Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



This Paper, together with the four accompanying Discussion Papers, is the result of a joint endeavour of the Advisory Committee to the Conference on Hunger and Poverty - A Popular Coalition for Action. All the papers were prepared and finalized through a process of intensive consultation among all the members of the Committee and on the basis of their inputs. Thus the Overview and Discussion Papers reflect the shared view of all members and, as such, they constitute the first, concrete step toward the main objective of the Conference: to develop a joint agenda to combat hunger and poverty.

The Advisory Committee consisted of coalitions of NGOs from all regions, three research institutes, the European Commission, (Directorate General Development Cooperation - DG VIII), two members of the European Parliament and four Multilateral Institutions.

Bahman Mansuri, IFAD
Member of the Advisory Committee

I. Introduction

The Conference on Hunger and Poverty seeks to promote, through its participants, a network within nations and communities, between public institutions and civil-society organizations, that will mobilize the popular will to fight hunger and poverty in the world. For this network to be effective, all partners in development, including civil society, must collaborate. There are thousands of people's initiatives which release the creativity and productive capacity of millions, that help to move millions of people from deprivation to productivity. But enough has not been done to analyze and replicate the results, and apply them on a larger scale to other impoverished areas. Identifying and sharing such initiatives, especially those undertaken by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society at large, as well as finding methods for their scaling up, is the key objective of the Conference.

More specifically, the Conference has five main objectives: to define priority areas of action to fight hunger and poverty; to identify the most effective programmes and policies for their realization; to build a consensus on these priorities and forge strategic coalitions for an active pursuit of such programmes and policies; to mobilize the popular will behind these efforts; and to increase public awareness about the consequences of passivity and inaction to fight the growing scourge of hunger and poverty. This paper is primarily intended to provide an overview of the most important issues related to the subject matter of the Conference. The four accompanying Discussion Papers will go in more detail regarding the Priority Areas for Action; they are the documents that will be considered and discussed at the Workshop.

II. Nature and Dimensions of the Problems of Hunger and Poverty

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in 1990 about 790 million people in developing countries, or 20% of their population, were chronically undernourished, in the sense that their daily energy intake over a year was less than that required to maintain body weight and support light work activity 1/. In the same year, approximately 180 million preschool children -- 34% of the world's children below five years of age -- were underweight, indicating malnourishment. Approximately 400 million women of childbearing age -- or 45% of the total -- have a weight below 45 kg. This does not mean that all are malnourished (or that every woman weighing more than 45 kg is well nourished), but a weight this low is a readily available indicator that is more or less linked with undernutrition, and often indicates obstetric risk. This proportion varies from 62% in South Asia and 44% in South East Asia, to 21% for sub-Saharan Africa and 10% for South America 2/. Malnutrition is most devastating for preschool children and pregnant women, but it is debilitating for people of all ages.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 1991 more than two billion people worldwide were at risk from micronutrient deficiencies. The latest data show that 655 million people suffer from iodine deficiency-induced goiter; 14 million preschool children from vitamin-A deficiency-related xerophthalmia; and as many as 2 150 million people, mainly women, from iron-deficiency anemia. Throughout the world, up to one billion persons suffered from learning disabilities, mental retardation, poor health, blindness, low work capacity, and premature death directly resulting from micronutrient deficiencies.

These figures, although unacceptably high, are more positive than generally assumed: since 1975, the incidence of hunger has declined steadily, and fewer people are undernourished now than fifteen years ago, notwithstanding the addition of approximately 1.1 billion persons to the developing world's population. However, this globally positive scenario masks very different regional realities. Indeed, the same data, disaggregated by geographical region, show that the 1980s were a period of stagnation and even loss in sub- Saharan Africa and South America, both of which have seen the proportion, and the number, of undernourished people increase. South America and, to a lesser extent, sub-Saharan Africa have populations and hunger numbers that are small compared to Asia: both China and India have more inhabitants than South America and Africa combined. Thus, on a global basis, the positive trend in Asia, and especially in China, more than compensates for the deterioration in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

Incidence of Hunger by Region

Proportion (%)
sub-Saharan Africa
Near East and North Africa
Meso- America
South America
South Asia
East Asia
China
All
1970
35
23
24
17
34
35
46
36
1975
37
17
20
15
34
32
40
33
1980
36
10
15
12
30
22
22
26
1990
37
5
14
13
24
17
16
20
Absolute Numbers in millions                
1970
94
32
21
32
255
101
406
942
1975
112
26
21
32
289
101
395
976
1980
128
15
18
29
285
78
290
846
1990
175
12
20
38
277
74
189
786

Source: See footnote 2.

The latest estimate on poverty in the world is from the World Bank (1993). Using a poverty line of one USD per person per day at 1985 prices for 86 countries, representing about 90% of the population of the developing countries, the Bank estimates that in 1990 there were about 1 133 million people who had incomes below the poverty line (about 30% of the population). If the 1985-90 trend continues, this number is expected to increase to 1.3 billion by the year 2000. The majority of these poor people (about 80%) are in rural areas of developing countries, though in Latin America a substantial proportion live in cities. Poverty affects women disproportionally: it is estimated that approximately 70% of the world's poor are women.

7. It has been estimated that the worldwide poverty gap, i.e., the average consumption distance of the poor from the poverty line, expressed as a proportion of the poverty line (this indicator measures not how many poor there are, but rather the extent of their shortfall as compared to the poverty threshold), is about 9.5% of the poverty-line income, varying from 2.8% in East Asia and the Pacific to 19.1% in sub-Saharan Africa. Take the typical example of a middle-sized developing country with a GNP per head of USD 1 000 and a poverty line of USD 300 with 30% of the population below it. An average transfer of only about USD 100 per head of the poor population would solve the poverty problem. This is only 3.0% of country's GNP. This is a small enough figure. But considered in terms of the global economy, it has been estimated that the aggregate poverty gap is approximately 1.5% of the GNP of the non-socialist countries in 1985. This is not to suggest that solving to the problem of poverty lies in a massive transfer of money to the poor (an expedient that seems politically, administratively, socially, and economically unfeasible). It just serves to demonstrate that, although the numbers of the hungry and poor, and the extent of their suffering, are overwhelming, the amount of resources required to "solve" poverty represents only a small fraction of the world's total income. Of course, there are a number of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty is extremely widespread, i.e., only a small proportion of the population lives comfortably above the poverty line, and most people oscillate around it. In these countries, there is not much to redistribute, and only sustained and equitable economic growth can diminish poverty.

8. The problems of poverty and hunger are closely associated, though by no means synonymous. Partly, this is definitional. The number of people suffering from malnutrition is calculated on the basis of the amount of money required in different countries to purchase sufficient foods for adequate diets. Vice versa, poverty is often defined in terms of the income level below which people are incapable of accessing sufficient food for a healthy working life. Partly, the association is causal. Malnutrition negatively affects people's work capacity, learning capacity, and motivation. This is likely to decrease their incomes. Eradicating protein-energy and micronutrient malnutrition will greatly reduce morbidity and mortality, and thus will enhance the income- earning capacity of adults 3/. It follows that one necessary condition for eliminating hunger and malnutrition is the elimination of poverty. Economic growth, or increased household income, may not be sufficient to eradicate hunger, but, without them, no long-term progress towards this objective is possible. Thus, there is a synergy or two-way complementary relationship between rising incomes and improving nutrition.

9. However, the above discussion is far too traditional and restrictive. This is because the definition of poverty -- or hunger -- as simply a matter of a lack of income is too limited and reductionist, suggesting that economic growth is the solution to all problems and neglecting other factors. It is more useful to define poverty, and hunger, as a situation wherein poor people lack the entitlements to provide themselves with certain minimum sets of goods 4/. In simplified form, three broad types of entitlements can be distinguished: production-based (the entitlements people have to what they produce themselves), exchange-based (the entitlements people have to what they can obtain by trading their possessions, including their labour), and transfer based (the entitlements people have to what is willingly given to them). These entitlements are influenced by a multitude of economic, social, political, and cultural processes. The conquest of hunger and poverty, then, goes beyond mere economic growth or increased food production, and may even be achieved in their absence. Rather, what is needed are increases in poor people's total entitlement sets, which can come about in a variety of ways, including redistribution of assets and targeted transfers. However, in the long run, economic growth that includes the poor and the hungry is a necessity.

