Zero Hunger

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Rural Development as a Key to Achieve Zero Hunger in 2030

  • Nima NejadrezaeiEmail author
  • Marie Asma Ben-Othmen
Living reference work entry

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Agricultural development, a subset of economic development, implies a sustained increase in the level of production and productivity over a reasonable length of time and the subsequently improved well-being of farmers as reflected in their higher per capita income and standard of living. Rural development relates not only to a sustained increase in the level of production and productivity of all rural dwellers, including farmers, and a sustained improvement in their well-being, manifested by increasing per capita income and standard of living, but also leads to a sustained physical, social, and economic improvement of rural communities (Nchuchuwe and Adejuwon 2012).

The definition of rural development has evolved through time as a result of changes in the perceived mechanisms and goals of development. Since the 1970s rural development as a concept has been highly associated with the promotion of standards of living and as a precondition for reducing rural poverty (Anriquez and Stamoulis 2007). The World Bank (1975b) defines rural development as “a strategy aiming at the improvement of economic and social living conditions, focusing on a specific group of poor people in a rural area. It assists the poorest group among the people living in rural areas to benefit from development.”

This definition and many others consider rural development as a process whereby concerted efforts are made in order to facilitate significant increases in agricultural resources productivity with the central objective of enhancing rural income and creating employment opportunity in rural communities for rural dwellers to remain in the area.

Rural development is also an integrated approach to food production; provision of physical, social, and institutional infrastructures with an ultimate goal of bringing about good healthcare delivery system; affordable and quality education; improved and sustainable agriculture; etc. (Olayide et al. 1981). As a phenomenon, rural development is the end result of interactions between various physical, technological, economic, social, cultural, and institutional factors. As a strategy, it is designed to improve the economic and social well-being of a specific group of people – the rural poor. As a discipline, it is multidisciplinary, representing an intersection of agriculture (Chambers 1983; Punjab Development Report 2014).

Several definitions are listed in the literature; among other authors like Chambers (1983) considered rural development as a process that aims at improving the living standards of the people living in rural areas while also considering it as empowering strategy enabling specific group of people, poor rural women and men, to gain for themselves and their children more of what they want and need.

All these definitions converge toward the understanding of rural development as a trigger to improve the quality of rural people life (Chandra Pandey et al. 2016; Singh 2009; Anyatewon et al. 2016) and a way to meet the aspiration of local people living in rural areas for taking the challenge themselves and improving their life circumstances and their immediate environment (Nchuchuwe and Adejuwon 2012).

As a field of scientific investigation, rural development is located at the crossroads of several scientific corpora such as agriculture, social, behavioral, and management sciences. Rural development can be understood as the package of policy and project interventions that aim to foster socioeconomic change and human improvement in rural areas (Alkire and Babbington 2001).

The promotion of rural development in a sustainable way has the potential of increasing employment opportunities in rural areas, reducing income disparities, stemming premature rural-urban migration, and ultimately reducing poverty at its very source (Anriquez and Stamoulis 2007). Promoting a sustainable rural development relies on raising the productivity and the real income of families and their levels of livelihood by increasing employment opportunities in farm and nonfarm activities, thereby facilitating their levels of physical, social, and cultural well-being (Veal 2005). The definition or rural development may be centered on income criterion in which the concept is made to address the problem of rural poverty (Sharma 2005). The rural poor represent a reservoir of untapped talent, a target group that should be given the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of development through improved education, health, and nutrition. This last definition is one of the most important definitions of rural development as the provision of social infrastructures could provide the catalyst that would transform the rural areas (Sharma 2005).


