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Introduction to the Sourcebook

Promoting pro-poor agricultural growth is not easy. It is subject to risks from many areas, from uncertain prices to the weather. Many investments, while providing high payoffs, can take years, even decades to fully materialize. And because the population directly affected by rural development is widely dispersed, and often has little political voice, the results are often not visible to influential decisionmakers. With the myriad demands on limited development funds, it is not surprising that in recent years agriculture has not received as much attention as it should have. 

Box 1. Millennium Development Goals: 1990-2015


1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • Halve the number of people with less than $1 a day
  • Halve the share of people who suffer from hunger

2. Achieve universal primary education

  • Ensure completion of primary schooling

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

  • Eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education

4. Reduce child mortality

  • Reduce by two-thirds the under five mortality rate
  • Improve maternal health
  • Reduce by 75 percent the maternal mortality rate

5. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

  • Reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

6. Ensure environmental sustainability

  • Reverse loss of environmental resources

7. Halve the share of people without access to potable water


8. Significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers


9. Develop a global partnership for development

  • Raise official development assistance
  • Expand market access, especially in agriculture
  • Encourage debt sustainability


However, few countries will significantly reduce poverty, nor will the world community achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), if agriculture and rural development are ignored (see box 1).  The first MDG to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” cannot be reached without addressing the livelihood issues of the 70 percent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas, and without ensuring access to food of the poorest and most vulnerable. Rural people are also the custodian of much of the world’s land and water resources, and biodiversity, and will be central to achieving MDG 6 on environmental sustainability. Other MDGs such as gender equality (many farmers are women), child nutrition (depends on access to nutritious food), and market access (especially international trade in agriculture which remains highly protected) depend directly or indirectly on pro-poor agricultural growth.

The World Bank’s current rural strategy, Reaching the Rural Poor, is designed to respond to these challenges within a rapidly changing environment for agricultural and rural development. The strategy seeks to:

  • Foster an enabling environment for broad-based and sustainable rural growth.

  • Enhance agricultural productivity and competitiveness.

  • Encourage rural nonfarm economic growth.

  • Improve social well being, manage and mitigate risk, and reduce vulnerability.

  • Enhance sustainability of natural resources management.


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