Poverty does not care about geographical location. Poor people live in developed nations as well as in underdeveloped and developing countries.
There are poor people in city squallers as there are in rural areas. But poverty seems to show a growing trend in rural Latin America.
Almost half of the people living in the countryside in Latin America and the Caribbean are poor.
There are 59 million people who cannot meet all their basic needs, a number that has grown for the first time in a decade, according to a report presented on Wednesday by the United Nations agency for food (FAO).
Between 2014 and 2016, the latest data available, two million Latin Americans went to swell the number of rural poor, a growth that was not seen since 2008, in that case, because of the effects of the international financial crisis.
Extreme poverty in the countryside also increased: from 20% to 22.5% of the people living in rural areas.
The reference to limit these realities is the one used by ECLAC, which considers people living in households whose incomes are not enough to acquire a basic food basket as extremely poor, so they will use it entirely for that purpose.
Poverty is understood as the situation in which the income is lower than the value of a basic basket of goods and services, both food and non-food.
There is no technical justification that can explain these horrific figures. The basis of the problem is that we have forgotten about rural areas, especially because poverty is also significant in urban areas and suburbs.
We had been progressing very well in the past decade and suddenly, we paid attention elsewhere; maybe we thought that the problem was already solved.
This reality is based on incontestable data: between 1990 and 2014, the region managed to reduce rural monetary poverty by almost 20 points, from 65% to 46.2%; and extreme rural poverty from 40.1% to 27.5%.
But starting in 2012 a period of stagnation began, which was followed by a setback in the last two years.
The explanation for this really has to do with economic cycles, according to Carolina Trivelli, a member of the Institute of Peruvian Studies and one of the authors of the study:
“We come from a high growth stage that helped push poverty reduction. Opportunities were generated and governments, with more fiscal resources, launched social programs, training, which had a positive impact. But many of these efforts have stopped. They do not reach new people and neither do they innovate.”
The consequences of these figures are already being seen. The caravan of migrants from Central America to Mexico and the United States is not a coincidence, in the opinion of the authors of the study.
Around 76% of emigrants from Honduras come from rural municipalities; in El Salvador, they are 70%; 61% in Guatemala, according to the document.
“Migration has its origin mainly in the countryside, in its despair”, underlines the study.
The report entitled Panorama of Rural Poverty, has been presented in the framework of the Week of Agriculture, which takes place in Argentina.
Their figures show the imbalance between rural and urban poverty. While only 18% of the population of Latin America lives in the countryside, it is there precisely where the study finds 29% of all the poor and 41% of the extreme poor.
The document proposes five major measures to reverse the negative trend.
Efficient, inclusive and sustainable agricultural sectors, supported by investment in private and agricultural public goods, securing access to land, better training in the field and risk management.
Extended social protection, to protect and increase the coverage and encourage it to be combined with productive programs.
Sustainable management of natural resources to strengthen the resilience of rural populations and link poverty reduction policies to environmental sustainability.
Non-agricultural rural employment, because many jobs in the field do not occur directly in agriculture, so the authors of the study see it necessary to promote programs that allow increasing trade between rural and urban areas and explore others in sectors that go beyond tourism, handicrafts, and employment.
Integrated infrastructure packages in the form of projects to bring fresh water, sanitation or electricity.
Reversing rural poverty is not only an “ethical obligation”, the study says, but if it is not done, most of the Sustainable Development Goals, the goals that the international community has set for itself, cannot be met.
The report points out that changing the trend of recent years is essential to close gaps in inequality, end ethnic discrimination, advance gender equality, reduce violence, illegal economies, and citizen insecurity, maintain cohesion and peace, for the sustainable management of natural resources and address the structural causes of migration.