It is important to close the gap between rural and urban areas.
Rural communities need to have a greater share of the value chain.
A holistic approach by governments, donors and international institutions is needed.
Connectivity in terms of transport or internet access is crucial.
The gap between urban and rural areas needs to be closed as it accounts for more than 50 % of the inequalities in developing countries. Communities in rural areas suffer from a lack of access to health and education and other basic services as well as those essential for economic development such as transport infrastructure and internet access. Now they also face challenges such as the effects of climate change and conflicts.
While poverty and malnutrition continue to be major challenges, the issue of balanced diets also needs to be addressed. There are pockets of undernutrition in areas where hunger itself is not a major problem, while people in rural areas often have difficulty in eating a diverse diet with the correct range of nutrients. Obesity could become a major health problem in developing countries if issues of healthy diets are not addressed now.
One way to tackle this is to encourage farmers to diversify their crops to provide the range of nutrients.
Rural communities must be helped to take a bigger share of the value chain in food production. While farmers in developing countries produce the crops, there are greater profits to be made in processing and at the final retail stage. In one project, the processing of an agricultural product is carried out in the same area as the crop is grown. As a result, the communities have improved their prosperity level. This sort of project could serve as a model for rural development.
It is also important to help farmers to produce their own inputs, especially seeds, as the cost of buying these from international companies is too high.
Speakers stressed the need for a more integrated and holistic approach to reducing rural poverty and ensuring food security. Governments, donor organisations, international development banks and agencies need to work closely together to deliver solutions to problems with complex and multifaceted causes. There is too much fragmentation at various levels with, for example, different United Nations agencies responsible for different policy areas that have an impact on rural poverty such as food and the environment.
While international development agencies and donors are starting to revise their approach towards a more holistic approach, the same problem of fragmentation exists in partner countries.
Agencies have to work with a series of different ministries responsible for different policy areas such as agriculture and fisheries. Getting away from the silo mentality – a reluctance to share information among stakeholders – is also essential if real progress is going to be made in tackling rural poverty.
While hunger and malnutrition remain major problems, developing countries face a public health crisis in the coming decades if the issues of diet and obesity are not addressed urgently.