10. There are those who go one step further, arguing that the condition of deprivation, from the point of view of the poor, reaches far beyond access to income and goods. In addition to lack of income, deprivation is characterized by social inferiority, isolation, physical weakness, vulnerability, seasonal deprivation, powerlessness and humiliation 5/. For the poor, actions which only target one of these aspects -- usually lack of income -- are too limited and often self-defeating, to the extent that progress on that characteristic (i.e., increases in income) has often gone hand in hand with setbacks in the other characteristics (e.g., increases in vulnerability and instability). For this reason, some development agencies now use the more comprehensive operational notion of "livelihood security 6/", defined as adequate, stable, and sustainable access to income and resources to meet basic needs (including food, potable water, health facilities, educational opportunities, housing, time for community participation and social integration).

11. Finally, a World Bank nutrition specialist describes, in a study entitled "Ending Malnutrition: Why Increasing Income is Not Enough 7/", the multitude of constraints and processes that lead to hunger, of which income is only one, and often not the most important one. These constraints include factors at the level of food availability (access to factors of production, such as capital, land, seeds, and fertilizers; food imports and exports; public, community, and household storage systems; environmental degradation and climatic processes); food accessibility (market and transport infrastructure; food prices; stability and diversification of income); food purchase (dietary habits and taboos; available time for cooking and technology to prepare food; household spending patterns and non-food needs); food consumption (intra-household distribution; family size; women's education; pregnancy; child weaning practices; waste and loss; school lunches, etc.); and food metabolism (morbidity; energy expenditures; sanitary conditions, and quality of care).

12. Approaching the problems of deprivation, poverty, and hunger from these perspectives, it seems that their solutions should be multifaceted, reflective of the specific priorities and multiple needs of the poor, dealing with political, social, cultural, and economic processes, and leading to overall empowerment of the poor and the hungry, and laying particular emphasis on women. The key issues in the debate on how to overcome hunger are then not "simply" issues of food production and income growth -- although these clearly remain pivotal -- but institutional and social, related to knowledge, entitlements, and empowerment. This Conference proposes to focus precisely on these issues from the point of view of civil society and the poor.

13. To conclude: hunger and poverty are complex. To combat them, three broad types of actions must be undertaken simultaneously. First is broad-based sustainable economic growth. A strategy to promote sustainable economic growth in which the poor participate is crucial, especially if women have a fair degree of control over it. Second is investment in human resources through education and health care. Included here are targeted measures leading to enhanced diets for the poor, such as nutrition education, nutrient-rich food supplementation in schools, the promotion of growth monitoring, oral rehydration, breast- feeding and immunization programmes, and fortification of common foodstuffs. Much progress has been made in these areas, especially regarding iodine and vitamin A: supplementation or fortification with these nutrients is feasible and relatively cheap 8/. Third is empowerment of the poor, providing them with access to productive resources and to decision-making. No solutions to these problems can be found that do not start from the energies, values, aspirations, and resources of the poor and the hungry themselves.

III. Forty Years of Development Practice

14. Development thinking since the 1950s appears to have focused on three somewhat stylized models, or approaches. The first model was inspired by the successful experience of economic reconstruction of war-torn Western Europe and the post-Keynesian belief in the virtue of deficit financing. It was felt that the newly independent countries, emerging from the shadows of colonial dominance, could easily catch up with the West, if only they could be injected with large doses of foreign capital, modern technology, and infrastructure. The way to progress was through industrialization, and the way to industrialization was usually considered to be through import-substitution. The key actor was the state, in charge of providing both national plans for rational resource allocation, and the actual resources to promote rapid industrialization. To overcome structural limitations in economic markets, the state had to occupy the "commanding heights of the economy". Poverty, and hunger, would be eradicated through a sort of "trickle-down" process resulting from rapid economic growth.

15. The economic growth record of developing countries was impressive in the 1960s, surpassing the targets established for the first United Nations Development Decade 9/. Gross domestic product grew on average at the rate of 5.1% per year during the first half of the decade and 5.8% per year from 1966 through 1970. Per capita rates of growth increased from 2.5% to 3.1%. Even in low-income countries, the rate of increase in food and agricultural production exceeded the rate of population growth.

16. Despite these macroeconomic successes, the decade was also marked by an increase in poverty and inequality. National data in thirteen Latin American countries showed that the poorest 20% of the people received only 4.3% of the national income, while the wealthiest 5% accounted for 32.8%. Fifteen African countries showed a similar pattern: overall, the poorest of the people received 5.6% of the national product while the 5% with the highest incomes absorbed 34.8% 10/. There was a growing recognition that economic growth, as conventionally conceived and measured, was not by itself sufficient to eradicate unemployment and poverty. In addition, the possibility existed that the high rates of economic growth experienced though the 1960s would not last. During the period 1971-75, increasing capital costs, declining employment opportunities, and decreasing rates of growth in the industrialized countries threatened to halt the process of rapid economic growth.

17. As a result of both these factors -- the realization that economic growth by itself did not necessarily eradicate poverty and hunger, and the slowdown of economic growth in the 1970s -- a second development model gained dominance. This model was primarily concerned with the fulfillment of basic needs and more direct attacks on unequal distribution of wealth and income. As a result, many governments started special programmes to generate employment, create village-based primary health care systems along the lines of the Declaration of Alma Ata, improve primary education and, with massive donor support, implement integrated rural-development programmes.

18. In this period, hunger became a high priority on the international agenda for the first time. At the initiative of the United States and the Group of 77, the World Food Conference was organized in Rome in 1974 against the backdrop of the global food production shortfall of the years 1972-73 and the simultaneous Asian and African famines. From the Conference came a dual emphasis on increasing food production and improving poor households' incomes. This led to the creation of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), with the mandate to raise small-farmer productivity and rural incomes through programmes specifically targeted to small farmers and the rural poor. The rationales for this focus were multiple: (a) chronic poverty is predominant in rural areas and among small and landless farmers; (b) small farmers are efficient producers of food; (c) only by increasing the income of small farmers can hunger and poverty be overcome; and (d) the landless should be assisted by income-generating activities in rural areas.

19. This strategy of targeted, basic-needs-oriented interventions, remains valid today. However, many countries lacked the resources, the administrative capacity, or the political will to design and implement effective basic-needs policies and programmes. The failure rate of Integrated Rural Development projects was high. Moreover, many countries adopted inefficient domestic macroeconomic policies, leading to a misallocation of resources between sectors, environmental degradation, and a slowing of economic growth. Added to these problems was an increasingly unfavourable international environment. By the end of the 1970s the financial and economic situation of many developing countries was under serious threat. For a decade or so, massive external borrowing managed to keep the boat afloat but, by the middle of the 1980s, when the debt crisis was in full swing, the bubble burst. Governments throughout the world found themselves unable to pay their debts or to get fresh money.

20. As a result, the third set of policy orientations, putting faith in the market economy and market forces, became dominant. This orientation, promoted by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and some major bilateral donors, and pursued through structural adjustment programmes, still reigns supreme. It holds that free-market signals are the best guarantors of efficient resource allocation and that the role of the state should be limited to providing an enabling policy environment for market-led adjustment and growth processes. The type of reforms promoted are intended to remove policy biases against the free play of market forces. In agriculture, this is done through correcting overvalued exchange rates (which favour food imports over local production); reducing the role of the state in agricultural marketing -- the supply of inputs, international trade, and agricultural transformation -- in favour of the private sector; and lowering, if not abolishing, taxes, subsidies, and quantitative restrictions on agricultural products ("getting the prices right").

21. According to its proponents, the poor and the hungry should gain from structural adjustment, as their prospects for earning income improve. And indeed, there seem to be many cases where farmers have gained as a result of the improved terms of trade in favour of the agricultural sector resulting from structural adjustment policy reform. However, several studies have indicated that while the rural poor may gain from structural adjustment in the medium term, they often lose in the short term, during a so-called "transitional period". In the short term, the effect of certain policy changes, such as a devaluation of the currency or the abolition of subsidies, may hurt them. The improved incentives for economic and agricultural growth brought about by these changes may take time to translate into increased production and incomes. Hence, "even those who believe that adjustment measures will ultimately be in the best interest of the poor acknowledge the 'frictional' difficulties of the transition period, and it is generally accepted that the poorest groups suffer disproportionally because of their vulnerability and lack of economic flexibility" 11/.

22. In the wake of widespread calls for structural adjustment with a "human face", the World Bank now advocates a two-track approach, the first track focusing on structural adjustment reforms for a broad-based and labour-intensive market-led growth process. The second track is intended to provide safety nets to support the "losers" and the poor who are in no position to take advantage of the growth 12/. This two-track strategy is now commonly accepted in the international community. The Social Summit which took place in 1994 in Copenhagen was an attempt to further the international consensus on the second part of the equation, by focusing on social security, employment, and social integration.