Rural development can be distinguished from agricultural development which it entails and transcends. There is this erroneous misconception by successive governments that rural development is synonymous with agricultural development only. Efforts by such governments to pump money into agricultural development did not yield meaningful change desired. Hence, efforts should be made to include the provision of modern infrastructure, primary healthcare, food and shelter, employment opportunities, recreational facilities, affordable and compulsory primary and secondary education, loans, and other incentives, to be part of rural development for the benefits of rural dwellers (Ogidefa 2010). Agricultural development, a subset of economic development, implies a sustained increase in the level of production and productivity over a reasonable length of time and the subsequently improved well-being of farmers as reflected in their higher per capita income and standard of living (Nchuchuwe and Adejuwon 2012). Rural development relates to a sustained increase in the level of production and productivity of all rural dwellers, including farmers, and a sustained improvement in their well-being, manifested by increasing per capita income and standard of living.

Regarding its capacity of leading to a sustained physical, social, and economic improvement of rural communities (Nchuchuwe and Adejuwon 2012), rural development, therefore, is broader and more specific than agricultural development (Anyatewon et al. 2016) and deals with multidimensional issues, such as infrastructure, healthcare, hygiene, education, environment, and governance as well as local income generation. Frequently, the concept of rural development is used confusedly with “agricultural development” or “regional development”; however, these concepts differ as “agricultural development” mainly aims at increasing agricultural products such as crops, livestock, fish, etc. Despite mainly targeting people and institutions, rural development stretches up to include agricultural development activities; however, it is one of the means of economic revival for active farmers and targeted rural villages (Fedderke et al. 2006).

Food security is one of the main goals of development policies, and access to enough and healthy food is always known as one of the significant aspects of sustainable development. To deal with the issue of contemporary sustainable rural development, we emphasize in this entry the importance of understanding the brakes on rural development, such as hunger and poverty alleviation, in one hand, and the role of food systems as the system-wide capacity for rural area-driven transformation and development in the other hand. First of all, underline the importance of the understanding of the border between agriculture and rural development and the specific connections between these two research areas and policymaking fields. The second section focuses then on the global objectives of rural development. The third section focuses on hunger and poverty alleviation as a lever for a sustainable and more inclusive rural development.

Rural Development Process and Strategy

Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas. The importance of the development of rural areas is because out of the two billion of the poorest people, three-quarters live in rural areas. The poverty of these populations is not only equivalent to low incomes; it is generated by a lack of access to clean drinking water, education, health, and support by the state in general (IFAD 2001; The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development 2010; German Society for International Cooperation 2011). The World Bank evidence shows that while 75 percent of the developing world’s poor people still live in rural areas, the share of the poor living in urban areas is rising. Part of this correlation between rurality and poverty is given by the fact that some countries, as we have seen, indirectly define the poor as rural (Asian Development Bank 2014). As one of the most accepted characteristics of development is a secular decline in the share of agriculture, countries with larger rural populations’ shares are expected to be poorer since the main activity in the rural economies is likely to be agriculture (Anriquez and Stamoulis 2007). As BMZ puts it, the development of rural territories requires a holistic policy approach in the partner countries to be supported by donor agencies. The little promotion of agriculture is insufficient. What is required are comprehensive reform processes focusing on the creation of functioning institutions, the development of human resources, the building of performing infrastructure, and the management of natural resources driven by transparency, sustainability, and crisis prevention (BMZ 2011; GIZ 2013). A development strategy aims at obtaining maximum output in the form of development goals from a given input of resources working under various resource constraints (Norton 2010). Development is truly a “moving target,” and one of its drivers is knowledge. There are tremendous knowledge of rural development strategies, technologies, capital resources, natural resources, and the commitment of stakeholders, especially the rural poor, which can be marshaled to eliminate poverty and hunger (Avila and Gasperini 2005).

The primary strategy for rural development is intensive with quality public participation. Involving local communities in rural development programs has the potential to enhance local livelihoods and accelerate development in general beliefs. Public participation forms (as a part of new public management) seek to reinvent government to open up to transparency and accountability by breaking rigid, traditional bureaucratic structures (Kakumba and Nsingo 2008).

