Although poverty in urban areas is substantial and increasing, global poverty is still predominantly a rural phenomenon. Some 75 percent of the poor live in rural areas despite the global trend toward urbanization. Even in 20 years, 60 percent of the poor are expected to live outside of cities (IFAD 2001:15). Providing a route out of poverty for these rural residents will remain a priority for national governments and the international community for decades to come (Reed 2001:13; World Bank 2003:1). In addition, while urban ecosystems such as parks, waterways, and green spaces provide important services, it is rural ecosystems that provide the bulk of the goods and services on which humans depend for survival. The forest areas, fisheries, grasslands, agricultural fields, and rivers that provision both urban and rural residents, be they poor or rich, exist primarily in rural areas, and this is where most ecosystem governance and management occurs.
However, even as we focus on rural ecosystems and the rural poor, we recognize the intimate connection between the urban and rural spheres. Much urban poverty, for example, begins as rural poverty, exported from the countryside through rural-to-urban migration. Working for a healthier rural economy thus helps address urban poverty too, by lessening this migration. At the same time, the rural and urban economies are deeply intertwined, particularly through the flow of remittances from the city back to family members in the country. In fact, being able to tap into such remittances is often one of the dividing lines between poverty and sufficiency, and modern rural economies could hardly function without this net flow of income out of urban areas. In the end, then, we realize that addressing rural poverty has an important urban dimension as well. Urban and rural poverty can never be completely disentwined.
|Percent Below Poverty Line||7||36||25||30||8||48|
|Under-Five Mortality (per 1,000 live births)||16||36||63||104||69||100|
|Access to Improved Sanitation (percent of households)||84||26||58||18||69||51|
|Median Years of Schooling (men)||8.5||6||8.3||4.6||8.8||4.9|
|Sources: Macro International 2000; ORC Macro 2000; ORC Macro 2003; UNICEF 2005; World Bank 2004|