At the dawn of the third millennium, three-quarters of the world's 852 million men and women suffering from hunger are found in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their survival. Most of them are landless farmers or have such tiny or unproductive plots of land that they cannot feed their families.
For many of these poor farmers, new development opportunities in rural areas would allow more equitable access to basic land and water resources while offering an escape from hunger and poverty, noted FAO today.
In order to put these issues at the heart of the debate, FAO is organizing next week's International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) at Porto Alegre, Brazil (7-10 March 2006) with the financial and logistical support of the Brazilian government. The conference will take place on the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul.
"We have just 10 years to reach 2015, the target date set by the international community to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world. Since the very poorest are landless farmers everywhere it will not be possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals unless we find sustainable solutions to the challenge existing in the world's rural areas. It is an appointment we cannot afford to miss," said Parviz Koohafkan, Executive Secretary of ICARRD.
Convinced that agrarian reform must be tailored to meet the needs of individual countries and that there is no magic formula for resolving global land problems, the Conference aims to foster alliances between governments, small farmers' organizations, international institutions, donors and civil society as a means of assisting the world’s poorest people to gain better access to basic productive resources.
President Lula at the inauguration
The conference opens on Monday, 6 March with the participation of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has made combating hunger and rural poverty one of his chief priorities.
FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf will also be present at the inauguration, to which heads of state of all Latin American countries have been invited. Jacques Diouf has urged FAO's Member States to take an active part in ICARRD in order to identify options and opportunities for reducing poverty and hunger in the world's rural areas.
A full agenda
ICARRD will address an ambitious programme of meetings and debates over four days revolving around five main themes, which will be the subject of case studies and papers:
* policies and experiences that have improved resource access by the poorest people;
* improving local natural resource planning and management capabilities;
* identifying new development opportunities to strengthen rural communities;
* combining such concepts as agrarian reform, social justice and sustainable development;
* the primary role of food sovereignty and its contribution to more equitable resource access.
These and other issues will be the subject of intense debate in the commissions, working groups and at special events. The Conference will conclude with a final declaration and plan of action.
Between 6 and 9 March, a parallel forum on "Land, Territory and Dignity" will be organized by civil society groups and attended by NGOs and small farmers' movements from around the globe.
For more information please visit the web site: www.ICARRD.org