23. The structural-adjustment reforms have so far produced a mixed record of success. On the positive side, macroeconomic policy reform has removed important obstacles to the eradication of hunger and poverty, while freeing the private sector to play its crucial role in development. The policies of stabilization and structural adjustment have generated more austere and disciplined public sectors; and the down-sizing of wasteful and loss-making public sector entities has ended their drain on national resources and opened up new possibilities for entrepreneurs. On the negative side, the human development dimension of structural adjustment has continued to pose great problems for many people. Structural adjustment has not (yet) led to a major improvement in the conditions of the poor. One more decade has passed in which hundreds of millions of households remained mired in absolute poverty, their children dying of hunger and preventable disease. And the debt burden of most developing countries is heavier than ever.

IV. The Search for a New Paradigm -- Civil Society: Development from the Roots Up

24. In contrast to the mainstream paradigms of development, and partly as a result of an increasing disillusionment with the actual record of governments and of the international community, a large number of community-based and non-governmental initiatives have tried to fill the gap. They have demonstrated that their efforts, based on participation by the poor in their own development, can make a real difference to the lives of the poor. Even though such efforts are widely dispersed and often small, collectively they have assumed the character of a civil society movement for an "alternative development".

25. Currently, civil-society organizations exist in all continents of the world: peasant associations, neighbourhood committees, people's movements, alternative trade organizations, community initiatives, age groups, cultural associations, urban action committees, trade unions, support NGOs, producer cooperatives, foundations, women's associations, consumers' organizations, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and savings and loan associations, filling the ranks of what is often referred to as the "associative" or "third" sector (as distinct from the "first" or public and the "second" or private-corporate sector). Their numbers are estimated to be in the millions, with new ones added daily. Their origins are as diverse as their types: some have come into being as the result of the activities of governments, NGOs, or foreign aid projects; others result from imitating neighbouring villagers' actions; some came about through internal learning processes, e.g., in response to hostile environments or painful shocks (such as the occurrence of famine); others are traditional organizations, which may have existed for hundreds of years, now adapting to new challenges. They are composed of farmers, women, recent emigres, people from the same ethnic group, neighbours, informal sector workers, youngsters, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, or simply any individuals who wish to pool resources to work together. These organizations of civil society are active in all sectors of life, including the fight against erosion, income- generating activities, diversification, the supply of credit and other inputs, primary health care, literacy and education, etc. Their size ranges from a handful of villagers to federative structures bringing together tens of thousands of persons. Their resources include the time and energy of their members, the labour of volunteers, the financial contributions of villagers, the small savings of women, the materials of artisans, the contributions of engaged outsiders, and foreign aid. Together, they constitute the dense fabric of civil society.

26. Civil society - defined as "those associations beyond the reach of the state and corporate economy which have the capacity for becoming autonomous centres for action" 13/ - comprises the vast and diverse range of actors discussed above. It also encompasses a wide variety of views about the role of civil society in the development process, ranging from those who would like to operate totally independent of the state, to those who see a comparative advantage in intermediating between the state agencies and the underprivileged sections of the society, to those who play mainly an advocacy role for specific causes. Civil society is partly characterized by its diversity: diversity in structures, mandates, visions, ideologies, mode of operation.

27. Usually a broad distinction is made between two types of civil-society organizations. One type is to be seen in membership groups composed of poor people who seek to advance their own interests and aspirations. These have been called "people's organizations (POs)", "self-help organizations (SHOs)", or "grassroots organizations (GROs)". This category includes the often-overlooked "traditional organizations" such as age groups, pastoralist societies, village councils, etc. The second type is composed of organizations that provide services, advice, and support to the former, with the aim of creating and strengthening them. They have been labelled "intermediary organizations", "self-help support organizations (SHPOs)", "grassroots support organizations (GRSOs)" or simply "non-governmental organizations (NGOs)".

28. Although these organizations have existed for decades, if not longer, it is only recently that they have begun moving to the centre of attention, largely because of the changes in the development models outlined above. The financial crisis that hit most Third World countries, and the retreat of the state that followed it, opened up space available to civil society. In most countries, new organizations emerged from this new-found margin for manoeuvre; existing ones (whether "traditional" or "modern") found a more positive attitude in previously uninterested governments. Structural adjustment, with its emphasis on the private sector, self-help, and the disengagement of the state strengthened the process. At the same time, the international community turned heavily in favour of civil-society organizations. Evaluation after evaluation had shown that the projects financed and managed by foreign aid agencies tended to be expensive and unsustainable, and that the prime cause for this was failure to involve local communities and to ensure their participation 14/. As a result, international funding for civil-society organizations -- in particular NGOs -- increased greatly, in turn triggering an increase in their numbers.

29. But concern about hunger is not, nor should it be, limited to the organizations of the poor and hungry themselves. Civil society at large, including public opinion, as well as thousands of organizations in the North, is also concerned with the elimination of hunger and poverty. The growth in spontaneous social movements within civil society in the North and in the South is a clear manifestation of the growing public awareness that the fate of rich and poor countries, of rich and poor people, is inextricably linked -- whether through the effects of war, instability, emigration, or the prospects for advancement of world trade. Similarly, governments, elites, and the emerging middle class in many countries of the developing world are increasingly aware of the high cost of hunger and poverty, in terms of economic and human potential lost and of threats to domestic stability and peace. There are, however, two important misconceptions that are prevalent in much of civil society. First, many people, both in the North and in the South, are unaware of the fact that concrete solutions to the scourges of hunger and poverty do exist, that progress is being made, and that governments and civil-society organizations are creating innovative solutions. Second, a large part of public opinion, particularly in the North, heavily overestimates the share of national income that is currently devoted to foreign assistance programmes to developing countries 15/. Both these misconceptions often lead to defeatism and passivity 16/.

V. Priority Areas for the Conference

30. The defining theme of the Hunger Conference is that it must trigger purposeful action which will make a difference to the lives of the poor and the hungry. This was the rationale which informed the discussions at the first meeting of the Advisory Committee when it considered the question as to what should be the key priority areas for the Conference and follow-up action. Four priority areas have been chosen by the Advisory Committee in preparation for the Conference as the core of the deliberative process, with a view to crystallizing certain broad programmes for concrete collaborative follow-up to the Conference. These areas were chosen both because they constitute priorities in the fight against hunger and poverty, and because it was felt that they lend themselves to the building of coalitions for concrete action. They are:

(i) empowerment of the poor, in particular women, ethnic minorities, and indigenous populations, through: a) ensuring their access to productive assets, and b) furthering their participation in the development process;

(ii) generation and transfer of appropriate technologies through active partnership between research institutions, NGOs, and rural communities;

(iii) conservation of the natural resource base through poverty-environment linkages; and

(iv) rehabilitation and reconstruction support to populations afflicted by natural and man-made emergencies.

31. Empowerment of the poor and the hungry has two facets: participation in decision-making and access to productive resources. It requires the development of enabling policy and institutional environments that allow for meaningful participation of local communities in the process of resource allocation and policy implementation by governments and donor agencies alike. It also entails the creation of institutional structures of civil society that organize and aggregate the resources and demands of the poor and the hungry. Finally, it requires providing the poor with access to the necessary productive resources to improve their livelihood and increase their incomes. In all this, the needs of women should receive special attention.

32. The latter aspect of participation brings us to the second priority action: technology and knowledge. Improved access to appropriate and relevant technology -- tools, seeds, agricultural practices, measures to control erosion and restore fertility, etc. -- is one of the keys that will allow farmers to produce more food and lift themselves out of poverty. Production and dissemination of knowledge must be linked to their needs, resources, and aspirations. The knowledge and innovative capacity of the farmers themselves must be recognized and harnessed as far as possible in the process of research and extension.

33. The third and the fourth priority actions are geared to dealing with some of the most severe constraints poor and hungry people face today. The constraints imposed by hostile, or degrading, environments will determine in the long run whether any durable path to eradicate hunger and poverty exists. Hundreds of millions of the poorest of the poor -- according to some estimates, 60% of them -- live in resource-deficient environments: dry or drought-prone regions, or mountainous and hilly ones, subject to erosion. Hundreds of millions more see the productivity of their lands decline, or the fish catch of their seas disappear. As a result of population growth, combined with poverty and, often, inefficient policies, these constraints have been tightening.

