By Amie Sanneh
This is contained in the 2015 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Report which was launched yesterday, Thursday, 25 November, at the UN House in Cape Point.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) produces annual Least Developed Countries Report (LCDR) on relevant development themes of concern.
These reports provide a comprehensive and authoritative source of socio-economic analysis and data on the world’s most impoverished countries.
The 2015 Report is entitled “Transforming Rural Economies” and it emphasizes the importance of rural development in LDCs.
In her welcoming remarks, the United Nations Resident Representative, Ms. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje said the report came at a time when world leaders have endorsed The Post 2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This, according to her, represents a paradigm shift in the development agenda, thus establishing, for the first time, a collectively agreed set of universal goals for an inclusive and sustainable global development process.
“The 2015 LDCs report highlights that the “global consumption floor” (that is, the consumption per capita of the poorest household in the world) has stagnated during the 20-30 years. It asserts that this must double in the next 15 years if poverty is to be eradicated. This means a fundamental shift in focus, towards areas of greatest need,” she noted.
LDCs, she went on, are the battleground on which the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be won or lost. “As the majority of the LDCs’ population live and work in rural areas, rural development remains the main driver for poverty reduction and the achievement of the SDGs,” she stressed. This, the UN Rep. noted does not mean that urban development should be ignored. Sustainable development and poverty eradication clearly require both. This year LDCs report recommends a balanced process of rural and urban development under the theme of transforming rural economies, she said.
Ms. Lekoetje described rural development as significant for LDCs, noting that more than two thirds of the population in the majority of LDCs live in rural areas. She stated that the pattern is not expected to change substantially by 2030. The primary driver of poverty reduction at the national level is rural development, she said. Ms. Lekoetje added “the success for rural transformation will largely depend on a combination of the development of agriculture and non-farm economies, and maximizing the synergies between the two.”
According to her, appropriate policy framework that is capable of translating the vision of a country is key. As The Gambia is developing its next medium term development plans, Ms. Lekoetje emphasized the need for them to use this opportunity to assess the adequacy of their policy frameworks to fulfill their aspirations including Vision 2016. “Once the appropriate policies are put in place; we should sequence investments and interventions in critical areas such as infrastructure development and technology adoption,” she said. She added that this should be complemented with human capital development to ensure that no one is left behind in terms of employment opportunities.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Agriculture, Ismaila Sanyang, said transforming rural economies is the total uplifting of the socioeconomic conditions under which rural dwellers live and derive their livelihoods.
The Agriculture Minister explained that in most LDCs where majority of the populations live and work in rural areas, agriculture plays a crucial role in their economies. “In the Gambia, agriculture accounts for more than seventy percent of total employment and twenty -five percent of value added and represents a major source of export,” he said.
According to him, the challenges highlighted by the report amongst others are decrease in labour productivity; decrease in total factor productivity and low use of inputs in agricultural production.
The report, he continued, highlights access to market for agricultural produce; enabling production to be demand driven, and improving rural infrastructure as key areas needing urgent attention.
Minister Sanyang used the opportunity to highlight some of the initiatives of his government such as Vision 2016, 2020, and 2025 respectively, and the overall development of the economy.
The Gambia Government through his ministry, he said, is aware of the need to increase the productivity of the farmers so that they can produce more from a given unit area. This, he added, can be done by using the Innovation Platform that brings all stakeholders into close contact and interaction for collective development of production, processing and marketing practices for the derivation of greater socio-economic benefits.
“It has served as a vehicle for transfer of technology and for improving the availability of inputs to needing producers,” said Minister Sanyang.