IFAD’s flagship publication looks at rural poverty today, and it presents contrasting visions of the future, to seek solutions that will enable rural people overcome poverty in a rapidly changing world. It is intended to inspire policy makers and practitioners, especially those in developing countries, with an improved understanding of how to create the conditions for reducing rural poverty today, and with new ideas about the options going forwards. The Report is expected to have lasting value for IFAD and its partners as well as the rural development community more broadly over the years to come.

The Rural Poverty Report will take as its entry point the issue of global food security, now and into the next 20 years – under increasingly uncertain conditions. The food, fuel and financial crises of 2008-2009 not only pushed many millions of people deeper into poverty and hunger; it also led us to ask new questions about food security in the future. While most projections suggest food production can keep pace with population growth and change, ensuring access to - or demand for - that food remains an enormous challenge.

Rural people are central to the story of global food security, and they will be at the heart of the Report. On the one hand, they make up the majority of the poor and the food insecure; but on the other, it is by enabling them to increase their agricultural production and bring more to the market, raise their incomes and create employment opportunities for the poorest that the greatest impact can be made to improve global food security.

Yet we know that rural people are not a single undifferentiated group. The problems and opportunities faced by rural people in different parts of the world vary: Brazil is different to Bhutan or Botswana; China has little in common with Chad or Chile. We know too that rural people have varied livelihoods, as producers of food and other agricultural products, as pastoralists, fishers, hunter-gatherers, and – increasingly – as labourers and micro-entrepreneurs.  And we know too that the problems faced by men are frequently different to those faced by women, by the youth, and by indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. All these differences will be reflected in the Report.

What does the future look like for these people? Will climate variability, declining access to land and water, exclusion from global markets and low rural wages result in growing poverty and hunger? Or will we see increased investment in the rural areas and enabling policies leading to increased agricultural productivity, stronger rural organizations, and a growing rural economy in which the poor share the benefits?  What is it that will make the difference between these two outcomes?

Content
The Report of course is still work in progress. However, it is expected that it will be split into three parts. Its first part will begin with an overview of rural poverty today.  It will then take a look at what conditions could be like for rural people in 2030 if things go badly wrong – how bad could it get?  The second part will explore the major issues and responses to them that are needed if the world is to avoid the worst scenarios for 2030 and build a better future for rural people. Its three chapters will focus on understanding how rural people can overcome risk and reduce their vulnerability to shocks – increasingly, climate-related; how they can adopt sustainable land management practices and productivity enhancing technologies; and how they can expand their access to agricultural value chains, including those capturing carbon in the soil.  In Part III, the Report will take another look at 2030, this time focusing on what the future could look like for rural people if things are done right; and it will close with a call for action, for policy makers, donors, NGOs and the private sector, which will enable the world to reach that scenario.

Throughout, the Report will look at issues from the perspective of poor rural people.  It will include case studies which show how people can overcome their problems and achieve a better future. The importance of helping people to build their skills as individuals, their organizations, and ultimately their capacity to find new, effective solutions to their challenges will be highlighted throughout the Report.  And in all the chapters, substantial space will be given over to voices of rural people themselves, to enable them to give their views and ideas on the various topics covered in the Report.

 

KEY MESSAGES

  • How difficult life could become for rural people living in poverty, in the absence of the right new public policies, the right functioning institutions and the right private investment.
  • The need to move on from old dichotomies in agriculture and rural development policies and practice – farm/non-farm, urban/rural, market/subsistence, market/production, sustainable/technology-driven, yield enhancing/risk reducing, large farm/small farm, etc.
  • The need for a new mainstream agricultural development paradigm focused on the actual producers, including the many women farmers and labourers, incorporating risk, vulnerability and uncertainty, sustainable natural resource management, and, critically, climate change mitigation into efforts to enhance incomes/productivity.
  • Climate mitigation, especially soil carbon capture, can provide a secure source of income to smallholder agriculture provided the measurement, verification and certification challenges can be addressed.
  • The critical role of local organisations, as a means to build the capacities of rural people and empower them to play a more proactive role in their own destinies. The context for their strategies is set by governments, the large scale private sector, and myriad market actors.
  • The significance of non-agricultural policies for the elimination of rural poverty – including protection, education and skills.
  • The importance of responding to the interests of wage labourers alongside smallholders and tenant farmers, pastoralists and fishers, in seeking food security, exit routes from poverty and a new balance between farm and non-farm economies.
  • The importance of context for rural poverty reduction and the heterogeneity of situations in determining combinations and sequences of policies and interventions.
 

A broad consultative process
The Rural Poverty Report will be the result of a broad consultative process within and beyond IFAD. The steps include:

  • Background papers for chapters, and development of a conceptual framework, structure and key messages in collaboration with experts from a range of development and research institutions.
  • Wide consultations to help ensure that the Report responds to the concerns and priorities of policy makers and practitioners in developing and developed countries, organizations of poor rural people and NGOs.
  • On-the-ground scouting and stocktaking efforts to identify ‘success stories’ – documenting effective and sustainable responses, particularly those developed by poor rural people, to emerging challenges.
  • External reviews of draft texts by carefully-selected men and women with experience and expertise related to agricultural development, rural poverty reduction and broad-based economic growth.

It is intended that the Rural Poverty Report should be a valuable reference for a wide range of stakeholders in rural development and poverty reduction, including policymakers, donors, development organizations, private-sector foundations and enterprises, and rural organizations in all regions where IFAD works. It will provide policy-relevant inputs for developing pro-poor agendas at the global, regional and country levels that empower poor rural people to address old and emerging challenges in a sustainable way.

The Rural Poverty Report will be published in 2010.

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