By Femi Adekoya
The 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) released yesterday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), has raised concerns about threats to progress recorded in improved food and nutrition security due to conflicts in many parts of the rural communities.
According to the report, rural areas remain underserved compared to urban areas and face a wide array of challenges across the globe: rural areas struggle with environmental crisis in China; severe agrarian crisis in India, and acute shortage of jobs for the growing youth populations in Africa.
To overcome these challenges, the report calls for rural revitalization, highlighting policies, institutions, and investments that can transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work and raise families.
In Nigeria, many of the food producing regions are bedevilled by insurgency, herdsmen crisis, communal and religious crises among others.
“Revitalizing rural areas can stimulate economic growth and begin to address the crises in developing countries, and also tackle challenges holding back achievement of the SDGs and climate goals by 2030,” said Shenggen Fan, director general, IFPRI.
“Rural revitalization is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Fan.
The report noted that majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas: rural populations account for 45.3 percent of the world’s total population, but 70 percent of the world’s extremely poor. The global poverty rate in rural areas is currently 17 percent, more than double the urban poverty rate of 7 percent.
“Rural transformation requires a holistic economic approach to connect rural and urban economies. Strengthening these connections can spur growth and diversification in the farm and non-farm sectors, closing socio-economic and quality-of-life gaps between urban and rural areas,” said Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme and co-author of the lead chapter in the report.
The report emphasizes that rural areas could become premiere hubs of innovations in just under a decade. It recommends revitalizing rural areas with a focus on five building blocks: creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities; achieving gender equality; addressing environmental challenges; improving access to energy; and investing in good governance.
“Rapid urbanization in Africa is creating new opportunities for rural transformation and revitalization, mainly due to growing demand for food in urban areas, and investments in new staple food processing technologies as seen in the case of Ghana, Mali, Tanzania and Senegal,” said Ousmane Badiane, director for Africa, IFPRI and co-author of the report chapter on Africa.
The report explained that focus group discussions in Ghana and Nigeria have found that urban consumers prefer traditional foods, but often lack confidence in the quality of locally processed food products.
Achieving these policy goals require investments in good governance. The report identifies three aspects of governance critical for rural revitalization: appropriate and predictable laws and regulations; effective policy implementation and enforcement; and accountability of those in positions of power and authority.
This year’s report also features chapters on how Europe’s experience can provide lessons for rural revitalization in developing countries; food policy trends from Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions; updated data on food policy indicators and more. The report is the latest in an annual analysis of developments in food policy around the developing world, based on the most recent available evidence.