34. In 1995, approximately 45 million people live as refugees or, if they did not cross international borders, as internally displaced persons. They are the victims of drought and natural calamities, war and civil strife, or a combination of both. They often lose all their possessions overnight, and become vulnerable to extreme poverty and hunger. The cost of assuring their survival is enormous, diverting resources that could have been spent on long-term development actions. Avoiding extreme emergency situations, and increasing the capacity of poor people to cope with them, are crucial to overcome hunger and poverty.

Empowerment of the Hungry and the Poor

(a) Participation in Decision-making

35. In the context of the fight against hunger and poverty, empowerment is a crucial element. The goal of empowerment has to go much further than the current approaches to beneficiary participation in donor- funded and executed projects or programmes. More recently, such approaches have included community or beneficiary participation in the construction and maintenance of public services, such as schools, irrigation, and public health centres. While this is undoubtedly useful, both as a way to ensure the interest of the communities in proposed infrastructures and to lower their cost, it still leaves community participation within the constraints of externally proposed actions. To go from participation to empowerment, a qualitative step forward is needed.

36. There cannot be empowerment of a group if it does not participate in decisions that affect it. Likewise, the participation of a group will be permanently limited and threatened if this group does not gain certain entitlements and generate certain rights. Empowerment includes at the same time action and decision-making. Empowerment of the poor and the hungry thus requires mechanisms for their participation in decision-making and resource allocation, especially at the local level. This is now generally recognized. The World Bank's Learning Group on Participatory Development defines its object as "a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives, decisions and resources which affect them." The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines the same topic as a strategy "which combines effective economic policies, equitable access to basic social and economic services and broader popular participation in decision-making, on the orientation of government policies and programmes 17/." And the World Summit for Social Development stated that "empowering people, particularly women, to strengthen their own capacities is a main objective of development and its principal resource. Empowerment requires the full participation of people in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of decisions determining the functioning and the well-being of our societies 18/."

37. Achieving empowerment requires the existence of a favourable, enabling social and political environment. An important part of this is the improving of structures related to local governance: it is at the local level that people know their problems, can propose solutions, and interact with the public sector. Hence decentralization of development administration and fiscal power, bringing the supply and management of public services closer to the people, is an important first step in the complex process of creating an enabling environment. However, such institutional reforms need to go beyond the mere act of decentralizing decision- making authority to lower administrative units. There must be a greater degree of devolution of development functions to locally representative bodies, whether elected or traditional. Such institutions should also have a larger say in: (i) planning local development activities, and the use of public resources; (ii) management of common property resources; (iii) collection of local taxes; and (iv) oversight of public services and civil servants. IFAD has tried to support and promote such institutional reforms at the grassroots level through its projects, often in association with local peasant associations and NGOs. Together, the end result of these changes could be the replacement of a system of peoples' participation in public-initiated development with one of public participation in people-initiated development.

38. But reforms of this kind, like all social and political change, will not come about by state actions alone (and even less by donor pressure alone). Strong vested interests may go against this type of reform. A well organized, efficient, and diverse civil society is crucial in ensuring accountable public structures and fair play, both by promoting the kind of institutional change described above, and, once these structural changes have been made, by its active involvement in ensuring their implementation -- often against great resistance.

39. Indeed, resistance against institutional changes conducive to empowerment can come from several sources, and in particular from the bureaucracy and local elites. The bureaucracy is an actor over which governments should have most control yet, in practice, this is not always the case, especially as one moves away from the capital. The attitudes of bureaucrats are often paternalistic, if not outright exploitative. This discourages participation by the poor and encourages unrepresentative and pliable persons to assume leadership. Local elites can use their often-great economic, social, and political power to neutralize governance reform. However, this is not necessarily always so. Indeed, some of the most effective leadership of rural organizations has come from educated, better-off members of the community who are committed to social change. Finally, the rural people themselves, often divided by ethnic, racial, social or religious differences, or by allegiance to competing local factions, can act as brakes on implementation of meaningful local governance.

40. To promote public reform, and deal with resistance from vested interests that oppose reform, a vibrant and well-organized civil society is required. However, most rural organizations and grassroots initiatives have remained limited in their scope and coverage to service delivery in the (usually small) areas where they have been established. This means that inter-group association, which is an important element in the development of rural-poor organizations, has not yet received appropriate attention. Inter-group associations or federations are essential to the poor for two main reasons: (i) to perform functions which require joint group inputs, in order to obtain economies of scale, and therefore avoid reliance on other institutions for designing and receiving essential services; (ii) to build up strong organizations with the size, capacity, and resources required to influence policy decisions and the equitable allocation of resources at the national level. In modern terms, NGOs have to scale up, move beyond local action into the realm of social and political change.

(b) Command Over Productive Resources

41. Without access to productive resources, participation is almost meaningless. The productive resources that are important to the poor and the hungry are manifold; they include land, water, finances, labour, seeds, fertilizer, tools and equipment, extension, off-farm employment opportunities, transport and marketing facilities. However, it is important not to forget that the poor already possess in abundance two potentially productive resources, namely their own labour and their own knowledge and creativity. The word "potentially" is an important qualification; the labour, knowledge, and creativity of the poor maybe constrained because of: (i) undernutrition and poor health, especially for poor women; and (ii) because of the lack of other productive assets.

42. The relationship between access to any of these resources and poverty is not one-to-one; many factors are involved simultaneously. In the case of land, for example, these include differences in land quality, the availability of technology and complementary inputs, access to credit and markets and opportunities for off-farm employment, the quality, clarity, and application of tenure and inheritance laws, and irrigation infrastructures. Hence, while a general review of the subject is offered here, any concrete recommendation for action must be location-specific.

43. Six in ten households in the Third World work the land. One-quarter of them -- 100 million households -- do not own the land they work on. Among the rest, land distribution often continues to be highly unequal. Hence, access to land and secure land rights are of central importance in determining living standards. Reforms targeted at improving the condition of the rural poor have to address the issue of rights to land and to land use. In the absence of land reforms, even rapid agricultural growth will not significantly reduce rural poverty and hunger. On the other hand, where land is distributed more evenly, agricultural growth tends to be more rapid (for smaller holdings tend to have a higher productivity than large ones), and the fruits of that growth better distributed.

44. The situation of women needs special attention. Although women do most of the agricultural work, they have individual title to less than 1% of the world's land 19/ - and their situation is often worsening. Under traditional communal property systems, access to land was often based on households' needs and the availability of family labour, with restrictions on transfers to ensure continued access to the community or kinship group. Women usually had secure use rights to community or household land. More recently, however, in areas experiencing high population pressure or increased commercialization of agriculture, distribution of land rights under communal tenure often has become less equitable. Women have frequently seen their land rights eroded. In some specific cases, the effect of new technologies on women has been altogether unfavourable. In The Gambia, for example, an attempt to introduce new technology in growing rice (a food and cash crop traditionally cultivated by women) resulted in the expansion of household farming under male control, and in the displacement of women by men in rice cultivation 20/. In many cases, divorce, abandonment, and widowhood leave women landless and destitute. In situations of war or civil strife, many women find themselves single heads of households, but cannot obtain secure rights to the land needed for the survival of themselves and their children. Land redistribution programmes and resettlement programmes usually target the household, neglecting women's needs 21/. On the other hand, with their men absent, looking for work elsewhere, women are increasingly assuming extra responsibilities and work burdens. In consequence, they are now demanding -- and often obtaining -- greater rights to the land they manage themselves.

45. Land reform remains an important element in the quest for development. We can distinguish at least three types. One involves redistribution (usually called "land reform" proper) and consists of taking land (usually but not always with compensation) from large landowners and handing it over to others. This can be done though ceilings on the amount of land one household may possess, or rules that state that any land that is not normally cultivated will be redistributed to other farmers. A second type involves resettlement, in which people are moved from densely populated areas to supposedly unused land, usually legally owned by the state. The third type involves changing the nature of rights and duties that underlie tenure (called "tenurial reform"), affording security of individual landholding, or changing the rights and obligations of sharecroppers. No land changes hands, but the security and benefits accruing to those tilling the land improve.

46. However, the experience with land reform during the last 30 years is not so positive, especially compared to earlier successes, such as in Boliva, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Taiwan. Implementation of land reform, even if legislated, has been fraught with political difficulties and obstruction from the vested interests of politicians, government bureaucrats, and local elites. Without participation of the rural poor in implementation programmes, and without effective organizations of the rural poor acting as countervailing forces to the vested interests, it is unlikely that much progress will be made. Moreover, even where land reform or tenurial reform has been implemented, it has often had unintended impacts, both on the poor and on others. Frequently, these have included a worsening, rather than an improvement, in the distribution of holdings.

