FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa
©FAO

For many people, particularly the young, the pull of urban areas is far stronger than that of rural areas. Investing in rural areas, creating opportunities and reducing the imbalance between urban and rural areas can be a driver for rural economic growth, for increasing production of healthy food, for feeding cities and for managing resources more effectively and sustainably.

Priority 1: Rural transformation for youth employment and income

There is a growing divide between the conditions of living in the region’s urban and rural areas. The majority of poor people live in rural areas, with poor basic services (health, education, communications), low exposure to and opportunities for innovation, limited access to and investment in productive infrastructure, services and value chains, low access to social protection and limited long-term decent employment opportunities.

Small-scale family farming (SSFF) is the backbone of rural communities representing more than 80 percent of agricultural production on 75 to 85 percent of the agricultural landholdings in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, and the major source of income in rural areas. It holds the potential to significantly improve the food security, nutrition and livelihood of rural families that rely on agriculture for their survival.

The programme focuses on enhancing productivity and income of small-scale farmers, focusing on youth employment and women empowerment, and the development of inclusive value chains. It adopts an integrated approach focusing on boosting agricultural productivity, the promotion of decent rural employment and an inclusive economic growth that benefits farming communities in the region.

To address these challenges, FAO interventions aim at:

  • Raising incomes (especially smallholder incomes) through the implementation of policies
  • Strengthening of institutions that support the development of market-oriented agriculture for smallholders, better integrate smallholders, in particular women, in profitable value chains, through enhancing the capacity of producers and their associations.
  • Increasing living standards and farm- and non-farm job opportunities that are attractive to youth encouraging investments in infrastructure and services.
  • Facilitating rural entrepreneurship and the establishment of small businesses.
  • Strengthening capacities of smallholder farmers to participate in intra-regional and international trade by identifying barriers and opportunities, and the policies and actions that will facilitate trade.

Facts and Figures

  • 40% of the region’s population live in rural areas.
  • 26% of the region’s youth, and 40% of the region’s women, are unemployed. These rates are higher than any other region in the world.
  • 70% of the region’s poor live in rural areas.
  • 13% of the rural population and 25% of rural youth are unemployed, with higher unemployment among women than men.
  • Rural wages average 1/3 of urban wages.