With having in mind the objective of improving the level of quality of life of rural people by increasing small-farmer output, productivity, and improvement in food security, the critical requirements for agricultural and rural development strategies must include the following components (Todaro and Smith 2012):
  • Introduction of technology and innovation such as tools, seeds, irrigation, and fertilizers.

  • Incentives and pricing policies.

  • Institutional support.

  • Increased food production to promote a more full spread of the benefits of agriculture.

  • Land reform processes to benefit the weak portion of rural areas.

  • Provide access to credit.

  • Promote non-farming incomes through industry and agro-processing.

  • Provide education and health facilities.

  • Ensure environmental sustainability.

  • Transport, infrastructure, communication, and education should be the focus of investment priorities.

Contemporary Objectives of Rural Development

Based on UN projections, the current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, with roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year (United Nation 2017b). Much of the overall population increase between 2017 and 2050 is expected to occur either in high-fertility countries or in countries with large populations (United Nation 2017a). From 2017 to 2050, it is expected that half of the world’s population growth will be centralized in nine countries that nearly all of them are developing countries (United Nation 2017a). However, two-thirds of the world’s agricultural value added is created in developing countries. In agriculture-based countries, it generates an average of 32% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 65% of the labor force (World Bank 2008b).

The major challenge ahead is to ensure food security for hundreds of millions of families living in poverty. This large and complex task involves increasing agricultural output worldwide, reducing poverty, and improving health and nutrition (Ayres and Mccalla 1996).

Ending hunger will require investments in agriculture, rural development, and also nutrition improvement (FAO 2017a). Investing in food security and rural development has particular importance in the context of drawing attention toward the increasing trend of migration that has direct implications on food security (FAO 2017a). The first goal for any development program, especially in rural areas, must be food security, as hunger and poverty are inextricably linked (Flint 2008).

Abdu-Raheem and Worth (2011) note that “Establishing food security, particularly household food security, is widely acknowledged as an important milestone in advancing the living standards of the rural poor.” Islam (1995) noted that even though sufficient food is being produced worldwide to attain food security, there are a significant number of undernourished families. De Janvry (2003) suggested that effective approaches to rural development are being significantly more efficient in using rural development programs to raise the rural poor out of poverty.

The primary objectives of rural development programs have been the alleviation of poverty and unemployment through creation and development of necessary social and economic infrastructure, provision of training to rural unemployed youth, and employment of marginal farmers/laborers to discourage seasonal and permanent migration to urban areas (Taylor et al. 2005).

Development cooperation focusing on rural development is a critical component of poverty reduction for the following reasons (The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) 2002):
  • Approximately three-quarters of the world’s impoverished live in rural areas (World Bank 2001).

  • Many poor people in the cities are migrant workers and farmers who have left rural areas. Therefore, if living standards and income generations in rural areas are enhanced and rural immigrants to cities return to rural areas, excessive population influxes to cities should be reduced, causing poverty in the cities to decrease.

  • Improvement of rural areas can be a safety net when there is a lack of job opportunities in cities due to depressed economic conditions (World Bank 2001).

Agriculture is one of the predictors of rural development program dimensions (Mahi Uddin et al. 2015). It has a central role in development in rural areas. Development generally plays a vital role in the improvement of the quality of life of people in rural areas (Todaro and Smith 2012). Saith (1992) portrays agriculture as the primary strategy that has been the dominant livelihood strategy to rural development in the last three decades of the twentieth century regarding its capacity of supporting rural households indirectly or directly, and also small and poor farmers could simultaneously achieve growth, poverty reduction, and a living. Agriculture plays four fundamental roles in poverty eradication through contributing to economic growth and the “quality” of that growth regarding its benefits to the poor as a critical basis of livelihood strategies for hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people. Agriculture is a provider of locally available staple foods for the poor and encourages the sustainable management of natural resources (World Bank 2008b).