47. In a number of cases, land reform or resettlement programmes have not been backed up by supporting policies to provide stable financial services, input supply, or extension and marketing services, and the main objectives sought from these reforms have not been achieved. A study in India showed that 63% to 91% of common-property land distributed to the poor was subsequently sold due to the lack of complementary inputs and pressing cash needs. A similar process occurred in Mexico, where a significant number of agrarian reform beneficiaries did not have the necessary inputs and so gave up their parcels. The land reform vigorously pursued during the 1960s and 1970s in Iran led to massive rural exodus for similar reasons. Hence, access to technology, extension services, credit, and infrastructure such as irrigation, roads, and markets, is an important precondition for land reform to be successful.

48. Another reason is that landholding (and all material interests) is deeply embedded in other things -- kinship, politics, religion, history, social relationships, and often subtle forms of symbolism -- to be treated merely as a form of property or resource allocation for development 22/. The occupation of supposedly unused state land has often led to the marginalization or eviction of indigenous people who inhabited these lands; moreover, farmers often do not wish to move to new lands where they are culturally and socially uprooted. Yet most reforms stem from simplistic ideological and political dogmas, paying scant attention to the non-economic meaning of land in societies and to the views of the communities concerned.

49. Inequalities in land holding, as well as high population growth, have led to over-exploitation of marginal lands and a fragmentation and reduction of farm holdings. The resulting deforestation and soil erosion have brought about a decrease in rural productivity and an increase in the landless rural population in many countries. The ranks of the landless are increasingly being joined by pastoralists who have lost their animals during drought and by women who have lost their access to land as a result of their changed legal or social status. Amongst the rural poor, the landless and near-landless are probably the largest group in developing countries. Lacking land as collateral, they are, with few exceptions, unlikely to get credit for other activities.

50. As a consequence, many smallholders, as well as the landless, seek employmentas wage labourers, either in agriculture or in off-farm occupations. Agricultural labour is extremely common in many parts of Asia and Latin America, and increasingly in Africa. Rural non-farm activities have expanded greatly in many regions (including rural China after decollectivisation), and provide employment to sizeable numbers. Off- farm employment is particularly important in providing work in slack seasons to those without permanent employment in the agricultural sector. Where such employment opportunities expand, the link between poverty and lack of access to land becomes weaker. However, with ever-increasing labour supplies in most developing countries (due to population growth), and inadequate rural employment growth (often due to government policies), they are likely to be faced with low wage rates and uncertain employment prospects. Moreover, off- farm employment in rural areas usually expands parallel to agricultural growth. It has been estimated that a 2% growth in agriculture brings about a 1% growth in off-farm employment. Thus rural employment, both on-farm and off-farm, is strongly conditioned by the rate of agricultural growth.

51. Providing financial services to the poor and women remains a major challenge, as numerous failed programmes show. World Bank-supported agricultural credit programmes, for example, have usually failed to reach those groups, despite considerable efforts 23/. The reasons for these failures are well known: bureaucratic, top-down, and rigid implementation (with the purposes of the loans and the amounts of each one determined beforehand, and the same package being provided in each area without reference to differing circumstances and needs), lack of sufficient back-up or training, corruption (borrowers often have to pay a portion of their loan as a bribe to government and bank officers leaving them unable to invest or repay; loans are given, or written off, for political reasons) and the subsidized interest rates (a highly expensive practice that promotes misuse of the credit by well-connected groups and ends up amounting to a "redistribution in reverse") 24/.

52. Another typical limitation of rural finance programmes has been their undue emphasis on providing credit without ensuring an appropriate improvement in the savings capacity of the poor. Savings -- both individual and group savings -- will: (i) strengthen the economic base of the poor and their capacity to increase production; (ii) enhance the poor's resistance against shocks (safety net); (iii) indicate the commitment of those who save and their acceptance of the ongoing activities; (iv) facilitate access to credit; (v) reduce dependency on government institutions and money lenders; (vi) foster the cooperative spirit and self-reliance; and (vii) enable rural financial institutions to serve larger numbers of people. The promotion of savings should therefore be regarded as an important objective, and it should be monitored regularly as an important indicator for the success of poverty alleviation.

53. A number of projects, supported among others by IFAD, have demonstrated the possibility of overcoming the above constraints through the provision of group-based credit to support income-generating activities. Village self-help groups, savings and credit associations, or partnership arrangements between commercial banks and NGOs, have been particularly successful in strengthening credit delivery and receival mechanisms, by curtailing the transaction costs. The poor -- especially rural and urban women -- have proven to be sound bankable clients, but credit programmes have to be tailored to their organizational and absorptive capacities. The rural households in Africa typically derive between 25% and 30% of their income from non- farm sources and account for even a larger (30-50%) proportion of rural cash incomes. Thus, strengthening rural financial services has an important role in hunger-mitigation strategies in Africa and elsewhere. This is especially true if special efforts are made to target poor women: IFAD experience consistently shows that where savings and credit opportunities have been provided to them, such women were able to improve markedly their household socio-economic and nutritional conditions.

54. In a large number of countries, particularly in Africa, imperfections in markets have been due to inadequate transport, communications, information, and knowledge. These factors fragment markets which then can become subjected to the monopolistic control of traders, who often combine other functions such as money-lending. Imperfections in the markets of the majority of developing countries are reflected in wide variations in prices for both inputs and outputs within time, between areas, and between groups of farmers within areas. Poor farmers tend to be most vulnerable to these variations, which often threaten their livelihoods.

55. At the same time, the lack of infrastructure facilities, particularly of roads, transport, and market outlets, may limit marketing possibilities and therefore the capacity of the area to bring cash and both consumer and capital goods into the local economy. As a result, when income-generating projects are promoted, the people concerned may end up competing with each other for the minimal marketing opportunities; and bumper harvests can leave everyone worse off.

Technology Generation and Transfer

56. Access to improved technology is one of the key elements of any strategy to make a sizeable dent in the problem of hunger and poverty. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), between now and the year 2020, as a result of population growth, increasing incomes and dietary changes, global demand for foodgrains will increase by about 55% and for livestock products by 75%. Demand for these goods in developing countries will increase by 75% and 155%, respectively. Most of this additional food will have to be produced on land currently under cultivation, as a significant expansion of cultivated area is costly in both economic and environmental terms 25/. Productivity gains will be possible only if agricultural research systems are mobilized to develop improved technology; if extension services are strengthened to assure passing on the improved technology to farmers; and if farmers' own capacities for innovation and creativity are recognized and bolstered.

57. The international agricultural research system (the 16 institutions belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has spearheaded research on major foodgrains, such as rice, wheat, and maize. Its technological breakthrough with the High Yielding Varieties in the late sixties brought about the "Green Revolution", leading to intensive agricultural growth in many food-deficit countries, particularly in much of Asia and Latin America.

58. Historically, much (but by no means not all) of the international and national agricultural research has bypassed the rural poor. Since its inception, IFAD - like other institutions - has advocated the need to rethink the current research priorities and to focus more resources and efforts in the low-potential areas and on the crops which are produced and consumed by the poor, the bulk of whom live in resource-poor areas. However, from the point of view of the hundreds of millions of poor and hungry farmers in the world, the dominant research paradigm suffered from some important biases. In the early decades, it tended to neglect: (i) small-scale, rainfed agriculture in resource-poor areas (where most of the poor live) and the crops produced in those areas; (ii) the specific needs, constraints, and survival strategies of poor farmers and even more so of women farmers; and (iii) the traditional knowledge and innovative capacity of the poor farmers themselves. A final, closely related, bias concerned the functioning of extension systems, which were top-down, standardized, and based on one-way communication.

59. Agricultural research in the developing countries has largely focused on the high-potential areas. The policy considerations supporting this choice have centered on the need to achieve a higher level of national food self-reliance and the needs of non-irrigated, small-scale agriculture in resource-poor areas have often been neglected. Only 25% of the CGIAR budget goes to research that is directly relevant to marginal areas. Past agricultural research also tended to neglect plants of fundamental importance for the food security of the poor, such as millet, sorghum, yam, and tuber plants. In the last decade, considerable progress has been made on this matter.

60. Present research efforts also often neglect the real conditions and specific needs of small farmers related to risk-aversion, strategies of diversification, taste preferences, etc. In technical terms, knowledge creation was disassociated from its use and researchers limited themselves to passing their results on to specialized agents of the extension services. As a result, performances achieved in research stations and experimental plots could often not be repeated outside the confines of these institutions. Farmers have found agricultural innovations proposed to them to be either unavailable or overly expensive, risky, badly explained, and unadapted to their tastes, labour constraints, or survival strategies.

