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Most of the Poor Live in Rural Areas 1.2 billion people today are in extreme poverty and three-quarters of them are in the rural area. IFAD's Rural Poverty Report 2001 is about poor rural people and their poverty. The Report looks at their livelihoods, what keeps them poor, and what they can do to escape from being poor.

The Rural Poor Live in Remote Areas

The poorest of the rural poor live far away from towns or cities, and so cannot get many of the services they need. They are far away from schools, doctors and hospitals which urban people and the rich take for granted.


The Rural Poor Cultivate Dry and Marginal Lands

They cultivate dry and marginal lands.


The Rural Poor Cannot Read or Write

Many of the poor cannot read or write.

The Rural Poor Have Bigger Families and High Mortality

They usually have more children than they can care for with proper education and health.

The Rural Poor Suffer from Hunger and Disease

They don't have enough food and are often sick. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is devastating in many rural areas, especially in Africa.

The Rural Poor Have Few Opportunities off the Land

The poor have few opportunities off the land. They find it difficult to get jobs and those who find jobs have to work for very low wages. So there are many things that make people poor; and poor people usually suffer from many of these problems together.

Images of Poverty and Poor Groups

Rainfed Farmers

Smallholder Farmers

Artisanal Fishermen


As farmers, the poor have small plots of land or insecure rights to property; their land is often of poor quality. They lack water to grow crops. They work hard, but get very little in return. The environment is often very harsh. They lack money to buy better seeds and fertilizer.

As herders they cover long distances to find food and water for their animals. The need to follow rainfalls and the need to find appropriate pasture for their animals constrain them in having access to public services such as health and education.

Displaced People

Wage Labourers/landless

Indigenous People/Tribes

Female-head households

Landless people, indigenous people, tribes and displaced people are often among the poorest of the poor.

Female-headed Households have less acess to land, water, credit and social services

Women are sometimes the principal earners in very poor households. War, migration of male members for jobs, changing marriage, bridewealth and dowry customs, and premature deaths put them in such responsibilities. Poor rural women often do not own land, and they do not have resources to earn enough for themselves and their children.

Access to financial resources is also difficult, when loans require a man's signature or land title as collateral. Use of child labour is more common in female than male headed households. This reduces the educational and life earning opportunities of the child and perpetuate the poverty cycle.

Women and Children are among the poorest of the poor

Women and children suffer more than others. The incidence of children dying at birth or within five years of being born is three-to-five times as high for the rural poorest than the non-poor. Similarly, lack of health facilities and malnutrition also cause a very high rate of death of mothers at child birth among the poor.

The Report gives special attention to particular groups, like women, and examines ways of solving their problems.