Focus on Hunger and Poverty Alleviation Through Rural Development: The Role of Food Security

Poverty in the continent and world at large is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban areas (Diao et al. 2010; ADB/ADF 2000; Anriquez and Stamoulis 2007). Attempts to eradicate hunger are as old as human civilization (Fraser and Rimas 2010; Vernon 2007). Unfortunately, food crises are not only part of the history of humanity; they are an actual issue in many countries and regions. The Global Report on Food Crises 2018 (Food Security Information Network 2018) shows that about 124 million people across 51 countries and territories faced crisis levels of acute food insecurity in 2017, thus requiring urgent humanitarian action.

The notion of food systems is central in this context, in the sense that it is at the crossroads of the global environmental, social, and economic challenges such as resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation, and climate change (Freibauer et al. 2011; Garnett 2014; Gladek et al. 2016; IPES-Food 2015; Lang 2009; Searchinger et al. 2013; WWW-UK 2013; Forrest 2017).

According to estimates by international organizations, the number of people suffering from severe malnutrition was 5.5 million in 2017 which corresponds to 47 percent of the total population (GIZ 2017). Poverty, hunger and malnutrition, inadequate diets, land degradation, water scarcity, social inequalities, biodiversity loss, and climate change are inherently rooted in the way we produce, distribute, and consume food (FAO 2014; Foresight 2011).

Current food systems are generating adverse outcomes such as land, water, and ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, excessive greenhouse gas emissions, and persistent malnutrition and hunger and fail to eradicate poverty particularly of rural populations in the Global South (FAO, IFAD, and WFP 2015; Foresight 2011; Godfray et al. 2010; WWW-UK 2013).

Future food systems will have to provide food and nutrition security while facing unprecedented sustainability challenges; this underlines the need for a transition to more sustainable food systems (Vermeulen et al. 2012; World Bank 2015). According to Sen (1981), poverty and food security are closely related. The challenges of food insecurity and the manner in which it can be addressed are a global concern. Governments throughout the world have strived for means to address global food security either through the development of Millennium Development Goals or United Nations protocols. A permanent end to hunger and malnutrition cannot be achieved in isolation; achieving Zero Hunger calls for realizing the totality of the 2030 Agenda in ways that benefit everyone, everywhere (United Nation 2016).

According to Ayres and Mccalla (1996), reducing poverty and hunger will require encouragement of rural development in general and a prosperous smallholder private agricultural economy in particular. Encouraging rural development is the best way to help poor farmers and rural dwellers become more productive and improve their living standards. It is also critical to increasing national and global food supplies.

Further, rural development can contribute significantly to improved management of natural resources and the environment. Increasing agricultural output worldwide, reducing poverty, and improving health and nutrition are the actions needed to be taken at the household, national, and global levels. Although general poverty, infrastructure, and agriculture programs will improve nutrition eventually, direct actions are likely to have faster and more significant impacts. Economic growth that focuses on agriculture and that increases the incomes of low-income family farmers and landless laborers is particularly useful in reducing poverty (Rosegrant and Hazell 2001). Agricultural growth affects rural poverty reduction not only by increasing farm incomes but also by stimulating the nonfarm economic sector in rural areas and small towns (Islam and Von Braun 2008). Agricultural development enhances food supply and subsequently reduces malnutrition (Anyatewon et al. 2016). German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) (2011) reported that without a fundamental change in rural areas, there could be no sustainable economic growth and no sustainable food security. Strengthening agriculture based on poverty reduction and food security is an essential step toward achieving international development goals. A sufficient quantity of healthy food is a critical element of efforts to achieve a sustainable reduction in poverty and hunger. It is also an emphasis on that development will not be sustainable unless it concentrates on the many causes of hunger and poverty. Policymakers have to lay the foundations and set the course before rural areas can progress.

