Poverty alleviation is one of the preeminent concern of developing world and one of the major factors in sustainable development goals (as per SDG 1) set by United Nations. Since recent decades, the world has witnessed the extreme poverty in rural areas. As per United Nations’ report, five of every six people earn below $1.90 and lies under the international income poverty line, belongs to the rural areas of developing countries. Rural areas account for 80% of people living in poverty and 18% of rural residents are living in extreme poverty.
During the previous few decades, however, considerable progress has been made for reducing rural poverty, partially as a result of effective initiatives encouraging rural poor economic prospects and expanding social security in rural areas.
This advancement has not been distributed evenly. Rural development among other economic processes that reduce poverty, can also create inequality. Moreover, in the last few years, COVID-19 crisis is the major factor which is increasing poverty, especially in the middle income countries.
Inadequate access to public services, infrastructure and social protection made the situation of rural poor worse. The COVID-19 outbreak has compounded their already precarious situation by limiting food security, mobility and reducing their incomes. According to a recent data analysis, the rate of rural poverty reduction in developing countries has been larger than the pace of urban poverty reduction. However, eliminating the inequalities and reaching the poorest in rural areas remains a challenge. During the last three decades, developing countries have made little headway in boosting the level of consumption of the poorest, they have been left behind.
Rural poverty reductions have not always resulted in decreases in rural inequalities or between the rural and urban inequalities. According to the latest statistics, prior initiatives to reduce rural poverty did not always coincide with efforts to reduce inequality. Between the 2000s and the 2010s, rural inequality increased or remained stable in China, India, and Indonesia, while rural poverty decreased significantly. Regional and historical tendencies show that inequality declines are not a consistent result of growth and development. The same economic dynamics that allow poverty to decline, can also cause inequality to develop within rural areas and between urban and rural areas. Agricultural development, which is a major driver of rural poverty reduction, has the potential to worsen rural inequality if those who are better off gain more from agricultural growth. Disparities in demographic groups’ access to resources such as land, education, and labour markets can lead to differences in their ability to benefit from growth. Inequality patterns might also differ based on the nature of economic growth.
Poor people in rural areas with high inequality, who are already disadvantaged in terms of access to resources, gain less from successive growth and from periods of agricultural boom. If left neglected, the problems faced by the rural poor in trying to escape poverty and realizing their full potential will stifle rural economic growth.
The majority of rural development plans are aimed at promoting growth and alleviating poverty in rural areas. Only few make it a point to reduce inequality. However, more equitable and inclusive rural development necessitates promoting access to high-quality education, health, and other services, as well as opportunities for decent work, particularly among the rural poor. It recommends increasing shock resilience, addressing natural resource degradation, and lowering inequality of opportunity both within rural areas and also between rural and urban areas to address SDG 1 of United Nations.
Those countries that have succeeded in lowering both rural poverty and rural inequality can teach us some important policy lessons. We can see that they majorly focused and make heavy spending on infrastructure development, sustained investment in public services, roads, electricity, clean drinking water, better sanitation, on education by providing outclass educational resources, health facilities and heavily spent on digital divides in rural areas. Agricultural development is also a key factor that plays vital role in reducing poverty by both, direct through increasing incomes and food security and indirect through increased investment in education and health facilities. So these are the major necessities which will be required to eradicate extreme poverty and to close rural-urban disparities, to meet SDG 1 in time.