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SACAU: Agriculture can play a critical role in eradicating poverty

On 17 October 2017 - on International Day of the Eradication of Poverty 2017, under the theme A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies - SACAU said agriculture can play a critical role in poverty eradication as the majority of the world's poor reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood.

SACAU: Agriculture can play a critical role in eradicating poverty
©John Wollwerth via 123RF
“Smallholder farmers constitute a large percentage of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa,” said SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga. “Despite the fact that farmers are also responsible for food production, they are also among the most malnourished.”

Sunga said there was “something wrong” with that picture.

Perpetuating poverty at farmer level

“The highest risk in the agricultural value chain is at primary production yet farmers receive the lowest returns relative to others in the value chain. This somehow also perpetuates poverty at farmer level because of the low prices they get for their products,” he added. “Poverty is a result of failures of systems and institutions. It is also a result of physical, economic and social isolation. Without massive investments in addressing this, including in infrastructure, we will be scratching the surface,” said Sunga.

“The onus isn’t only on farmers to address poverty by using agriculture as a vehicle. It requires public and private investments and multidisciplinary interventions,” he said. Farmers organisations also have a critical role in facilitating such interventions.

Rural areas should not be seen as poverty traps

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, rural areas should not be seen as poverty traps.

Its report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2017, notes that the majority of the world's poor and hungry Iive in rural areas. The report says that transformation of rural economies has been credited with helping hundreds of millions of rural people lift themselves up out of poverty since the 1990s.

The number of young people aged 15 - 24 is expected to rise by 100 million to 1.3 billion by 2030. Most of this will be in sub-Saharan Africa’s rural areas.

“Young people and women will play a key role as future drivers of Africa’s social and economic development,” said Sunga, noting that SACAU’s Women Farmers Forum and Young Agripreneurs Forum brought together these key stakeholders to explore innovations for the future.

Migration alone will not provide solutions: "Policy-makers are urged to recognise the catalytic role of small cities and towns in mediating the rural-urban nexus and providing smallholder farmers with greater opportunities to market their produce and share in the benefits of economic growth," noted FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his forward to the report.

Recommended policies include ensuring that small-scale producers are able to participate fully in meeting urban food demands, building the necessary infrastructure to connect rural areas and urban markets, and including smaller urban areas into rural-urban economies.
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