According to Ahmad and Hossain (1983), rural development programs bring significant results regarding increasing income and social empowerment. According to Balat and Porto (2005), policies that expand opportunities for households to earn higher incomes help in poverty alleviation. To secure higher levels of well-being, complementary policies like provision of infrastructure credit and extension services are necessary. Anriquez and Stamoulis (2007) and World Bank (2008a) attest that agricultural development often preceded industrialization in many advanced countries where poverty levels are currently relatively lower. Even though growth in the agricultural sector does not always guarantee a reduction in poverty level, it often aids in reducing poverty by increasing farmers’ income, creating employment, and reducing the prices of food especially when agricultural strategies target smallholder farmers. According to Nsiah-Gyabaah (1998), rural poverty is caused by poor planning, implementation, and monitoring of rural development strategies. Rural development results from the improvement of the economic, social, and environmental conditions of the community. These three aspects complement each other and lead toward the overall improvement of individual and community well. Policymakers realized that development planning with local participation is meaningless without reference to the empowerment of the rural poor as a possible way out to alleviate poverty (Khan and Ali 2014). Islam and Von Braun (2008) show an emphasis on the role of government policy in enhancing food security at both the household and national level, because achieving and sustaining food security is the result of reductions in poverty and hunger.

Rural development strategies should be broad-based to reduce poverty in rural areas; agricultural development in a modernized and sustainable manner should be the primary focus since it employs majority of the rural poor and has the capacity to reduce poverty through employment generation, increase in income and consumption of farmers, and reduction in food prices (Anyatewon et al. 2016). The above are necessary principles that governments and rural development agencies need to bear in mind. Governments should identify the potential development resources and challenges of rural communities. Even though primary production might be the effective livelihood alternative of rural people, there is always room for diversification. A recognition and exploitation of rural diversity or development would significantly contribute to poverty reduction (Adisa 2012). The challenge of assuring food security is significant and needs attention now. It cannot be met without a renewed commitment by scientists, farmers, national policymakers, and international donors (Ayres and Mccalla 1996). Rural development programs which collaborate with already existing social capital-based networks (i.e., villages and rural regions characterized by historically “deep,” entrenched intercommunity and interpersonal mutual support traditions and linkages) are likely to achieve the most dramatic success with economic development and food security. Development agents who take the time and effort to pursue collaborations with members of such networks would be well-positioned to help generate meaningful gains in productivity, household income, and knowledge sharing. To achieve progress over the long term, it is essential to craft development strategies that reflect an understanding of local social institutions and how multilevel ties among agriculturalists, community leaders, NGOs, and relevant government agencies are created and sustained within and beyond rural localities (Forrest 2017).

Machethe (2004) observes that since most people in developing countries live in rural areas and are engaged, directly or indirectly, in agricultural activities. Agriculture could be the most effective way to reduce rural poverty and food insecurity. Small-scale farming, coupled with appropriate agricultural production technologies such as high-yielding varieties, soil fertility enhancers, and bio-fortification of stable crops, is a more efficient food producer in labor surplus economies, ensuring food security in rural areas (Hazell and Diao 2005).

Beyond its function as an economic activity, agriculture is a source of livelihood for an estimated 86% of rural people. It provides jobs for 1.3 billion smallholders and landless workers, “farm-financed social welfare” when there are urban shocks, and a foundation for viable rural communities. Of the developing world’s 5.5 billion people, 3 billion live in rural areas – nearly half of humanity. Of these rural inhabitants, an estimated 2.5 billion are in households involved in agriculture, and 1.5 billion are in smallholder households. Overwhelmingly, efforts made by development aid agencies focus on smallholder agriculture that operates within a structure of a household or family run unit. According to the World Bank (2008a), agricultural development is at least twice as effective in ensuring poverty alleviation as the development of any other sector. Evidence shows that investment in agriculture is more effective in reducing poverty, particularly among the poorest people, than investment in non-agricultural sectors (FAO 2017b). Often, the rural development objective is subordinate to the objective of increasing agricultural output (or marketed output) even where this is not the case; a program aimed at providing advice or extension to the small farmer will rarely exclude the medium-sized farmer, if by including him sizable increases in output can be achieved (World Bank 1975a). According to Shisanya and Hendriks (2011), most people in developing countries live in rural areas and are engaged, directly or indirectly, in agricultural activities. Therefore, agriculture can be the most effective way to reduce rural poverty and food insecurity. Food insecurity and malnutrition problems mostly in rural areas are here to stay unless people embrace the contribution of community development projects like the food gardens positively. It is well known that the agricultural activities could mainly have a direct impact on food security through encouraging the diversification of production systems through home food gardening, intercropping, and introduction of high-value crops, but no support is being given to make this more effective.

