By Maria Elena Mangiafico
During the rich discussions at the pre-GC event “Achieving a sustainable future for all: Rural transformation and the post-2015 agenda”, like most people who followed, I was trying to visualize what rural people’s lives will look like 20 years from now.
This feeling came on even stronger when Ambassador Gerda Verburg, Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) said that Post 2015 goals should tell an ambitious story about where we want to be in 2030.
So what do we want to put in the picture of the rural lives of tomorrow?
Most of the colours we will put in it are shades of what IFAD is already doing and will continue to do more of and better.
Let’s start by adding a more vivid shade for empowered rural people, especially women, whose voices are heard and are part of decision-making processes.
Then go with a decisive green to represent vibrant rural economies where transaction costs are reduced so that smallholder farmers can access larger markets.
We want colours of innovative agricultural solutions and services so that young people actually choose to stay in rural areas and make a decent living for the families. (I was touched by a story told during the Farmers’ Forum about students who were attending a training on organic agriculture in the Himalayas where the teacher asked the young students: who wants to become a doctor and several raised their hands, an engineer? and hands up, a policeman? and hands up, fireman? and hands up, until he asked who wants to be a farmer? and not one hand went up. In the future we want to see hands up.)
How about the colour of resilience of rural households to shocks? In the future they will be able to manage the risks they face and be less exposed and vulnerable.
Of course we need a nice shade of infrastructure as well guaranteeing good roads, hospitals, schools, water and sanitation.
We also need to add some strokes representing access – access to financial services, to assets, to markets, to land, to natural resources, to technologies, to health care, and access to opportunities.
And yes we want to see the grumpy faces in the background of those who thought that rurality was a synonym for backwardness and marginality.
This may seem like a very ambitious painting but after all the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime (and yes - it does span for well over 20 years), there is hope that it could happen.
But it won’t be easy - it will take the most talented artists (not even Picasso could do it alone) to invest and join forces to promote rural transformation.
If the picture doesn’t look nice in the end, it won’t count as a defeat only for rural people but we will all be defeated. Rural areas are the producers of our food, the custodians of our environment and the hope for our future.
By Maria Elena Mangiafico