IFAD calls for agricultural investment to address poverty and inequality in Near East and North Africa

Tunis/Rome, 8 December, 2016 – Income inequality and a rising rural-urban divide compounded by political instability, are the most challenging issues in the Near East and North Africa, says a new report to be presented today in Tunis by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Boosting the role of agriculture is vital to tackling poverty and inequality and for fostering economic development in rural areas, the report adds.

Rural Development Report 2016: Fostering Inclusive Rural Transformation is a rallying call for policymakers and development practitioners to win the global war against rural poverty. This systematic and rigorous analysis of the rural sector gives a greater understanding of what key investments and policy reforms should be prioritized so that people and nations can benefit and transform rural areas in developing countries.

“Understanding how rural development can alleviate rural-urban poverty gaps is key. Inclusive rural transformation isn’t some abstract phenomenon – it’s a choice and governments and  development partners need to come together to make it happen,” said Périn Saint Ange, Associate Vice-President of IFAD. “We, at IFAD, are striving to make agriculture the real engine of growth within diversified economies.”

The report provides insight into the regional and country-specific challenges in the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe (NEN) and the varied pace of development in the region. State fragility and armed conflicts over the past three decades have displaced many people in the region. As a result, countries with chronic fragility may urbanize prematurely as people tend to seek both security and jobs in urban areas, thereby neglecting agriculture.

In assessing the situation in the region, the report cites what it refers to as the “three NEN ruralities”:

  • Prematurely urbanized countries, such as Yemen and Sudan, that have experienced disproportionately large urban population growth and a corresponding widening of rural-urban poverty gaps.
  • Countries positioned for progress, such as Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, which did not experience major disruptive events and could thus embark on normal rural transformation.
  • Former Soviet countries with low urbanization and low urban-rural poverty differences, primarily because of their former status as hinterlands tied to the Soviet economy.

In the Near East and North Africa as a whole, youth unemployment, at 30 per cent, remains higher than in any other region in the world.

“The cost of lost opportunities for young people is compounded as today’s excluded youth become tomorrow’s poor,” said Khalida Bouzar, IFAD’s Director of the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division. “It is essential to raise awareness, especially among youth, that agriculture and agribusiness could significantly absorb the rapidly growing and young labour force into the formal economy. Our aim is to put all rural people in the driver’s seat of their own future,” she added.

Note to journalists:

Download the press pack

Download the Near East & North Africa chapter

Download the full report

To arrange an interview with IFAD spokespeople, please contact:

In Tunis:

David Florentin Paqui
Communications Officer, IFAD
Work:  +39 06545912213
Mobile:+39 3357516406

Press release No.: IFAD/2016/81

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.