Human Development Report 2014

undp_hdr_2014_finalcover-1Since 1990, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been publishing an annual Human Development Report. The latest report from July 2014, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, focuses on the question of today’s precariousness. Although an improvement of human development in most countries can be observed – due to advanced technology, education or income – “a widespread sense of precariousness” still exists. Natural or human-induced disasters or crises can eventually undermine the existing efforts and achievements.

Every society is confronted with risks and precariousness, however, not all communities are affected the same way; nor does every group recover in the same time. The 2014 report tackles this issue and, for the first time, analyzes “vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.” It gives different recommendations on how to address vulnerability and strengthen resilience to future shocks.

The report follows a holistic and people-centered approach. It presents the risk factors which influence human development, and at the same time points out different ways to strengthen resilience relating to these factors. By taking a people-centred approach, the report puts people in the center of the analysis. It considers disparities in and between countries, focuses on the context of inequality of people and its broader causes, and thereby “identifies the ‘structurally vulnerable’ groups of people who are more vulnerable than others by virtue of their history or of their unequal treatment by the rest of society.”

Furthermore, the report takes a “life cycle approach” – it takes into account the fact that people of different ages are confronted with different risks, and that these vulnerabilities change during their lives. Some periods are especially important, such as the first 1000 days of life, and setbacks at this point can be difficult to overcome and may have long lasting impacts. Capabilities to deal with risks and vulnerabilities are built over a lifetime and need constant investment.

Most Vulnerable Groups and The Multidimensional Poverty Index

Among the most vulnerable are people living in extreme poverty and deprivation. The report uses a Multidimensional Poverty Index in order to measure multidimensional poverty, which includes deprivations at the household level in education, health and standard of living.

Some of the report’s findings include the following:

  • More than 2.2 billion people are either near or living in multidimensional poverty;
  • More than 15% of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty;
  • Nearly 80% of the global population lack comprehensive protection;
  • About 12% (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger;
  • Nearly half of all workers (more than 1.5 billion) are in informal or precarious employment.         

People suffering under a lack of core capabilities, such as education or health, and whose choices are restricted due to social barriers or other exclusionary practices often find it harder to deal with threats. Those barriers also often hinder them to invest in further life capabilities. That in turn challenges them to deal with vulnerabilities at other stages of life and leads to an increase in their vulnerabilities.

Building Resilience

The report gives six recommendations to strengthen and build resilience to risks and future shocks.

  • Universal provision of basic social services: The access to basics services, such as water supply, education, health care and public safety ought to be independent from peoples ability to pay for them. Having these provisions empower people to live a life in dignity that they actually value. It furthermore can raise social competence and reduce structural vulnerability.  
  • Addressing life cycle vulnerabilities: It is important to support the development of capabilities of people at the right time. That includes the stages of early childhood, the transition from youth to young adulthood, and from adulthood to old age. A focus on early childhood is especially needed since countries right now do not invest enough in that stage.
  • Strengthening social protection: Social protection measures, such as unemployment insurance, labor market regulations or further social protection programs, are an important tool to protect people from risks and adversity. These measures can also prevent people in need from taking their children out of school or to postpone necessary medical care, which in turn influences their future vulnerability.
  • Promoting full employment: Full employment helps support the provisioning of social services and brings social benefits. Furthermore, jobs bring forward social stability and decent jobs help to manage shocks and uncertainties.
  • Responsive institutions and cohesive societies: Building resilience requires responsive and accountable governance institutions and policies. They are necessary to overcome inequality, exclusion and vulnerability. Cohesive societies, on the other hand, are of importance since they contribute to building resilient societies, and decreasing conflicts and violence.
  • Building capacities to prepare for and recover from crises: In order to be prepared for natural risks – which are likely to increase poverty, weaken governance or inequality, and thereby enhance vulnerabilities – early warning system are required, especially for those countries and communities that are under-prepared. Countries’ capacities to recover from disasters has to be strengthened.

Findings for THP’s Program Countries

The following table presents a selection of findings of the Multidimensional Poverty Index from The Hunger Project’s program countries. The complete data (p. 180ff.) as well as the data for the further indices can be found here.

Year of data Population in multidimensional poverty – Intensity of deprivation (in %) Population near multidimensional poverty (in %) Population in severe poverty (in %) Population below income poverty line – PPP 1.25$ a day (in %) Population below income poverty line – National poverty line (in %)
Bangladesh 2011 47.8 18.8 21.0 43.25 31.51
Benin 2006 57.4 18.8 45.7 47.33 36.2
Bolivia 2008 47.0 17.3 7.8 15.61 51.3
Burkina Faso 2010 61.3 7.6 63.8 44.6 46.7
Ethiopia 2011 60.9 6.7 67.0 30.65 29.6
Ghana 2011 47.3 18.7 12.1 28.59 28.5
India 2005/2006 51.1 18.2 27.8 32.68 21.9
Malawi 2010 49.8 24.5 29.8 61.64 50.7
Mexico 2012 39.9 10.1 1.1 0.72 52.3
Mozambique 2011 55.6 14.8 44.1 59.58 54.7
Peru 2012 41.4 12.3 2.1 4.91 25.8
Senegal 2010/2011 56.2 14.4 45.1 29.61 46.7
Uganda 2011 51.1 20.6 33.3 38.01 24.5


  • Population near multidimensional poverty: Percentage of the population at risk of suffering multiple deprivations – that is, those with a deprivation score of 20–33 percent.
  • Population in severe poverty: Percentage of the population in severe multidimensional poverty – that is, those with a deprivation score of 50 percent or more.
  • Population below PPP $1.25 a day: Percentage of the population living below the international poverty line $1.25 (in purchasing power parity terms) a day.
  • Population below national poverty line: Percentage of the population living below the national poverty line, which is the poverty line deemed appropriate for a country by its authorities. National estimates are based on population-weighted subgroup estimates from household surveys.

