Global perspective Human stories

To slash hunger, UN launches education campaign for Latin American rural poor

To slash hunger, UN launches education campaign for Latin American rural poor

In an effort to improve agricultural productivity and reduce hunger and poverty in Latin America, United Nations agencies are launching an international campaign this week on education for the tens of millions of rural people throughout the continent.

"Expanding and improving education can be one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition,” Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expert Lavinia Gasperini said today. “Malnutrition rates decline with increased literacy, especially female literacy."

Research shows that a farmer with four years of elementary education is almost 9 per cent more productive than a farmer with no education. When materials such as fertilizers, new seeds or farm machinery are available, the productivity increase rises to 13 per cent.

The campaign will be launched at a three-day regional workshop on "Food Security and Education for Rural People" starting tomorrow in Santiago de Chile. Organized by FAO and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the workshop also involves the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, the World Bank and the Italian Development Cooperation.

The campaign is part of the global education for rural people partnership initiative, led by FAO in collaboration with UNESCO and more than 100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities and other partners. It is a follow-up to the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Globally, 1 billion people are illiterate, about 130 million of them children. Most live in less developed regions where the majority of the 840 million of undernourished people are also concentrated.

In Guatemala, for example, the country with the highest percentage of rural population in the region, adults in cities had an average of six and a half years of schooling in 1998, while the same age group in rural areas had under two years of school attendance.