Rural Transformation—Urban Growth: Better Together

DES MOINES, Iowa — Focusing specifically on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the Food and Agriculture Organization found that “rural poor are more likely to escape poverty by remaining in rural areas than by moving to cities.”

Though there is a degree of connection between urbanization and the rate of global economic growth, urban growth must be supported with social policies, according to the 2017 State of Food and Agriculture report published by the FAO and discussed at the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium.

Both rural and urban areas can make progress toward eliminating poverty and achieving zero hunger goals, outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, through inclusive rural transformation. This means supportive public policies and investment in small-scale producers, development of agro-industry and infrastructure necessary to connect rural areas and urban markets, and a focus on rural development planning to connect rural areas and smaller urban centers.

Urbanization alone increases food demand, but often leaves small-scale farmers behind, the report said. This is due to a concentration of food production in commercial farms, value concentration in chains and the exclusion of small farmers from urban markets.

By focusing instead on strengthening existing connections between urban centers and the rural areas surrounding them, both regions can grow stronger together. In addition, inclusive development plans can also incorporate ways to address environmental concerns such as both carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles and methane emissions from cattle, the report continued.

According to the FAO, inclusive rural transformation depends on:

  • Reducing resource use without compromising yields through advances in seeds, fertilizer, etc.
  • Optimally managing livestock residues to reduce greenhouse emissions
  • Investing substantially in agriculture extension
  • Consulting with both rural and urban stakeholders
  • Using agriculture methods tailored to specific locations
  • Fostering rural entrepreneurship and employment diversification
  • Investing in social protection programs for rural regions to encourage innovation