Rural poverty reduction in the 21st century

While political dynamics differ greatly from one place to another, rural areas continue to have legitimate grievances. Poverty in rural areas is both more prevalent and more acute than in urban areas—about 80 per cent of the world’s extremely poor people live in rural areas.

This will certainly need to change, especially if governments and development organisations are serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Rural populations are on the front lines of climate change mitigation and adaptation and will need to be a productive force to ensure the food security needs of countries and communities around the world. Political will and leadership are needed to make rural development and poverty reduction a priority. Rural poverty in the 21st century presents new challenges and opportunities for governments and organisations that share the goal of pro-poor development.

The classic dichotomies between rural and urban environments are becoming less relevant as linkages between the two are becoming more evident. Rural populations are also increasingly diversifying their livelihoods: while the agricultural sector remains the most important, other sectors are crucial to generate income for poor people in rural areas. The articles in this issue offer insights into what has been done to reduce rural poverty; they present some of the progress that has been made and offer suggestions for different ways in which further progress can be achieved. Our objective is to increase the visibility of rural areas and the centrality of its residents in meeting cross-cutting existential challenges in the 21st century. We hope that it helps contribute to the debate by communicating the urgency and importance of reducing rural poverty to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and revitalise rural areas around the world.