ACTION TO MEET GLOBAL GOALS STARTS IN RURAL AREAS
Today we stand at a critical juncture – historic progress in reducing hunger has stalled and the successes of recent decades are being reversed. At the same time, poverty remains stubbornly entrenched in some areas, and inequality is rising. This cannot be allowed to continue.
While the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from nearly 2 billion in 1990 to 736 million in 2015, and hunger declined for decades, the poorest and most marginalized people continue to be left behind. More than 820 million people go hungry every day, and the wealth gap is widening.
At the same time, climate change is an existential threat to our food systems, and food is our most basic need. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events continues to increase, and the costs of these disasters are spiralling. Rural people, especially small-scale farmers, are among those suffering most. Up to 1 billion people could be forced to migrate because of environmental pressures. Rising hunger is also linked to conflict, fragility and economic slowdowns. The growing cost of humanitarian aid points to the need for longer-term investments and solutions.
While these challenges are daunting, we also have a historic opportunity to reignite progress towards the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger (Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2). Official development assistance for food security has hovered at 6 per cent of total assistance for 20 years. We can, and we must, do more – not just with more funding but with new partnerships, new instruments, better models and more inclusive approaches.
Poverty, hunger and inequality can strike anywhere but they are concentrated in rural areas, where most of world’s poorest and hungry people live. That’s why the road to the SDGs runs through rural areas.
Rural people bear the brunt of these challenges yet they are also essential partners in the solutions. An estimated 63 per cent of the world’s poor people work in agriculture, the overwhelming majority on small farms. Small-scale farmers produce 50 per cent of all food calories on 30 per cent of the world’s agricultural land. Rural development with agriculture at its centre can radiate prosperity through communities and societies. Prosperous small farms can not only provide food but can also create jobs, and raise demand for locally produced goods and services. This in turn spurs opportunity, economic growth and more stable societies.
In fact, economic growth in agriculture is two to three times more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth generated in other sectors. To meet the global goals of ending extreme poverty and hunger requires stepping up targeted investment in rural areas.