Policy Support and Governance Gateway
©FAO/Luis Tato

Rural Poverty Reduction

Between 1990 and 2017, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined from 1.9 billion to 696 million. However, the devastating socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reversed poverty reduction trends for the first time since 1990. Sustainable Development Goal 1  (End poverty in all its forms everywhere) will not be met if urgent and transformative action is not taken.

FAO supports countries to develop tailored   policies, strategies and programmes to eradicate poverty, end hunger and reduce inequalities, with a focus on rural areas.

In recent years, extreme poor became more rural. Even though rural people represent 48 percent   of the world’s population, they comprise 80 percent of the extreme poor. More than ever, countries need to focus on rural areas to eradicate poverty.

FAO supports countries to focus their sectoral policies on the rural poor  to ensure food security and nutrition, promote economic inclusion, foster environmentally sustainable livelihoods and increase resilience against risks and shocks.

Key policy messages

·        While there is still limited evidence on how COVID-19 has and will impact rural and urban populations, there is no doubt that poverty will remain a predominantly rural phenomenon in the years to come. The long-term effects of the economic recession risk to further exacerbate rural extreme poverty and rural-urban inequalities. In addition, population growth in the poorest regions will continue to increase the number of poor people residing in rural areas. A greater focus on rural areas is still needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1  (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), as well as most other SDGs, with 70 percent of the targets requiring action in rural areas.

·        The pandemic has made it more evident how pre-existing and deepening inequalities weaken progress on poverty eradication, notably with the poor having to cope with less protection from job loss, less access to health services and support, and with a lower resilience capacity due to low savings and assets.

·        The pandemic’s impacts on poverty are multidimensional and, while positive policy responses such as the rapid expansion of social protection sought to protect households from immediate income loss, there is a need for a long-term, multisectoral COVID-19 response and a bold recovery plan. A bold recovery should also aim at building back a more sustainable, resilient and equitable economy and society, tackling inequalities that undermine the capacity of the economic system to reduce poverty, and which ultimately hinder economic growth itself.

·        Although investing in agriculture remains the main channel to lift rural people out of poverty, it 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.

·        The goal of eradicating poverty in rural areas cannot be separated from climate action and the food systems’ transformation agenda. Mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as a renewed effort to achieve healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems will be challenging, particularly for small-scale producers and rural populations. Therefore, it is imperative that both agendas place their main contributors at the center: the rural poor, as well as vulnerable populations such as family farmers, small-scale fishers, forest dwellers, pastoralists, women, youth, and indigenous peoples will need to be the protagonists of any needed change to ensure that we leave no one behind.

·        Given the multidimensional nature of poverty, it is essential to reinforce the role of governments at all levels and across relevant sectors, and develop governance arrangements that can enable the design, implementation and monitoring of the coordinated multisectoral policies to eradicate rural poverty. These governance arrangements should be transparent and inclusive, in particular by integrating communities’ rights and building on the fundamental role of rural organizations in delivering services, articulating demands, and representing rural people in policy dialogue and development processes.

Featured resources

Share this page