Education programmes that address the specific needs of rural communities are essential if eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is to be achieved by 2015, according to FAO.
At a recent meeting to explore how education for rural people can contribute towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, FAO expert Lavinia Gasperini urged policy-makers to give top priority to identifying the basic educational needs of rural communities in order to help them improve their livelihoods.
Case studies presented at the meeting showed that living conditions of rural communities in different countries from Africa to Latin America can be improved when the basic educational needs of the rural people are taken into account.
For example, in Chad "community schools" teach rural people how to manage natural resources in a sustainable way. These schools were created by rural communities, or by village chiefs, to respond to local needs and are managed by the communities themselves. The main difference from public schools lies in the fact that teaching is provided in local dialects while the country's official languages are Arabic and French.
In Senegal, where 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas, the development strategy includes priorities such as improving teaching skills and adapting school curricula to the needs of rural people.
Surviving by the sea
In Chile, coastal fishing communities are among the most deprived social groups in the country, depending for their survival almost exclusively on artisanal fishing.
Artisanal fishing training courses adapted to local needs are helping the fishers to improve their occupational skills, acquire a better understanding of the marine ecosystem, achieve fairer access to available fish stocks and obtain recognition of their rights and identity as traditional fishery users.
Many of the fishers attending the courses declare that this scheme is helping to raise their self-esteem and enhance their personal development, while equipping them to back up their children's education.
Artisanal fishing has a lesser impact on marine resources and ecosystems compared to commercial fishing. In addition to being a direct and indirect source of employment for the people, it provides a substantial proportion of their protein intake, thereby playing a key role in food security.
At the Rome meeting on the contribution of education for rural people to the Millennium Development Goals, results from case studies in Bolivia, Chad, Chile, Senegal and Tanzania were presented by representatives from the Italian NGO ACRA (Associazione di Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina.