Reduce inequality by enabling rural smallholders to prosper


Photo credit: FAO

Rural students line up for a school lunch in Honduras.

To reduce inequality, focus on hunger and extreme poverty

Absolute levels of hunger and poverty are the most dramatic issues when it comes to addressing inequality, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said today at a UN conference convened to discuss what in recent years has become one of the world’s most pressing public policy themes.

“The most pressing priority in terms of inequality is to help those people that are still living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger,” Graziano da Silva said at a Special Meeting on Inequality held by ECOSOC, the United National Economic and Social Council.

Inequality, both within and among countries, can threaten economic growth and reducing it is an explicit aim of SDG-10, a key component of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda agreed on by all United Nations members last year. FAO’s Director-General focused on the link between inequality and food insecurity in rural areas.

Some 80 percent of the world’s population suffering from hunger and extreme poverty live in rural areas, where many depend on agriculture but have access only to degraded natural resources such as land and water.

On top of that, the world already has enough food “to feed every person,” underscoring how insufficient access to food rather than insufficient production is the main cause of hunger, he said.

Addressing the gap entails acknowledging that poor consumers do not always have the income to buy the food they need, and subsistence farmers do not always have the means to produce enough food to feed their families, he added.

Global themes

Policy decisions at the global level can aggravate or help improve local situations in which inequality is a problem, Graziano da Silva said, urging consideration of the concept of a fair price for food over pursuit of cheap food.

For decades, intensified food production, coupled with policy decisions such as export subsidy schemes, import limits and practices bearing high environmental costs , made it easier for European, North American and South American countries to export foods – albeit at a high environmental cost – at a time when fiscal and financial constraints forced many developing countries to drastically reduce investment in their own agriculture, he noted. One result was that family farmers often could not compete with cheap imported food.

Read the full article: FAO


MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)

If I had to choose between all methods to reduce inequality, focusing on hunger and extreme poverty, I would go for 100 % for school gardens to produce fresh food for the daily school lunch (and not for free lunches paid by sponsors).

It’s a pure question of sustainability !

Students, children of rural smallholders, should learn how to produce their own food.  And there are sufficient techniques and technologies to take production in a school garden to the desired level.

What’s keeping us at the level of unsustainable “food aid” ?

Please take your time to look at this short video :




Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.