61. Again, research does not usually pay adequate attention to the richness and relevance of the traditional knowledge and technology of farmers and their communities. Many of these technologies developed in full harmony with their environments are crumbling under the present conditions, in particular human and livestock pressure. Nonetheless, they could be revised, modified, and enriched through a process of research that directly involves the farmers themselves.

62. Researchers are not the only ones who innovate: farmers themselves, throughout the world, are in fact major innovators, too. Many of them possess excellent knowledge of local conditions, and the creativity and experimental methods needed to innovate. This capacity has been almost fully neglected by traditional agricultural research. The challenge before the national and international research centres is to recognize and respect the innate strength of this indigenous knowledge system -- to find ways to strengthen its abilities, or to revive them where they have lost their vigor.

63. Finally, in the past, the diffusion of agricultural techniques generally centered on one theme: efforts consisted in disseminating standardized information to the largest possible number of farmers without taking into account the diversity of local and regional socioeconomic conditions. This procedure has been described as linear and based on one-way communication, insofar as researchers had a monopoly on the creation of technical innovations, and diffusion and supervision methods were then applied to very large numbers. However, difficulties were encountered in taking into account the diversity of farming systems and of natural environments. Moreover, the extension of innovations is not necessarily simple in increasingly fragile and diversified environments. As a result, many technically sound innovations were not implemented by farmers, not because of technical factors but because of socioeconomic, socio-cultural and socio-psychological barriers that were not taken into account by extension systems. Modern farming systems and ecoregional approaches to research are aimed at overcoming some of these constraints.

64. As a result, the potential of agricultural research has not been fully realized. Rapid agricultural growth has taken place as a result of the Green Revolution: much of the rapid increase in food production in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines (which together account for more than half of the developing world's population) is due to the introduction of High-Yield Varieties. This certainly has helped to strengthen food security at the national level; it has also brought increased income to farmers living in these fertile areas. This growth, however, has been concentrated on the more fertile and irrigated regions, bypassing the marginal areas, and increasing regional disparities within and between countries. For many small farmers, the high cost of inputs, restricted credit access, risk aversion, and uncertainty of tenure contribute to a greater reluctance to participate in the modernization of agriculture. Hence, the Green Revolution, while it has undoubtedly brought great benefits has not managed to solve the chronic problems of hunger and poverty for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

65. Efforts to reorganize the global international agricultural research system, and to develop new experimental procedures of research and development, are currently under way in order to respond to some of the above-mentioned problems. Three trends can be discerned: (i) a shift in research agendas to cater more to the rainfed and resource-poor areas; (ii) the creation of regional research coalitions, to exploit the comparative advantages of different actors, particularly the developing-country national agricultural research systems (NARSs), and to make considerable economies of scale; and (iii) the development of links between the research system and NGOs and community organizations, to put research more at the service of the producers.

66. Research agendas are shifting to cater more to those rainfed and resource-poor areas and, also, to the conditions facing women farmers. This shift is necessary to promote household food security for the rural poor. The CGIAR has recently decided to incorporate the objectives of poverty reduction and environmental sustainability in the identification of its future research priorities. IFAD is spearheading a collaborative effort to strengthen the partnership arrangements between National Agricultural Systems (NARs) and the CG- system with a view to ensuring that future research programmes are more responsive to the requirements of small producers and women farmers.

67. Based on the monitoring of regional agricultural resources and needs, the CGIAR, NARSs, and Northern Research institutes (labelled Advanced Research Organizations (AROs)) could assign increased resources to Regional Action Programmes such as those conceived within the Special Programme for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR). Such a strategy of alliance between the different research institutions, through the creation of eco-regional action programmes or inter-institute activities, will allow more diversified technological solutions that are better adapted to very different socio-economic and physio-climatic conditions.

68. The World Bank seeks to mobilize traditional bilateral and multilateral donors into a more participatory strategy that reserves a leading role for NGOs - this with the objective of using their intervention and mobilization capabilities and their "culture" of intervention in the field directly involving poor farmers. An essential role should also be given to the farmers' own organizations, including women's organizations, in setting up this strategy. The development of a real dialogue between farmers' organizations and national and international research institutions would: (i) increase the relevance of research programmes chosen by national and international institutions; and (ii) optimize the diffusion of new technologies by continually involving farmers' organizations and NGOs in testing the new or improved technologies under real conditions.

69. Future research should also build more upon farmers' knowledge and aspirations to generate improved low-cost and environmentally sustainable technologies. NGOs can play an important role in this area (as they have done with techniques of participatory action research, farmer research, participatory rural appraisal, the exchange of local technical knowledge and know-how among farmers operating under similar agro-climatic conditions) through networking, the exchange of lessons and experiences, etc. This requires recognition of the innovative capacity of farmers themselves, and the development of mechanisms to promote this capacity and increase the spread of farmers' innovations to farmers in different regions.

70. While reform in the way appropriate technologies are generated is important, parallel reforms are also needed in the diffusion of such technologies among the farmers. This calls for important changes in the way extension services operate: more emphasis on needs of small farmers with traditional crops; correction of the male and wealth bias; and attention to the demands of women farmers.

71. To summarize: it is necessary to take better account of the needs of the poorest in planning agricultural research; to involve rural producers and their organizations in the execution of research; and to improve the diffusion of innovations. Going one step further is the recognition that the poor are not so poor that they cannot even think about solutions to their problems. The development and diffusion of sustainable technologies for regions bypassed by input-intensive technologies will require building bridges between people's knowledge systems and aspirations and the national and international research and extension systems.

Poverty and Environmental Degradation

72. The incidence of poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in definable geographical areas. The large majority of the 800 million people living below the threshold of poverty are in fact in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It is estimated that around 60% of the world's poor live in areas which are marginal or environmentally sensitive. In these areas, politically marginal indigenous populations have been neglected and have been joined by new groups of rural poor displaced from more fertile areas through a variety of processes. These processes, although varying across countries and regions, include land degradation, expropriation, demographic pressures, land fragmentation, privatization of common property lands - and the consolidation and expansion of the commercial sector combined with reduced demand for labour due to mechanization. Marginal areas are rapidly becoming ghettos of poverty and environmental degradation.

73. Arid and semi-arid areas make up 40% of the earth's landmass. Of the world's 5 200 million ha of agriculturally used dry land, 69% are degraded or subject to desertification. In Africa, 73% of agriculturally used dry lands are degraded, while in Asia the figure is nearer 70%. On the other hand, hilly and mountainous regions cover about 21% of the earth's surface. Of this, 25% is in Central America, 17% in Latin America, 29% in Southeast Asia, 24% in Southwest Asia, and 8% in Africa. Although not so extensive as dry lands, mountain regions exert a far-reaching influence on other areas, primarily due to watershed functions. Mountains are the source of 80% of the world's freshwater resources. At least 40% of the world's population use mountain resources including water.

74. The process of land degradation and loss in soil fertility in marginal areas is depriving farmers and pastoralists of their main source of production. In addition, the "livelihood security" of these populations in a vast part of marginal dry zones is at the mercy of climate irregularities and recurrent drought. The amount of land currently degraded by desertification has doubled over the past 20 years, translating into an annual loss of 58 000 km2 of productive land or, as estimated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a value of USD 42 billion in yearly agricultural potential, which is four times the total development assistance to agriculture. The UN estimates that if current trends of land degradation continue unabated, about 8 billion acres of grazing land, irrigated zones and cropland will be at risk by the end of the century, threatening the livelihood of 1.2 billion people.

75. Environmental degradation has had a markedly negative impact on women, limiting their access to firewood, drinking water, agricultural land, and small forest produce of importance to nutritional subsistence. Moreover, there is typically a large male out-migration from such areas, leaving women alone to head households. All of this has greatly increased their already extremely heavy workloads.

76. Land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, conventionally referred to as desertification, is attributable to both natural (climatic variations) and man-made factors. The role of climate in desertification stems from the impact of rainfall variations on the vegetation cover, which results particularly in considerable fluctuation in the forage production of rangelands. Sparse vegetation cover sets off soil erosion, thus accelerating the desertification process. Human-induced desertification results from unsustainable land use practices, namely the expansion of rainfed cultivation onto unsuitable lands, agricultural intensification through excess mining of nutrients, groundwater mining, excessive use of pesticides and other unsustainable production methods, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices. Soils in arid and semi-arid regions, by nature being short of nitrogen and phosphorus and low in humus, are particularly prone to over cultivation and erosion. It is this loss of soil fertility that has amply contributed to food insecurity in dry lands all over the world, particularly in Africa. Superimposed on these is the effect of uncertain rainfall and drought and, with each episode of drought, further deterioration of resilience and coping capacity of rural poor.

