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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wages

Rural areas, too long seen as poverty traps, key to economic growth in developing countries

Millions of young people in developing countries who are poised to enter the labour force in the coming decades need not flee rural areas to escape poverty, argues a new FAO report published today. Rural areas actually have vast potential for economic growth pegged to food production and related sectors, The State of Food and Agriculture 2017 says. And with the majority of the world's poor and hungry living in these areas, achieving the 2030 development agenda will hinge on unlocking that oft-neglected potential, it adds. Doing so will require overcoming a thorny combination of low productivity in subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization in many places, and rapid population growth and urbanization — all of which pose challenges to developing nations' capacity to feed and employ their citizens. There is ample evidence that changes to rural economies can have major impacts. Transformations of rural economies have been credited with helping hundreds of millions of rural people lift themselves up out of poverty since the 1990s, the report notes.

. . . Key numbers

- Rural transformation have been taking place since the 1990s; since then, an additional 750 million rural people now have incomes above the moderate poverty line of US$3.10 (PPP) per person per dayIn 1960,

- 22 percent of the population in developing countries (460 million people) lived in cities and towns. By 2015, that reached 49 percent (3 billion people).

- The developing world's rural population grew by 1.5 billion between 1960 (1.6 billion people) and 2015 (3.1 billion). - In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, an average of 1 million and 2.2 million young people, respectively, entered the job market every year between 2010 and 2015. - Large cities with populations from 5-10 million and megacities of 10+ million inhabitants are represent only about 20 percent of the world's urban dwellers. - In developing countries most urban areas are relatively small - about 50 percent of the total urban population, or 1.45 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500 000 inhabitants or fewer. - Close to half the global population today either lives in cities with fewer than 500 000 inhabitants or in rural areas surrounding them.

- Globally, smaller urban areas currently account for about 60 percent of urban food demand.

- By 2030, the urban population in the world's less-developed regions will total 4 billion. 80 percent of these urban dwellers will live in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

- In 2030 the majority of the world's urban population will be found in cities with populations of 1 million or less; 80 percent of these people will live in urban areas with fewer than 500 000 inhabitants.

- The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa will likely increase fourfold between 2010 and 2030, from US$313 billion to US$1 trillion.

- In East and Southern Africa, the share of urban consumers in the purchased food market is already 52 percent and is forecast to rise to 67 percent by 2040. Read the rest at

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