Agriculture key to overcome rural poverty

Harare, 16 October 2016 - Today the United Nations in Zimbabwe, led by FAO and WFP, is marking World Food Day by highlighting the importance of social protection for the promotion of agriculture, food security and nutrition, and breaking the rural poverty cycle.IMG_7420 - Copy_3_0.JPG

Despite outstanding achievements under the Millennium Development Goals, currently 7 out of 10 people in the world population have no access to adequate social protection, with the majority of them living in the rural areas in developing countries.

Here in Zimbabwe, this year according to the 2015 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, an estimated 1.5 million people are facing food insecurity, resulting from reduced agricultural production, mainly due to prolonged dry spells in the southern and south-eastern parts of the country as well as poor rainfall distribution patterns across the country.

On the occasion of this important day, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Bishow Parajuli said, “Poor rural households are constrained by limited access to resources, low agricultural productivity, poorly functioning markets, and erratic rainfall trends and other effects of climate change. The United Nations supports these vulnerable households so that they are able to cope with economic and natural shocks that threaten their livelihoods.”

This year’s World Food Day theme “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty” rightly places agriculture at the centre of the fight against hunger, improved livelihoods, poverty reduction, and brings to the fore how social protection can enhance food and nutrition security.

Indeed, improved agriculture production matched with access to markets increases income generation capacities of smallholder farmers and creates opportunities for people in rural areas, thereby improving livelihoods.

FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Representative to Zimbabwe, Chimimba David Phiri said, “FAO in Zimbabwe recognizes that in order to achieve inclusive agricultural development and food and nutrition security, targeted social protection programmes should be in place.”

Working with the Government and development partners, FAO has been working on projects on, inter alia, food and nutrition security, sustainable livelihoods, livestock production, crop production, irrigation rehabilitation, forestry and fisheries. FAO has leveraged agriculture as a critical sector in the management of natural resources, protection the environment, and achievement of sustainable development, particularly in rural areas.

“The essence of ending rural poverty, lies in the commitments and partnerships between government and development partners” says WFP Country Director, Mr. Eddie Rowe. “National social protection systems and safety nets offer an opportunity to address food security and nutrition issues at commensurate scale, as vehicles for achieving zero hunger”.

WFP is contributing towards building resilience of people in chronically food insecure districts in Zimbabwe through a creation and rehabilitation of productive assets such as small irrigation schemes, water sources, nutrition gardens, cattle dip-tanks, etc. This year alone WFP has assisted communities create or rehabilitated over 100 assets in 10 very food insecure districts and extended food/cash assistance to 98,000 beneficiaries.

These United Nations agencies are working with Government to counter the effects of climate change by promoting climate smart agriculture, including conservation agriculture, where communities have been capacitated so that they use new farming methods which ensure better yields in the face of unpredictable weather patterns which are linked to climate change. These efforts are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty and hunger.