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People-centered investment in agriculture needed to fight poverty – FAO

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Investments in agriculture and rural development may fall short of fighting poverty and other goals if they fail to take into account social circumstances that affect livelihoods and food security, according to a UN agency publication.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on April 2, 2012 released a new publication designed to boost the effectiveness of such investments, by emphasizing the importance of project design that captures the full social picture when striving for social inclusiveness and gender equity.

The publication titled “Social analysis for agriculture and rural investment projects”, includes three user guides aimed to support the design of pro-poor programmes and policies in effectively addressing social diversity in their development objectives, such as gender, ethnicity, age and disability, and factors which may contribute to impoverishment, vulnerability, exclusion and powerlessness.

It said although many manuals and user guides on social analysis already exist, most neglect its application to agriculture and rural investment.

“Some 75 percent of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas, and their incomes are directly or indirectly linked to agriculture,” the FAO observes.

“Hunger, malnutrition and poverty are typically tied to the lack of access to productive resources, income opportunities, education and effective social safety nets. The social analysis guides are a toolkit for understanding the multiple factors that affect rural people’s livelihoods and for identifying pathways out of poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity,” said Ida Christensen, a rural sociologist with FAO’s Investment Centre Division.

“In order to formulate effective policies and programmes,” Christensen says “we need to ask questions like: How is poverty defined by people in a given community or household? How do poverty and vulnerability affect people differently in urban/rural areas, or in female-headed versus male-headed households? How does a person’s gender or age affect his or her workload and ability to access and control livelihoods resources? How do these factors influence a person’s exposure to information and authority to voice opinions? How do illness and disability impact a family’s resilience to shocks?”

The FAO social analysis publication aims to build capacity to reach the poorest.

By Ekow Quandzie

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