By Abigail Yeboah
Sustainable rural development is vital to every country’s economy. It is essential for poverty eradication since global poverty is overwhelming. The manifestation of poverty goes beyond the urban-rural divide. It is therefore critical to coordinate rural development initiatives that contribute to sustainable livelihoods at the global, regional, national and local levels.
A healthy and dynamic agricultural sector is an important foundation of rural development, generating strong linkages to other economic sectors. Rural livelihoods are enhanced through effective participation of rural people and communities in the management of their own social, economic and environmental objectives by empowering them particularly women and the youth. Again, close economic integration between rural areas and urban centres, and the creation of rural off-farm employment can narrow rural-urban disparities, expand opportunities and encourage the retention of skilled people, including youth, in rural communities.
There is considerable potential for rural job creation not only in farming, agro processing and rural industry but also in building rural infrastructure, management of natural resources, waste and residues. Rural communities in developing countries are still faced with challenges related to access to basic services, economic opportunities and some degree of incoherence with regard to planning related to rural-urban divide. Investments in environmental protection, rural infrastructure and in rural health and education are critical to sustainable rural development and can enhance national well-being. Beyond meeting basic needs, investments must be linked to the potential to raise productivity and income. The vulnerabilities of the rural poor to the economic and financial crisis and to climate change and water shortage must be addressed.
It is against this background that Rainforest Alliance, an International Non-Profit Organization which seeks to address urgent environmental and social challenges such as curbing child labour in the cocoa and mining areas and improving sustainable livelihood opportunities for smallholder farmers and forest communities has taken the challenge to improve the lives of people in rural areas especially farmers through their (Rain Forest Alliance) certification Programmes.
In a meeting with Ghana Agricultural Rural Development Journalists Association in Accra, the Senior Associate Training and Certification Officer for Rainforest Alliance, Joseph Yaw Mensah, said the cultivation of rural prosperity is core to their vision, where people and nature thrive in harmony, and this is embedded in their entire approach to sustainability transformation. This is why they are training journalists on how to communicate effectively to the people in the rural areas especially, farmers on how to use growing methods that boost crop yields and incomes, while reducing costly inputs, (like chemicals and fertilizers).
“If farmers can earn a better income by understanding their certification programmes, and will also have a strong incentive to adopt the other requirements in the standard that support better livelihoods”.
“This can only be achieved if the gap between RA and journalists is bridged to be able to educate farmers in various local dialect and understanding agriculture as a whole and what RA certification means to be able to communicate to farmers effectively on how to use new technologies in farming such as Manual and natural pest control techniques, for example, not only cut costs by reducing the use of expensive and harsh agrochemicals; they lead to healthier soils and better yields over the long term in farming to improve their productivity—and therefore their incomes—by adopting sustainable agriculture methods and improving farm management”, Mr. Mensah explained.
“The focus on training like this has led to dramatic results for Saman Udayakumara, one of nearly 100,000 farmers who have gone through Rainforest Alliance farmer training workshops in Sri Lanka, who saw concrete benefits after applying the methods he learned in these trainings”, he noted.
Since it is an essential tool to support sustainable agricultural production and supply chains, Mr. Yaw Mensah called on Journalists to help break the cycle of rural poverty and tackle the ensuing impact for people and nature, for a more sustainable future for mankind.
The Projects Coordinator for the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA), Nana Yaw Reuben, said although farmers produce much of the developing world’s food, they are generally much poorer. He urged journalists to always strive to give farmers a voice by highlighting issues affecting them, so that Cocoa farmers will give themselves a well-deserved pension, upon retirement.