Education for Rural People
and Food Security
A Cross Country Analysis

Education for Rural People and Food Security
A Cross Country Analysis

Pasquale De Muro and Francesco Burchi

Natural Resources Management and Environment Department - NR
Department of Economics - ROMA TRE

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome, 2007


    Food insecurity is at the heart of the international movement to overcome hunger and poverty. The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sets as its target the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, with a target of halving the incidence of poverty and hunger by 2015. This research contributes to that process, by analysing the connections among rural poverty, hunger and education for rural people. The paper focuses on rural people, because they are among those groups suffering the most from extreme hunger. Using household-level data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for 48 low-income countries, the study examines through visual and statistical means the co-variation between hunger and lack of education. The study finds that hunger is highly correlated with educational deprivation. Moreover, the correlations are highest at the primary level, decreasing in strength with higher levels of education. In coherence with the Capability Approach, which stresses educationís active role in developing peopleís capabilities, these results suggest that to fight food insecurity, governments, international organizations and civil society should invest more in the education sector, especially primary education for rural people. Greater investment in quality primary education is likely to make substantive progress possible towards achievement of MDGs 1 and 3, 2.1 Our results suggest, for example, that if a low-income country such as Mali, among those with the lowest levels of education, could double access to primary education by rural people, it could substantially reduce rural food insecurity, by around 25 percent. Given the concentration of population and poverty in rural areas in most low-income countries, education for rural people can be seen as a key factor for promoting overall national food security. Increasing educational participation will require substantially greater investments of resources and a mobilization of political will at international, national, and local levels. This paper aims at raising awareness primarily among policy makers outside education of the central role of education in fighting hunger and poverty.

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