18.10.2017

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Rural areas are key to economic growth in developing countries, according to the report. Thus, 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.

Rural areas have vast potential for economic growth pegged to food production and related sectors, according to the report State of Food and Agriculture 2017. The report was published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in October 2017.

Targeting policy support and investment to rural areas to build vibrant food systems and supporting agro-industries that are well connected to urban zones —especially small and medium-sized cities — will create employment and allow more people to stay, and thrive, in the countryside, which represents a strategic intervention, the report says.

Transformed rural economies will not necessarily be a panacea that solves all the pressures that drive people to relocate, but they will generate much-needed jobs and contribute to making out-migration more of a choice, rather than a necessity.

Growing urban food markets are a chance for the rural population

The State of Food and Agriculture makes the case that needed transformations in rural economies can be sparked by leveraging the growing demand for food in urban areas to diversify food systems and generate new economic opportunities in off-farm, agriculture-related activities.

This includes enterprises that process or refine, package or transport, and store, market or sell food, as well as businesses that supply production inputs such as seeds, tools and equipment, and fertilizers or provide irrigation, tilling or other services.

Already, growing demand coming from urban food markets currently consumes up to 70 percent of national food supplies, even in countries with large rural populations, the report notes.

But while urbanisation provides a "golden opportunity" for agriculture, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers.

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