Rural settings facing multiple changes
Rural populations live in an increasingly complex environment. At the institutional level, they have had to adjust to State disengagement, the mixed results of decentralisation, changing market rules and the emergence of new private sector and civil society organisations. On the socio-economic front, they have to contend with market integration and liberalisation and increasingly intense competition at the local, regional and international levels. In addition to this, factors such as strong demographic growth, imbalances between urban and rural development, rural exodus and conflicts over access to over-exploited natural resources all carry particular opportunities and risks for rural actors.
In this context of tremendous change, policies need to be reworked and agricultural production and rural activities supported to combat poverty and encourage rural development. It is particularly important to ensure that:
- Agricultural policies take account of the diversity of production systems and relations between different production units, so that they set appropriate development objectives.
- There is support for agricultural advisory mechanisms (from the private sector and professional organisations).
- Rural producer organisations are autonomous and have the resources to contribute to public decisions, access markets and participate in the economic development of value chains. In order to become autonomous, they need to prepare strategic development plans and consolidate their governance structures and practices.
- Financial services are adjusted to meet the development needs of rural areas following the dismantling of previous agricultural finance systems by the public sector. The few agricultural development banks that do exist only support secure value chains, and the even smaller number of private banks that operate in rural areas only finance commercial activities. Supporting new rural finance institutions is a major challenge in this context.