Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Agriculture helping eradicate rural poverty

Agriculture played a crucial role in the reduction of extreme poverty and inequality, helping make Botswana’s progress in that regard “among the world’s strongest in the second half of the 2000s”. This feat made Botswana one of the top performers in Africa when measured by annual consumption distribution growth for the bottom 40 percentile.

“Agriculture was the main job growth sector between 2002/03 and 2009/10,” says a World Bank report that assessed Botswana’s poverty in that reference period.

Employment in the agricultural sector grew by 5.6 percentage points. The corresponding numbers are 4.9 percentage points for “other services,” 1.8 percentage points for the public sector, and 0.2 percentage points for the financial sector. The Bank says that it is not surprising that agriculture accounts for more than half the jobs in rural areas and contributes almost nothing in cities and towns. However, it notes that agricultural employment grew dramatically in urban villages where another major contributor to job growth has been the public sector.

“Indeed, agriculture has been second-largest job-creating sector after the services industry. Consistent with expectations, the manufacturing and services sectors have been more important by far in cities and towns than in rural areas,” the Bank says.

In rural areas, manufacturing was the only sector to experience a decline in employment between 2002/03 and 2009/10. Aside from manufacturing, rural areas saw broad employment growth, even in sectors where urban areas were losing jobs.

The Bank’s study found that during the reference period, labour force participation rates increased, especially in rural regions, with a major contributor being the increased participation of women classified as poor in rural areas. Employment rates also increased in rural areas, particularly among the poor, while they barely changed in the urban areas. Employment increased by 5 percentage points among women, while remaining almost unchanged among men.

While overall labour force participation rates remained fairly stable at around 59 percent between 2002/03 and 2009/10, patterns for urban and rural populations were quite different and implied a catch up in the countryside. The share of active population decreased by almost 5 percentage points in urban areas and increased by almost 4 percentage points in rural areas. In 2002/03, rural areas had participation rates that were 8 percentage points lower than urban areas; at decade’s end, rural areas’ participation rates were only 1 percentage point higher.

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