Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



Farmer field schools in post-conflict Burundi have helped improve agricultural production. © IFAD/Sarah Morgan

ROME, Italy, 16 October 2012 – The theme of this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October,is ‘Ending the violence of extreme poverty: Promoting empowerment and building peace’. This message is a reminder of the untold damage done to human lives by the tragedy of poverty, and the urgency of speeding up and scaling up global development efforts.

Sometimes it is necessary to state the obvious: The world’s poorest people are also its most vulnerable. Every day, those who live in extreme poverty are challenged and threatened by lack of food, shelter and access to essential services. They endure hazardous working conditions and live in precarious, degraded and insecure environments.

About 70 per cent of the world’s poorest people live in the rural areas of developing countries. In some regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority of the poor rely on agriculture to sustain themselves and their families. For more than 30 years, IFAD’s mission has been to help these rural women and men escape from poverty and build better lives.

‘An urgent moral imperative’
Escaping poverty also often means escaping the cycle of violence and disempowerment. In a just-published Viewpoint, IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze calls attention to the harm and insecurity that poverty inflicts, and the ways in which IFAD works to grow peace through development.

Female students learn about dairy farming in Nangahar, Afghanistan. © IFAD/Melissa Preen

“The same conditions that provide fertile ground for unrest and conflict,” Nwanze writes, “also create an urgent moral imperative for development: gross injustice, severe disparities in opportunity, lack of infrastructure and the tools to make life better, poor governance and corruption, intense competition for resources, greed, and lack of access to education or credit. Remove the obstacles and provide the tools, and people will begin to build a better world around themselves.”

IFAD’s experience in countries affected by conflict supports this perspective. In Afghanistan, for example, dairy farmers have organized into cooperatives thanks to a programme supported by IFAD. While the cooperatives are doing a lot to help dairy farmers produce more high-quality milk, members say they’re also uniting and stabilizing communities.

And in Burundi, the IFAD-supported Transitional Programme of Post-Conflict Reconstruction has addressed the poverty – and lack of opportunity, education and hope – that can lead to violence and extremism. IFAD remained active during the country’s 12-year civil war and was the first donor to move into the hardest-hit areas after the conflict. Besides helping to repair rural infrastructure and the agricultural sector, it has helped to heal communities, providing the support they need to build a more democratic society.

Agriculture and poverty reduction
So while the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a reminder that the development community has much more to do, it also underscores the fact that pro-poor development works.

The recently released 2012 State of Food Insecurity report, using new data and methodology, shows that the global hunger situation 20 years ago was worse than anyone thought – almost 1 billion people were chronically hungry. But it shows, as well, that since then the world has made greater progress in reducing the number of the hungry than anyone supposed. And if we redouble our efforts, we may reach the Millennium Development Goal 1 target for halving hunger globally.

The report also confirms that raising agricultural production is particularly effective in reducing poverty. In resource-poor, low-income countries where most farmland belongs to or is cultivated by smallholder farmers, GDP growth from agriculture reduces poverty five times more than non-agricultural growth. In sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural growth is 11 times more effective. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this sector.

Violence and poverty are a terrible injustice and a terrible waste. Today is an opportunity to commit to cultivating a future of peace, prosperity and dignity for all.

Watch an IFAD video about women farmers in post-conflict Côte d'Ivoire fighting poverty and preserving peace by growing high-quality rice seeds.