Even though the cities are becoming more and more important, much of humankind’s future will continue to be determined in the rural areas.
Photo: FAO/O. Argenti
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A transition is under way in many of the world’s rural regions. The form that it takes and the speed with which it progresses will depend in part on the attention that it receives from policy-makers. Our author explains why we need this rural transformation – and how development cooperation should support it.

We live in an urbanising world. This is a major challenge – one in which we should be investing all our energies. Nevertheless, the growing significance of cities and the fading rural-urban divide should not be a reason or a pretext to neglect our rural areas. They require just as much ongoing attention from policy-makers as our urban centres, for a multitude of reasons.

Firstly, the high rate of urbanisation worldwide and the dramatic expansion of some megacities – the subject of much debate – should not obscure the fact that many countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa remain mostly rural. According to the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africa currently has an urban population of just 37 per cent, while the figure for South Asia is even lower, at 33 per cent. The turning point towards a mainly urban population is not projected to occur until mid-century. Indeed, the total rural population in Africa is expected to increase by 300 million to 2050 compared with 2010, bringing it close to one billion.

Secondly, poverty and hunger mainly have a rural face.

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