77. On the other hand, mountain ecosystems, subject to torrential run off and having highly leached soils with weak skeletal structures, are also very prone to landslides, soil erosion and rapid loss of habitat and genetic diversity. Here again, it is poverty associated with over-population that drives over- cultivation over steep lands and denudation of forests. Common property resources, which are important in these areas, are often privatized or nationalized by vested interests, aggravating further the plight of the poor where such property may be critical to tide over seasonal food shortages and other emergencies.

78. Poverty and environmental degradation are intrinsically linked. The rural poor, in their quest for food security, often have little choice but to use the limited resources available to them extensively. The resulting environmental degradation further limits their production and income-generating opportunities, in a downward and excelerated spiral. Their negligible natural and man-made capital assets, ill-defined or non-existent property rights, limited access to financial servcies and markets, inadequate security against natural disaster, and lack of participation in decision-making, sometimes compel them to adopt strategies with a short-time horizone. As a result, their immediate household food requirements, take precedence over long-term environmental sustainablity.

79. Moreover, environmental degradation fuels a continuous exodus and dislocation of people from both dry lands and mountain areas toward relatively better off rural areas and urban centres, and to neighbouring countries, only to repeat the cycle of environmental degradation in the new settlement areas. Land degradation, with its potential to perpetuate poverty, may also contribute to political and social instability. There is a growing recognition that the rural poor are not, even unwittingly, the main agents of environmental degradation. Serious and sometimes irreversible degradation often is caused by the non-poor through, for example, excessive or careless use of agro-chemicals, irrigation water and mechanical equipment, or over-exploitation of forests and fish stocks.

80. Many conservation policies and strategies in the past have failed because of their top-down approach and their reliance on technologies which were irrelevant to the local circumstances. In contrast to the result of these efforts, the micro projects that have been implemented in many places over the past decade have made it possible to build up a store of knowledge allowing for the implementation of new approaches. Within this context, a consensus has emerged on the importance of indigenous traditional knowledge and practices in the management of arid land, forest, pasture and farmland to conserve soil and moisture, and in diversifying crop and livestock production to minimize risks.

81. Some traditional rural communities have developed complex resource management systems that have stood the test of time over multiple generations, and which have much to offer in addressing present-day concerns over long-term resource sustainability. Their admirable environmental ethic deserves its due place. Asserting the importance of local knowledge, calls for the empowerment of local people through their own organizations have been made. Moreover, the considerable cultural and the environmental heterogeneity of mountain areas and the scattered nature of dry land population underline the need for decentralized local-level action toward Intergrated Areas Management.

82. Desertification has been the programme of activity for various UN bodies. It was taken up for the first time by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1950. Decisions at the intergovernmental level nevertheless have failed to yield concrete results in the field. However, the United Nations on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 heralded a turning point in this debate. For the first time, there was a better understanding of importance of local action on the basis of strategies in tune with the aspirations of the population .

83. Greater awareness at the highest level of Governments has made possible the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The Convention calls for commitment by donors and the international community as well as national governments in countries affected by drought and desertification to enter into partnership with the local population to effectively combat desertification. Thus, NGOs involved in the negotiation process have set up RIOD -- the International NGO Network on Desertification -- to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences and to enhance civil society organizations' capacities to participate in the implementation of the Convention. There would be a renewed hope for arresting and even reversing the process of desertification if this Convention which is now signed by 105 countries, but ratified so far by five, enters into effectiveness and its provisions are adhered to by all parties involved.

84. Moreover, in the follow-up to UNCED, a network on sustainable mountain development has been established consisting of UN agencies, NGOs, and intergovernmental institutions. It has developed a set of proposals for action by those involved in promoting sustainable mountain development. In recognition of the need to give profile to the "Mountain Agenda" on the international and national lists of priorities, a global Inter Governmental Organizations (IGO)/NGO Conference as well as regional inter-governmental consultations are being convened. The main proposals for action that are emerging, identified through a broad participatory process involving the major NGOs, encompass five specific areas of focus: poverty eradication; the strengthening of a global information network and database; strengthening country capacity and the generation of "National Mountain Action Programmes"; raising awareness through the preparation and organization of a World Conference on Sustainable Mountain Development in early 1997; and the formulation, negotiation and implementation of regional or sub-regional mountain conventions and possibly the development of a "Global Mountain Charter".

Beyond Emergency Relief

85. The post-Cold War world has seen a significant increase of local and regional conflicts. The rising number of refugees is primarily the result of civil strife, natural calamities, and long-term deterioration in agro- ecological conditions in many regions. Together, these factors cause vast movements of dislocated populations who require humanitarian assistance, often at short notice. At the end of 1994, some 16.5 million persons were refugees. These data show the continuation of a trend that began around 1975: the number of refugees has been doubling approximately every six years 26/. One-third of these refugees are in Africa, one-third in the Middle East, and 2.65 million are in Europe, the direct result of disintegration of the Eastern Bloc. In addition, in 1993, 26 million people (at the very least) who were forced out of their homes and regions remain within the borders of their own countries; in all likelihood the figures for 1994 are higher. All in all, a total of 45 million persons are dislocated, usually as a result of war or civil strife. Their assets and sources of income disappear, often overnight, often resulting in total destitution.

86. Dislocated populations need assistance. Much progress has been made in the international response to emergencies. The world community, together with the governments involved, is increasingly capable of rapid response, adapting humanitarian aid to local realities, and minimizing negative consequences of emergencies on long-term development.

87. The international community responds increasingly fast to emergencies, wherever they occur, especially compared to only a few decades ago. There is still a long way to go before emergency aid becomes a real entitlement to those suffering from famines, however. Famine early-warning systems exist at the national and international levels. Moreover, the fact that a multitude of actors is involved -- ranging from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and NGOs (such as Oxfam, Christian Aid, Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE), CHF-Partners in Rural Development, and hundreds of others), to bilateral cooperation agencies, and international organizations such as the WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNDP -- has the advantage of making recipients less dependent on a few sources of emergency aid (although it creates duplication and major problems of coordination). The famine that was prevented in Eastern and Southern Africa in 1992, despite the severe drought that had destroyed as much as 80% of harvests in some areas, is a prime example of preventive action by the international community and national governments.

88. Governments, NGOs, and international organizations have been increasing this capacity to deliver humanitarian aid in such a way as to minimize the detrimental development impact of famines. The creation of decentralized distribution centres that seek to prevent people massively leaving their villages; the provision of seeds and farm implements, that allow people to prepare the next harvest; and, generally, the early arrival of aid, before people have divested themselves of their assets in order to survive, all serve this purpose: to minimize the negative impact of famines. Moreover, the exclusive focus on supplying surplus food from the West has changed: triangular operations, monetized food aid, food-for-work programmes, the supply of non-food items and of money, etc., are all attempts to avoid disruption (or destruction) of local economies.

89. The international community should aim at a more systematic approach for the longer-term actions to prevent famine. This could be carried out through development that guarantees sustainable livelihood protection (including drought-resilient farming patterns), reasonable buffers against destitution, and strong community- based coping mechanisms. If the food security of the most vulnerable populations could be improved through appropriate development strategies, assisted by financial aid, the continued need for humanitarian interventions would be reduced. Given the growing problem of refugee crises and their devastating social and economic consequences, it is critical to seek prevention strategies to redress this trend.

90. Indeed, there has been an important change in the way natural disasters, and especially droughts, are perceived. In the past, there was a tendency to believe that drought was a completely unpredictable affliction -- and that the only way to alleviate its impact was through rapid emergency responses after the fact. There seemed to be an iron connection between drought and famine. Today, the perspective is very different. While severe drought will probably continue to represent an emergency, and while there will always be a role for improved emergency reaction capabilities, it is now believed that the incidence of drought in particular is much more regular and generally predictable than was previously thought. We now know that in sub-Saharan Africa, no less than 70% of cropping land is subject to drought; 30% of this area is very sensitive to drought. Moreover, the impact of drought can be reduced considerably by investment before it happens. We probably cannot reduce the incidence of drought, but we can reduce its effects. Response should be not only curative but also preventive.

