Magazine article World Watch

Who Cares about Farmers?

Magazine article World Watch

Who Cares about Farmers?

Article excerpt

From my desk, I can see a wall calendar with glossy images of happy farmers. For March, a group of Mozambican fisherman haul seine. For May, an Ecuadorean woman in a traditional wool sweater and felt hat harvests massive collard greens from her greenhouse. On December's page, two Turkish women hoe a field with their children in tow. Microcredit is a common theme--a farmer gets $50 to increase her herds or fishers get money to upgrade their nets. Women are central characters.

What ties all these scenes together is an organization called IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Most people probably haven't heard of it, but its impact is huge. That's because 75 percent of the world's poorest people live in remote, rural areas in Africa, Asia, and Latin America--exactly those hard-to-reach areas where IFAD does its work, and that most other development groups overlook. People living in rural areas are less likely to have access to schools, health care, clean water, and toilets.

That doesn't mean that the world should write off rural areas as backwaters. In fact, part of the reason that IFAD was set up (after the 1974 World Food Conference) was the strong evidence that countries that invest in their rural areas have made some of the best progress in raising incomes everywhere. (And the realization that hunger results not so much from a lack of food, but more from poverty.) The growing prosperity of millions of small farms in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan following World War II, and in China in more recent decades, inspired the dramatic economic booms those countries enjoyed. …

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