According to Hall (2009), rural development must therefore support both food production and the promotion of rural entrepreneurs who can engage in “accumulation from below,” arguing that between the poles of tiny household food security gardens and huge commercial farms is a missing middle, the untapped potential of smallholder farmers able to produce a marketable surplus. Agriculture plays a key role in poverty alleviation by driving economic growth and reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries (IFPRI 2005; AU/NEPAD 2009).


As there are too many people who are living below the poverty line in non-developed and developing countries, understanding the definition of rural development (as a generator for empowering rural habitant) and food security (as a path for hunger alleviation) is important, as both are important targets for every country around the world. Governments reviewed the food security programs in order to derive a working and sustainable food security program that will see the living standard of the poor improve every year. Rural development is concerned with the improvement of the local community’s life quality, poverty level reduction, unemployment rate reduction, and decreasing inequality through decentralized decision-making. The contributions of rural regions and the agriculture sector of a country are essential for food production and food security. The global tends to rural development. The main reason for this new approach is an increasing need for food and land and also a sense of belonging and sustainable development initiatives. It is time to reassess the role of agriculture and rural development in national development strategies. As a result of state withdrawal and excessive segmentation in sectoral policymaking, overall strategy design has been neglected in recent decades. As a consequence, public information and statistical systems have been weakened, and the capacity to analyze and understand the dynamics at work in agriculture and rural economies has been reduced which leads to a significant handicap for policymakers, and reinvesting in knowledge creation is an urgent priority. In particular, regional diagnoses will be indispensable for prioritizing objectives, targeting interventions, and sequencing actions. Ensuring populations’ food security without degrading land and water resources, eroding biodiversity, and contributing to climate change is among the most significant challenges of rural development. It becomes necessary to enable farmers to share knowledge on how to diversify production, improve soil health and fertility, determine the toleration limits of different species to temperature and rainfall, and choose more resilient seeds and varieties. Agricultural adaptation measure should be then carried out in order to enhance climate resilience of smallholder farmers that are the most vulnerable population to it. To do so, an active re-engagement of development strategies at both the national and subnational levels implies reinvesting in processes. Consultation with stakeholders is essential for securing ownership, the foundation of shared vision and commitment. It takes time, adequate planning, and a significant effort in capacity building to manage information systems, analyze results, and monitor processes (FAO 2017b).

Rural development, and planning to realize it, is one of the important requirements in the process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The most food-insecure households live in rural areas, and their livelihoods are based on agricultural activities, so rural development can provide food security infrastructures by increasing food production, improving access to food, and enhancing food quality. Rural development also can reduce poverty and enhance food security in rural areas to achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals. Therefore, for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it needs more attention to rural areas for solving challenges that rural households are faced with.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of Agronomy and Agro-IndustryPolytechnical Institute of Earth and Life Sciences UnilasalleRouenFrance
  2. 2.Polytechnical Institute of Earth and Life Sciences Unilasalle INTERACT Research Unit – Innovation, Land Management, Agriculture, Agro-Industries, Knowledge, and TechnologyRouenFrance

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mohammad Sadegh Allahyari
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Agricultural ManagementRasht Branch, Islamic Azad University, RashtRashtIran