It is estimated that 70 percent of the rural population in Africa derive their livelihoods fromsubsistence agriculture and that a total of 330 million people now live in extreme poverty. Thepopulation of Africa is expected to double by 2050 thus placing enormous pressure on theincreasingly degraded agrarian environments and on the need to create employment and increasefood production to feed that growing population. Despite rapid rural-to-urban migration which hasits own problems, rural populations will continue to grow together with the economically activegroup. Given the current weak structure of African economies and slow growth in the quality andquantity of both on-farms, off-farm, industrial and urban employment, a great majority of these newentrants will face challenges in terms of gainful employment and socio-political stability of thecountries affected. Adverse and unpredictable climate events such as droughts and floods furtherthreaten the livelihoods of the rural poor more than any other social group. Extreme Weatherconditions do not only add to stresses on water resources, food security and human health but arelargely responsible for constraining economic growth and hampering poverty reduction efforts.
There is therefore an urgent need to raise awareness on the different options for addressing theplight of the rural poor through conducting a series of briefing forums involving community-levelstakeholders including farmers, rural women, rural development practitioners, rural traders, policymakers and global experts. It will be necessary to come up with strategies that pave the way forconcrete areas of intervention along the business chain and enhance the market value of currentactivities. The major objective is to promote analytical thinking and consultations on enhancing thecapacity of the rural sector in the transformation of African economies. Whereas the focus ofpolicies and commitments has largely been on agriculture, rural development has not beenaddressed at the same level in defining/ focusing strategies and allocating sufficient resources tofight against hunger and poverty. Previous efforts have largely been sectoral with loosely connectedinterventions and limited synergy. They have not adequately addressed the conflicts and tensionsbetween different sectors and stakeholders, for example the potential conflicts between livestockgrazing and forestry and natural resource management including water rights which can both beviable sources of rural livelihoods if properly managed. Investments related to rural development inAfrica are needed mainly in infrastructure, land, electricity, communication, non-farming activities,public services, social protection, and rural finances. Emphasis has to be put on identifying whichrural development strategies are most effective to address food insecurity and poverty reduction.