IFAD: Only Policies Focused on Rural People Can Eliminate Poverty


Obinna Chima

Governments in Nigeria and other developing nations need to tailor policies and investments to transform rural areas in developing countries if they want to eliminate poverty, according to a new global study released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Economic growth is not enough to save those threatened daily with starvation, the report stressed.

The Rural Development Report 2016, IFAD’s flagship publication, is a rallying call to policymakers and development practitioners to win the global war against poverty. It brings together leading thinkers to analyse the experiences of rural development in over 60 developing countries. The research provides a solid foundation on which leaders and institutions can base their policy choices and investments.

“The Rural Development Report marks a change in perspective,” President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze, said prior to the launch of the report at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome.

“It places the rural sector into the bigger picture of the country’s development. It demonstrates the need for a far more comprehensive and holistic approach to the economy to ensure prosperity for millions of rural people. It reinforces IFAD’s view, based on 40 years of experience, that investing in agricultural and rural development means investing in the whole economy.”
The focus on rural and agricultural development is critical, the report stated, adding that the incomes of 2.5 billion people worldwide still depends directly on rural small farms which produce 80 per cent of food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The report was set in the context of a rapidly changing world, with growing demand for food, increased migration to cities and the impact of climate change and environmental degradation. It provided insight into regional and country-specific challenges and historical legacies and how factors like employment, youth populations, rights to land, access to finance, gender equality and social protection influence successful interventions.

The report’s researchers identified four models of rural economic development according to the speeds of economic transformation and inclusiveness, and the objectives of their rural development processes. This systematic and rigorous analysis of the rural sector gave a greater understanding of what key investments and policy reforms should be prioritised so that rural people, and society at large, can benefit.

“We wanted to look at the changes in the daily life of people, not as an isolated and individual undertaking, but as part of the economic developments of their countries and the rural sector,” the Director, Research and Impact Assessment Division, IFAD, Paul Winters explained.
“We systematically looked at whether economic growth brought about poverty reduction and when increased productivity in the rural sector created more jobs and more opportunities to generate higher incomes for rural people.”

The report specifically looked at the impact of structural transformation (the reallocation of economic activity beyond agriculture to include manufacturing and services) and rural transformation (the diversification of rural incomes and gains in agricultural productivity) on poverty reduction.

Some of the report’s findings included: The majority of countries that have sustained a rapid transition out of poverty diversified their economies and advanced their agricultural sectors; creating rural jobs is now just as important as spurring growth; rural transformation is an integral part of a country’s economic development; agriculture remains vital for economic development regardless of the stage of structural transformation, among others.

Some of the report’s regional findings included that Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay reduced rural income inequality, even as it increased in most Central American countries partly due to targeted government cash transfers.

Furthermore, it showed that most African countries continue to wrestle with growing youth population, small and declining manufacturing sectors, and deeply entrenched development barriers.