91. In marginal areas, people have developed a large variety of responses to long-term stresses such as growing population pressure on limited or diminishing natural resources, and to unexpected shocks such as drought, indicating the complexity of their survival strategies. These strategies vary for different poverty groups --the landless, smallholders, pastoralists, and fishermen -- and also for men and women within these groups. Depending on their access to private and common-property resources, their specialized skills and socio- economic status, and the severity of the crisis they face, the rural poor can diversify or intensify their farming systems, combine farm and non-farm employment, migrate temporarily or permanently, rely on mutual assistance among kinship groups, sell some or all of their assets, change their diets, or use any combination of these strategies. Their effectiveness depends on the economic, political, and institutional environment in which poor rural households operate. Long-term development needs to strengthen people's capacities to cope with drought and other shocks, among others by creating enabling environments that allow them to do so.

VI. Summary and Conclusion

92. About 800 million people in the world are persistently hungry. Last year alone, hunger and diseases related to malnutrition silently claimed the lives of 10 to 12 million children under the age of five. Throughout the world, poverty afflicts 1.1 billion people, a full one-fifth of humanity. Poverty is a condition that causes more sickness, suffering, and death than any disease on Earth. Notwithstanding the successes of the Green Revolution, and some notable cases of rapid economic growth, the number of poor people in the world is likely to rise to 1.3 billion by the turn of the century.

93. The poor and the hungry are disproportionally female, belonging to ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, and living in marginal areas subject to drought and erosion. They do not have access to the assets required to produce enough food or to earn enough to buy the food they need; they have little or no say in the programmes and policies that affect them. The poor and the hungry also disproportionally suffer the effects of civil strife and drought, including the threat of famine. Tens of millions live as refugees and displaced persons.

94. Yet, the poor and the hungry, are not passive victims, incapable of acting by themselves, waiting for death to take its toll or outside assistance to help them. They are working, innovating, and organizing themselves to promote change in all the fields of their lives. Moreover, many of the non-poor are engaged in the same struggle: to help eradicate hunger and poverty from the lives of their brothers and sisters. Civil society has deep concerns with poverty, hunger, and the environment, as well as the capacities and resources to promote change in these fields. Even the most disadvantaged and poorest groups -- women, ethnic and indigenous peoples, small and marginal farmers, refugees and the displaced -- can fight hunger and poverty, if empowered to do so. They have the capacity and the will: they need the opportunity and the means.

95. Without access to the official development agenda, their actions have to be pursued apart. The global agenda for fighting hunger and poverty is often perceived to be in the confines of the public sector and multilateral organizations. As a result, there have often been two agendas, parallel, but not fully integrated. It is time to bring civil society into the process of setting the global development agenda, time to give civil society the institutional space it deserves as a full fledged actor.

96. Recognizing the importance of civil society does not mean neglecting the role of governments and private enterprises. Governments have mandates and capacities that are crucial to the fight against hunger and poverty. They set agricultural and macroeconomic policies; they construct infrastructure; they fund research institutions; they provide structures of local governance and can create enabling environments. Without their active involvement, no progress in this fight against hunger and poverty can be made. Similarly, private enterprise is needed, for it acts as a crucial motor for growth and innovation. As stated in the 1993 UNDP Human Development Report: "the ideological battle lines of the past are being replaced by a more pragmatic association between the efficiency of the market and social solidarity." None of the three actors can "go it alone". Commitment to civil-society organizations should not lead to ignoring the market and its institutions.

97. Hence, in the process of sustainable development, effective and efficient governments, markets, and civil societies are equally needed. At the end of the day, what is required is to create a synthesis, a complementarity, between the efforts and the creativity of all sectors of society. The results of this synthesis will be synergy - combined efforts will produce outcomes that will exceed the sum total of their parts.

98. The ultimate objective of the Conference on Hunger and Poverty: A Popular Coalition for Action is to increase awareness of what can be done in the fight against hunger and poverty, and to create the foundations for a strategy to expand and strengthen the role of institutions within civil society in conjunction with the public and private sectors. The solution to the problem therefore requires the development of enabling policy and institutional environments that allow for meaningful participation of local communities in the development process. It also entails the promotion of institutional structures in civil society which work towards meeting their needs and aspirations.

99. It is therefore hoped that the deliberations of the Workshop and the Conference will provide the guidance for effective action towards this objective. A coalition of all the partners should be forged, and strategies around successful initiatives need to be developed and replicated in a wider scope focussing on the priorities which have been determined above. The importance of the strengthening and improving structures related to local governance should go beyond the mere establishment of a system of people's participation in public- initiated development to one of public participation in people-initiated development. In this manner the Conference would help to turn the tide and contribute a new and important element in the fight against hunger and poverty in the rural areas, the home of the vast majority of the world's poor.

Based on contributions from Mr. Saigal (IFAD), Mr. Tyler (Oxford University), Mr. Moore (CHF-Partners in Rural Development) and Mr. Uvin (World Hunger Program, Brown University)

1/ All data in this paragraph are extracted from Uvin, P. The State of World Hunger, in: Messer, E. & Uvin, P. (eds.) Hunger Report 1995. New York, Gordon & Breach, 1995.

2/ ACC/SCN (1992). Second Report on the World Nutrition Situation; Volume I Global and Regional Results; Volume II Country Trends Methods and Statistics Geneva: ACC/SCN, 1992-3.

3/ Lipton, M. The Poor and the Poorest. Washington D.C., World Bank Staff Working Paper, 1988; Mason, J., Jonsson, U. & Csete, J., Is Childhood Malnutrition Being Overcome? in Messer, E. & Uvin, P. (eds.) Hunger Report 1995. New York, Gordon & Breach, 1995.

4/ Sen, A. Poverty and Entitlements. Oxford: Pergamon Press, for the International Labor Organization, 1981; Dreze, J. & Sen, A. Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

5/ Robert Chambers. Poverty and Livelihoods: Whose Reality Counts? Sussex, IDS Discussion Paper no. 347, January 1995.

6/ Frankenberger, T. and CARE.

7/ Tonia Marek. Ending Malnutrition: Why Increasing Income is Not Enough. Washington D.C., World Bank AFTPN, 1993. For a similar take on this, see Frankenberger, T.; Peña-Montenegro, A.; Tilakaratna, S.; Velarde, N. & Eide, W.B. Rural Poverty Alleviation and Nutrition: IFAD's Evolving Experiences. Rome, IFAD Staff Working Paper 14, April 1993.

8/ World Bank. Enriching Lives. Overcoming Vitamin and Mineral Malnutrition in Developing Countries. Washington DC: World Bank, 1994.

9/ United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Development Trends Since 1960. New York, 1978: 7.

10/ FAO. Review and Analysis of Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in the Developing Countries since the mid 1960s. Rome: 1978: 4.

11/ Vivian, J. Social Safety Nets and Adjustment in Developing Countries, UNRISD, World Summit for Social Development Occasional Paper No.1, July 1994.

12/ World Bank. World Development Report 1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

13/ John Friedmann, Empowerment, the Politics of Alternative Development. London, Blackwell, 1994.

14/ Cernea, M. Nongovernmental Organization and Local Development. Washington D.C.: World Bank, Discussion Paper 40, 1988.

15/ A recent survey by UNICEF and the Rockefeller Foundation, for example, revealed that public opinion in the United States believes that as much as 16% of US GNP is allocated to foreign aid!

16/ Sen, A. The Political Economy of Hunger: On Reasoning and Participation. Paper presented at the World Bank Conference on Overcoming Global Hunger, Washington DC., Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 1993.

17/ OECD, Development Cooperation. Efforts and Policies of the Member States. Paris, OECD, 1991.

18/ Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, Draft Declaration, art. 26(o).

19/ Spray, P. Whose Earth? Land and Development. Christian Aid Viewpoint No. 1, May 1992.

20/ Third Progress Report on WCARRD Programme of Action. Rome, FAO Conference, Twenty-Sixth Session, C 91/19: 39

21/ IFAD. The State of World Rural Poverty. An Inquiry into its Causes and Consequences. New York, New York University Press, 1992

22/ Parker, S. Introduction to the session on "Land Rights and Food Security", Eighth Annual Hunger Research Briefing and Exchange, World Hunger Program, Brown University, April 6, 1995.

23/ World Bank. The World Bank's Strategy for Reducing Poverty and Hunger. Washington D.C., 1995: 42.

24/ Robinson, M.A. Evaluating the Impact of NGOs in Rural Poverty Alleviation - India Country Study. London, Overseas Development Institute Working Paper 49, 1991.

25/ IFPRI. A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment. Washington DC., 1995.

26/ ACC/SCN. Update on the World Nutrition Situation, 1994. Geneva, ACC/SCN, 1994: 57.