The statement was made recently by Estherine F. Fotabong, the Director of Program Planning and Development of the AUDA -NEPAD Agency recently during the 3rd Africa Rural Development Forum (ARDF) that was held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The director said that the Rural Futures Program is specifically designed to ensure the full participation of the rural poor in the development process.
“There is no better way for us to reflect over the coming two days than to come up with lasting solutions for rural development and the eradication of hunger and poverty on the continent,” she said
Fotabong recalled that the Rural Futures Program was launched in October 2010 noting that the ARDF3 event therefore represented one of a series of many strategic consultative meetings and activities geared towards implementation of rural transformation programs. African Heads of State and Government made a commitment to advance the rural sector as an effective engine for transforming livelihoods.
She further explained that the African Heads of at the 2011 African Union Summit recognised the challenges faced by rural communities and called for an integrated development initiative to promote rural transformation as a pathway to improve rural employment and livelihood opportunities, facilitate national economic development and sustainability, and ensure exchange of information on best practices on rural development.
“‘The rationale and political background to Rural Futures Program is that, rural development is essential to tackle the present challenges of poverty, un- and under-employment, insecurity, food insecurity and malnutrition. And hence, to prevent instability, uncontrolled movements of people towards cities, and to correct inequalities between rural and urban areas,” said Fotabong
Giving details She said that the demographic profile of Africa is central to the structural and rural transformation debate with the population expected to double by 2050, to reach 2.2 billion people. Whilst the relative percentage of the rural population is set to fall from about 65 per cent today to 42 per cent by 2050, the total rural population in absolute numbers will continue to grow from about 700 million in today to a projected 927 million in 2050.
She stressed that addressing rural transformation therefore it is not only the shift in percentage anticipated population between rural and urban, but also what matters is the actual population numbers anticipated to remain in rural areas.
According to the director a proactive territorial approach is therefore required that includes consolidating urban-rural linkages and providing networks of adjoining peri-urban towns and medium-sized cities with the enabling functions that foster and facilitate the growth of rural areas and thier connections to metropolitan areas.
“Infrastructure development and service provisivon such as roads, energy, communications, water, and markets, etc will play a major role in enabling these linkages,” she added.
Few countries in Africa articulate a rural development strategy beyond that of the agriculture sector. Spatial and broader socio-economic elements of rural development are rarely articulated or adequately resourced within national strategic plans. Rural areas are generally characterized by poor infrastructure in terms of roads, water, electricity and social amenities.
The current situation is that development policies that affect the rural population, the majority of whom are women have failed or been insufficiently implemented to transform their lives. These are policies mainly in relation to land ownership, natural resource management, health and education, access to productive inputs including finance and provision of income generating activities and off-farm employment.
Governments need to embrace agendas that provide wide-ranging and quality services to broad sections of the population, which includes securing equal access to social and economic goods and services in both rural and urban areas, and across rural regions for both men and women.
There is therefore an emerging shift of focus of rural policy towards a holistic multi-sectoral and place-based approach that identifies how the various components of a local economy interact and seeks to support them