Feeding a growing world population requires investments in rural areas

Social protection programs and growing agricultural productivity key to ending poverty traps

16 October 2015, Milan – Feeding the world’s growing population requires targeted investments to unleash the productive potential of millions living in rural areas, where nearly 80 percent of the world’s  poor are found, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

"It is a hard task, but it can be effectively done through a combination of investment in social protection, and targeted pro-poor investment in productive activities,” he said, speaking at an event on finance for food, held on the sidelines of the World Food Day ceremony at Expo Milan.

Social protection transfers, he said, can provide incomes and food to improve the nutrition of the poor and undernourished.

The FAO Director-General especially underlined the importance of investment in agricultural research and extension, rural infrastructure, education and natural resource management for breaking cycles of rural poverty.

Unfortunately, “In regions where hunger and extreme poverty are most widespread – South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – investments in agriculture have not kept up,” he said, adding that farmers remain the greatest source of investment in agriculture around the world.

"We need to help smallholder family farmers in more than 500 million farms worldwide to invest in their future,” the FAO Director General stressed.

FAO has estimated that agricultural production will have to increase by around 60 percent by 2050 to feed the planet. “The additional investments required for this must reach a broader perspective, as we need to fulfil the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

This week, FAO published its annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report, which  focuses on the potential of social protection schemes - such as cash transfers, school feeding and public works - to help vulnerable people move out of extreme poverty and hunger and to improve their children's health, education and life chances.

But the report also underlined that social protection alone is not enough to eradicate hunger and rural poverty and further public and private investments are needed to increase agricultural productivity, rural development and growth.

The event on the role of finance in improving food security brought together senior representatives from, multilateral development banks, the European Commission and the financial and private sector, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) Kanayo F. Nwanze, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan, and President of Italy Sergio Mattarella. 

Photo: ©FAO/ Alessandra Benedetti
Investments in agricultural development, rural infrastructure and social protection are important for breaking systemic cycles of rural poverty.