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Rural Poverty: Old Challenges in New Contexts

  • Stefan Dercon

Poverty is still a predominantly rural phenomenon. However, the context of rural poverty has been changing across the world, with high growth in some economies and stagnation in others. Furthermore, increased openness in many economies has affected the specific role of agricultural growth for rural poverty reduction. This paper revisits an 'old' question: how does growth and poverty reduction come about if most of the poor live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture? What is the role of agricultural and rural development in this respect? Focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa, and using economic theory and the available evidence, the author comes to the conclusion that changing contexts has meant that agricultural growth is only crucial as an engine for growth in particular settings, more specifically in landlocked, resource-poor countries, which are often also characterized by relatively low potential for agriculture. However, extensive market failures in key factor markets and likely spatial effects give a remaining crucial role for rural development policies, including focusing on agriculture, to assist the inclusion of the rural poor in growth and development. How to overcome these market failures remains a key issue for further research. Copyright The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / the world bank . All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal The World Bank Research Observer.

Volume (Year): 24 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 1-28

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Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:24:y:2009:i:1:p:1-28
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  1. Stefan Dercon, 2000. "Income risk, coping strategies and safety nets," CSAE Working Paper Series 2000-26, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  2. Dercon, Stefan, 1998. "Wealth, risk and activity choice: cattle in Western Tanzania," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 1-42, February.
  3. Christiaensen, Luc & Demery, Lionel & Paternostro, Stefano, 2003. "Reforms, Remoteness and Risk in Africa: Understanding Inequality and Poverty during the 1990s," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  4. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav, 2002. "Why has economic growth been more pro-poor in some states of India than others?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 381-400, August.
  5. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1993. "Credit Market Constraints, Consumption Smoothing, and the Accumulation of Durable Production Assets in Low-Income Countries: Investment in Bullocks in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 223-44, April.
  6. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua & Sangraula, Prem, 2007. "New evidence on the urbanization of global poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4199, The World Bank.
  7. Dercon, Stefan, 2004. "Growth and shocks: evidence from rural Ethiopia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 309-329, August.
  8. Måns Söderbom & Francis Teal & Anthony Wambugu & Godius Kahyarara, 2004. "The Dynamics of Returns to Education in Kenyan and Tanzanian Manufacturing," Development and Comp Systems 0409041, EconWPA.
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  11. Bardhan, Pranab & Udry, Christopher, 1999. "Development Microeconomics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198773719, March.
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  13. Besley, Timothy, 1994. "How Do Market Failures Justify Interventions in Rural Credit Markets?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 9(1), pages 27-47, January.
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  15. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav, 1996. "How Important to India's Poor Is the Sectoral Composition of Economic Growth?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(1), pages 1-25, January.
  16. Gin, Xavier & Yang, Dean, 2009. "Insurance, credit, and technology adoption: Field experimental evidencefrom Malawi," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 1-11, May.
  17. Morduch, J., 1995. "Income Smoothing and Consumption Smoothing," Papers 512, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
  18. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
  19. Christopher B. Barrett, 2005. "Rural poverty dynamics: development policy implications," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 32(s1), pages 45-60, 01.
  20. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-98, April.
  21. Ravi Kanbur & Tony Venables, 2005. "Introduction: Spatial inequality and development," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 1-2, January.
  22. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1992. "Solidarity Networks in Preindustrial Societies: Rational Peasants with a Moral Economy," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 147-74, October.
  23. Eswaran, Mukesh & Kotwal, Ashok, 1986. "Access to Capital and Agrarian Production Organisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(382), pages 482-98, June.
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