“Poverty is overwhelmingly rural and will be for decades to come” according to the World Bank and their annual World Development Report.
The World Bank warned that the UN goal of halving the incidence of poverty and hunger in the poorest countries would go unmet unless agriculture took centre stage in development aid. While 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas only 4% of official development assistance goes to agriculture in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa public spending on farming amounts to only 4% of total government expenditure. The report said that for the poorest people an improvement in a country’s gross domestic product that is agriculture-driven is four times more effective in reducing poverty than is GDP growth originating in other sectors.
The report highlights the illusion that the poor will simply be absorbed by growth taking place outside agriculture, citing the persistence of rural poverty in the flourishing economies of China and India. And the report in particular called on the United States to reduce cotton subsidies that depress prices for African smallholders.
A related review by the FT reproduced here, discusses some of the costs to China of their rapid development.