IFADs flagship publication – Rural Poverty Report 2011 – New realities, new challenges: new opportunities for tomorrow’s generation – is a comprehensive review of the daily reality facing the world’s one billion poor rural people, the challenges they face and the opportunities that are emerging for them to lift themselves out of poverty. This year’s report is the first edition since 2001.
A high-level discussion event will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 3 May under the auspices of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) together with the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the country’s premier research institute on international issues. The discussions will focus on rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and on the development solutions that will enable poor rural people to harness new opportunities to generate economic growth.
A panel of five eminent speakers will highlight issues related to pro-poor rural policies and gender and youth dimensions of smallholder agriculture and rural enterprise development. They will also explore how investment in Africa’s agricultural sector could spark wide economic development across the continent.
Scheduled to take place just prior to the World Economic Forum’s Africa meeting in Cape Town, this event will bring together heads of state and other key leaders from the region’s government, business, media, non-profit and academic sectors.
While Africa continues to face enormous challenges in reducing rural poverty, a vision of economic renaissance led by smallholder farmers is beginning to take hold. There is growing belief that Africa can produce enough not only to feed its own citizens but to export a growing surplus. Africa can make a real contribution to ensuring food security for the world while also growing its economy and pulling its citizens out of poverty.
Related advances are already taking place:
As a result, smallholder farmers have become more productive and more prosperous. While noting the persistence of poverty in many areas of Africa, IFAD’s Rural Poverty Report also points out the decline in the proportion of extremely poor people among all rural people over the last decade. Clearly the seeds have been planted to harvest a turnaround in Africa’s fortunes.
Global population will continue to grow over the coming decades, and it will grow fastest in cities. To feed the world's estimated 9 billion people in 2050, agricultural production will have to rise by 70 per cent. Much of that increase will need to come from developing countries.
Raising their agricultural production is critical to global food security in the coming decades.
According to the report, profound changes in agricultural markets are giving rise to new and promising opportunities for smallholder farmers in developing countries. As a result, farmers will have more incentives to boost their productivity.
But helping them get access to these markets – and increase their negotiating power in them – is key. So is providing farmers with support to make their farming systems more productive, more sustainable and more resilient. Using resources efficiently and adapting to the effects of climatic and other shocks will be the hallmarks of smart farming in the coming decades.
In some sub-Saharan African countries, more than 60 per cent of the population is under 25 years old. While young people are a huge potential resource, many are migrating to cities in search of opportunities, leaving behind an increasingly ageing population. It is vital – and ultimately beneficial for everyone – to turn this trend around. Reality will quickly dim the bright lights of the city for this generation. But if they stay on the farm, these upcoming smallholder farmers will be in the forefront of innovative, knowledge-intensive agriculture. Substantial and sustained investments focused on young farmers are essential to harness their energies and ambitions.
Clearly, it is time to look at poor smallholder farmers in a completely new way – not as charity cases but as people whose innovation, dynamism and hard work will bring prosperity to their communities and greater food security to the world in the decades ahead.
IFAD's Rural Poverty Report highlights four areas where particular attention and investment is needed.
The high-level panelists will be invited to discuss key questions on rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. These include the following:
How do we ensure that the increasing public and private investments in Africa’s agricultural sector provide more results for smallholder farmers than in the past?