Marked by deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world, threatening to slow the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, global climate targets, and improved food and nutrition security, according to the 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) released on Friday.
Rural population account for 45.3 per cent of the world’s total population and at least 70 per cent of the world’s population remain extremely poor. Besides being the most vulnerable and marginalised, rural population suffer from rapid population growth rates, inadequate job and enterprise creation, poor infrastructure, scarce financial services. In addition, rural communities bear the brunt of climate change impacts, said the report, which has made rural revitalisation as the theme for 2019.
“Without innovative and holistic revitalisation approaches that leverage new opportunities and address growing challenges, achieving food security for all by 2030 will be difficult – perhaps even impossible,” the GFPR report said. The report was brought out by the Washington DC-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
“Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Shenggan Fan, IFPRI Director General, who was here for the release of the report.
To achieve this, he said the focus should be on women and rural youth. In many countries 60 per cent of farming is carried out by women who do not have assets or political voice or have no access to agricultural extension services, Fan said. The living conditions in rural areas are very poor with limited access to good drinking water and air becoming increasingly polluted.
“Besides, nearly 50 per cent of rural youth all over the world do not have any formal job – they are either unemployed or under-employed,” said Fan.
Measures to boost rural economy
According to the report, rural transformation and revitalisation have been pre-eminent goal of India’s development efforts since independence. “India has unveiled several measures to boost rural economy and improve rural livelihoods by enhancing access to basic services, increasing investments in agriculture and rural infrastructure,” said Shahidur Rashid, IFPRI Director for South Asia.
Recent programmes include the minimum support prices for major crops equal to at least 1.5 times their production costs. India plans to upgrade 22,000 rural haats (local informal markets) to Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs), and upgrade agri-marketing infrastructure.
Despite progress, India is continuously facing the challenge of climate change, risks on land degradation, deterioration of soil quality, and loss of biodiversity has potentially slowed the rural transformation.
The report also highlighted that changing consumption patterns—driven largely by urbanisation, demographic transitions, increasing income, and growing integration of food supply chains and food systems in India — offer new opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment in rural areas.