“The planet’s future is partly being played out in rural territories”

In a few days, the 2017 Paris International Agricultural Show will be opening its doors with the watchword “Farming: A Passion, a Set of Ambitions!”. AFD will be taking part for the 5th year in a row with the Center for International Research on Environment and Development (CIRAD). This year, the Sustainable Development Goals and the development of rural territories will take center stage. The opportunity to find out more about the challenges facing the sector with Jean-Luc François, Head of AFD’s Agriculture, Rural Development and Biodiversity Division.

Why is AFD taking part in the International Agricultural Show (IAS), a show which is very popular with the general public?

With 800,000 visitors, the IAS is in essence very much an event for the general public, but it is also a leading international professional event. AFD’s main partners have stands at the show. In addition, many French political figures go to the show and stop at our AFD-CIRAD pavilion. It is a great opportunity for discussions with institutional and industrial actors in the French and foreign agriculture sector (companies, institutions and NGOs). Finally, being at this show for the general public gives us the opportunity to inform our citizens about our mandate, the sustainable development challenges in our countries of operation, and the more specific role that agriculture has in them. A dedicated activity program is planned throughout the show.


Following on from family farming, the climate and sustainable agriculture sectors, the theme this year is devoted to “rural territories”, can you tell us what this covers?

A “rural territory” is based on a foundation characterized by: natural resources (water, land, forests), farming, and a population, which organizes itself to live as best it can in these areas. This results in countless “rural landscapes”: from hills in Burundi to the savannahs of central Côte d’Ivoire, including cleared land in central Côte d’Ivoire and paddy fields in Southeast Asia…
The economy of these “rural territories” is firstly an agricultural economy, which is therefore dependent on the climate and nature. In developing countries, access to basic services (education, health, drinking water, energy) is not as good in these areas as in large cities. Poverty is more frequent and more intense throughout these areas. The same applies to the malnutrition which goes with it. Yet in Africa, for example, 50% of the population is currently living in these territories and the number of people living there is set to increase in the coming years.


Vietnam ©Laurent Weyl pour l'AFD

Why is it necessary to pay special attention to them in AFD’s countries of operation?

There are three main reasons. Firstly, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, defined by the United Nations, means it is necessary to invest in rural territories in order to fight against inequalities, which constitute a breeding ground for crises and conflicts. Secondly, because the planet’s future is partly being played out in these territories. Putting an end to biodiversity extinction and storing carbon in forests and soil requires an ecological transition in agriculture, which will transform rural landscapes. Finally, feeding, clothing and providing 10 billion human beings with decent employment without having negative impacts on the environment requires agro-ecological intensification.

What approach does AFD support in order to address these challenges?

Without going into detail about the evolution of AFD’s local development operations in rural areas, we work simultaneously on four aspects: governance, the economy, equipment and nature.
We work to strengthen the legitimate bodies for planning and sharing territorial resources among beneficiaries. The objective is to achieve greater equity and sustainable development, which ultimately contributes to supporting the rule of law.
At the economic level, our operations aim to tap the full potential of a territory, regardless of the constraints. It involves carefully selecting which sectors to support – primarily the agriculture sector, but also forestry and tourism.
In terms of equipment, we need to meet the basic needs of rural communities: roads to open up villages, drinking water points to reduce the time spent collecting it, energy to allow children to study in the evening, dams or canals for irrigation…
Finally, for natural capital, it involves preserving the natural resources on which the quality of life and agricultural productivity are dependent. AFD’s support for the Dominican Republic’s Plan Sierra for several years now is a very good example of this four-pronged approach.

►  Find out more about Plan Sierra
►  Find out more about AFD at Salon International de l'Agriculture (in French)


Last update in February 2017

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