide people with the opportunity to access basic education. Moreover, they are directed at serving important basic learning needs, which are often disregarded by formal schooling.
Some important lessons that can be drawn from the research are: