Rural areas have great potential for economic growth linked to food production in developing countries and young people should not have to leave the countryside to obtain employment, says a new FAO report.
The State of Food and Agriculture 2017 reveals that between 2015 and 2030 the number of people aged 15-24 will increase by about 100 million, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.
In many developing countries, however, the growth of the industrial and service sectors has lagged behind, and they will be unable to absorb new job seekers to join the labor market.
That is why FAO assures that a deep transformation of the rural sector is needed to realize its potential, not only to provide food for a growing population, but also to generate employment.
"The proportion of the population employed in agriculture is being reduced and many people are moving towards low-skilled informal jobs in the services sector. The ability to create jobs is limited, so employment does not represent an opportunity to escape poverty for many," says Marco Sánchez Cantillo, deputy director of FAO's Division of Agricultural Development Economics.
Cantillo says that more and more rural inhabitants will move to cities and risk adding to the urban poor, instead of finding a better future. However, if it is invested in the agriculture sector, urbanization can become an opportunity.
"Urbanization represents a great opportunity for rural areas, 70% of the food produced in the world is consumed in urban areas of the world. For many farmers, the growing food demand could be a great opportunity, perhaps more important than exports. Linking these producers to these new domestic markets that are going to have to grow, will be crucial for poverty reduction," he added.
The FAO study establishes three lines of action to transform the agricultural sector positively, ranging from public policies to investment in infrastructure that connects rural and urban sectors more effectively.
"The key is to invest in rural areas but taking into account how these areas are connected or should be in case they are not connected with the surrounding urban centers. The report proposes a balanced combination of infrastructure development with policy interventions across the urban-rural spectrum. It is clear that infrastructure is needed both for the food value chain and for connecting rural towns with surrounding villages, "said Cantillo.