The role of rural development in ensuring peace and stability

The  Institute for Security Studies in its report titled Violence in Africa: Trends, drivers and prospects to 2023 noted that the continent will remain turbulent due to its poverty, youth and bad governance. This is evident across the continent and shows that peace initiatives that do not tackle these root causes of violence will bear no fruits.

Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) agrees. Therefore, he will be asking global leaders attending the Paris Peace Forum from 11 – 12 November, to consider the crucial role that increased investment in rural areas of developing countries can play  in addressing the root causes of conflicts.

“Peace and stability are not possible when people are hungry, poor and left behind,” Houngbo said.

“With hunger on the rise for the third year in a row, it is urgent to increase financing for long-term development  that result in the economic and social transformation of rural areas.”

Houngbo noted that “Hunger and poverty are global plights that can only be solved through collective and coordinated action, involving government, the  private sector, NGOs and multilateral institutions, as well as research centres, academia, and most importantly rural women and men.”

About 80 percent of the poorest and most food insecure people of the world live in rural areas. Food security represents a basic requirement for peaceful societies as acknowledged by the UN resolution 2017 adopted last May.

The 2017 and 2018 editions of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) – co-authored by IFAD and other partner UN agencies – underscore how food insecurity and competition for dwindling natural resources can become one of the triggers for instability, particularly in contexts marked by fragile institutions and climate-related events.

Droughts, for example, can jeopardize food security which, in turn, increases the risk of violence and conflict. Studies cited in the SOFI indicate that as drought intensifies and lingers, the likelihood of conflict rises significantly. One example is the Sahel, a region Houngbo visited in August. Plagued by hunger, poverty and recurring droughts, the region experiences conflicts between farmers and pastoralists as well as armed groups.

The 2018 edition of the SOFI report released in September showed that there are nearly 821 million people facing starvation and malnutrition in the world today.

By investing in rural areas, IFAD helps improve rural livelihoods, food security and youth employment  and in doing so contributes to stability.

At the Forum, which brings together more than 60 heads of state and government, as well as civil society leaders, to discuss global governance and concrete actions to building lasting peace, Houngbo will participate in the panel “Gender equality: is time up?” where he will  underline the importance of gender equality and explain why it is a pre-condition to end poverty, enable sustainable development and ensure lasting peace.

IFAD-supported projects empower rural women by strengthening their access to land, credit and productive resources, as well as by facilitating behaviour change within households that promote sharing workloads and resources equitably. Half of rural people reached by IFAD’s investments are women.