FAO & partners advocate for inclusive food systems to combat rural poverty
Director-General addresses high-level UN General assembly side event
2 December 2020, New York/Rome – The implications of agri-food systems transformation for the livelihoods of rural people in the COVID-19 era was the focus of a high-level event today, co-organized by FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP) & the United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs (DESA), in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of China & the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations (UN).
The event “Transforming agri-food systems & fostering inclusive rural development in the context of COVID-19 to end rural poverty” was held virtually, on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly’s Special Session in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants highlighted the key role of agriculture in the transformation of the economy, ensuring food security & nutrition & in ending extreme poverty.
“Evidence shows that in low-income countries, investing in agriculture – especially in family farming & small-scale agriculture – has a greater impact on reducing poverty than investing in other sectors,” noted FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu who went on to stress that pro-poor growth also required creating off-farm jobs, fostering economic diversification & investing in human capital, health, education & infrastructure.
Extreme poverty in rural areas is three times higher than in urban areas. About 80 percent of the world’s extremely poor reside in rural areas & most have to cope with limited access to often degraded resources. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated this situation, exacerbating inequalities & negatively impacting the lives & well-being of the rural poor -in particular of women, indigenous peoples & ethnic minorities & youth.
The President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, in a video message, underlined that “in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must focus on strengthening local & inclusive food systems to ensure sustained, resilient food security & poverty reduction. This includes moving from an agricultural perspective to agri-food perspective where the value addition of agriculture is appropriately recognized.”
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic & Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, stressed the importance of working together to address the challenges at hand. “A coordinated international response & recovery effort is very much needed to fight the pandemic, lift rural populations out of poverty, & ensure no one is left behind,” said Liu.
The President of IFAD, Gilbert F. Houngbo, emphasized that “Today’s pandemic increases the urgency to make our food systems not only more sustainable but also more resilient, as well as inclusive & fair. I cannot insist enough on the importance of focusing our attention on the small-scale producers if we really want to boot out poverty & achieve SDG1 & SDG2 by 2030.”
The Director of WFP’s Humanitarian & Development Programme, David Kaatrud, elaborated on the agency’s resilience-building activities in rural communities. “Studies have shown that resilience programmes are a cost-efficient investment for reducing need & preventing crises. For instance, a recent WFP analysis found that each US$1 spent on an integrated package of resilience activities in Niger would generate a return of US$3.67 over a 20-year period,” he said.
As collaborators of the event, the Permanent Representative of China to the UN, Ambassador Zhang Jun, & the Head of the EU Delegation to the UN, Ambassador Olof Skoog, helped set the stage for the discussions in the opening segment of today’s event.
Ambassador Zhang stated that “accelerating rural poverty reduction & transforming food systems should be prioritized for post COVID-19 recovery & the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.” Ambassador Skoog stressed the urgency to act. “In the time of COVID-19, one thing became crystal clear: addressing food security & ensuring proper nutrition for all is urgent,” he said, also underscoring the strong interlinkages between healthy people, healthy societies & a healthy planet which are recognized in the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy.
Using & creating opportunities to end rural poverty
The UN Food Systems Summit 2021 & multilateral efforts to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic offer unique opportunities to identify & promote actions in favour of the rural poor. FAO’s Hand-in-Hand initiative is a complimentary, multi-sectoral & partnership-focused approach. It aims to reduce poverty by improving agricultural potential through investing in innovative, inclusive & productive value chains & building human capital.
As the FAO Director-General remarked, “We have nine harvests remaining until 2030 & achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, & we must galvanize more partners around this urgency to work together on understanding the needs of different agri-food systems around the world, & jointly address how to accelerate solutions.” In line with this, FAO launched in July this year its COVID-19 Response & Recovery Programme aimed at preventing a global food emergency during & after the pandemic, while working on medium- to long-term development responses for food security & nutrition.
The event “Transforming agri-food systems & fostering inclusive rural development in the context of COVID-19 to end rural poverty” was moderated by FAO Chief Economist, Máximo Torero.