 Both the report and a summary are available in different languages and can be downloaded here.

Integrated and Multi-sectoral Rural Development


“Interdependence between different sectors means that poor health, food insecurity and poverty cannot be tackled effectively by addressing one sector in isolation. Influencing sustainable and positive change means adopting a holistic, multi-sectoral approach to development.” (MDG Center, East and Southern Africa, 2007).

Almost half of the world_over three billion people ,live on less than $2.50 a day and most of them live in rural areas. (World Bank, 2013). According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2010, 75 percent of the world’s poorest people including 1.4 billion women, children, and men live in rural areas, and they depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihood. 842 million people – or one in eight people in the world – do not have enough to eat. (FAO, 2013). The above numerical figures suggest that eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development in rural areas should be a priority if we want to improve the livelihood of the majority poor who live in rural areas .  Despite the large number of the poor population living in rural areas, official development assistance (ODA) to rural and agricultural development around the world has been declining as compared to other sectors. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) development assistance committee (DAC),  the share of the total ODA to agriculture and rural development (ARD) was almost 43% in 1980s,   and in 2011, only  about 7 per cent (of the total aid commitment ($133.5 billion in 2011) went to activities that relate directly to agriculture, food security and rural development. (OECD, 2012). Though interesting and promising seeing growing number of the private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), and bilateral and multilateral organizations over the past years, the lack of co-ordination between development players and the lack of integration of projects have constrained what could be achieved. (ECOSOC, 2003).

Suggestions on Sustainability and Inclusiveness of Integrated Rural Development (Adopted from ECOSOC):

  • For development to be sustainable, it must be inclusive, both in terms of the people who serve as active designers and participants and also the ultimate beneficiaries.

  • At the macroeconomic level, pro-rural pol should encompass exchange rate, fiscal, and credit policies as well as the promotion of agricultural research and rural infrastructure.

  • Access to science and technology also needs to be included in rural development strategies in order to improve the nutritional value of crops, reduce production fluctuation and increase productivity on small-scale farms in a manner appropriate to the ecosystem in which they operate.

  • Development efforts should promote environmental sustainability.

  • Empowering rural populations includes by definition a large number of vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous peoples, fisher folk, member of low castes, and ethnic minorities. Women in particular are responsible for a vast majority of food production, household work, and care work, and they must be included in designing and implementing the programmes that will enhance the security of their livelihoods.

To read more on aid for agriculture and rural development in the global south, click here.

Addressing most of today’s development challenges require an integrated and sustainable multi-sectoral development approach centered around rural and agricultural development. A publication by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) shows that eradicating poverty and achieving rural development goals can be effective when there is a cooperation between development players and development projects follow a holistic, integrated and multi-sectoral approach. Without  a holistic approach to development, “well-intentioned reforms and investment in one sector risk being squandered because they are not supported by measure in other sectors.Pouring money into schools, for instance,without concomitant efforts in HIV/AIDS support and treatment, will not help the girl isolated at home, caring for her sick parents.” (ECOSOC, 2003).

To download and read a pdf version of ECOSOCs publication on Integrated Approach to Rural Development, Click here.

A publication on Rural Development Experience in Malawi by Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) East and Southern Africa Center shows experience of multi-sectoral development approaches in Malawi. The summary of the multi-sectoral rural development projects indicates how cooperation between development players, multi-sectoral development programmes and  empowering local community are effective ways of addressing the multifaceted and interdependent problems in rural areas. The  multi-sectoral rural development programmes reviewed in Malawi included projects on  improving rural livelihood by improving health, ensuring food security, improving nutrition, empowering vulnerable communities with labor saving techniques, and etc.

To read more about an integrated approaches to rural development, click here.

A related example of integrated multi-sectoral development in Sub-Saharan Africa can be accessed here.


Admos Chimhowu. (2013). Aid for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Global South: A changing landscape with New Players and Challenges. Retrieved on 14 February, 2014 from

ECOSOC. (2003). An Integrated Approach to Rural Development Dialogues at the Economic and Social Council. Retrieved ON 14 February 2014 from

Pronyk, Paul M & et al. (2012).The effect of an integrated multi-sector model for achieving Millennium Development Goals and improving child survival in rural sub-Saharan Africa: a non-randomised controlled assessment. Retrieved on 14 February 2014 from

UNDP, MDG Centre East & Southern Africa. (2007). Rural Development Experience in Malawi. Analysis of Multi-Sectoral Rural Development Experience in Malawi: Towards identification and scaling up of best practice. Retrieved on 14 February 2014 from

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009). Urban and Rural Areas 2009. Retrieved on 16 February 2014 from

Sustainable Agriculture to End Hunger and Poverty



Sustainable Agriculture to End Hunger, Poverty and Poverty Related Problems

Agriculture has been the dominant employer of the global working labor force, the highest contributor of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and provider of food for all of us to sustain. Over the past two decades, manufacturing and other industries overtook agriculture as a dominant sector of the economy, especially in the global North. While this article is not about history of agriculture and industrialization, it discusses about the importance promoting climate resilient sustainable agriculture centered around small scale farmers (Chung & Billingsley,2013).  The experiences of the United States, European Union and developed Asian countries on their transition from small scale farming to commercial agriculture and eventually to manufacturing and service industry is a basis for suggestions and recommendations given. Africa as a continent though not as populous as Asian countries such as China and India,  it  will be the center of this discussion as majority of its population depend on traditional and rain-fed small scale farming earning less than $2/day. Of the global 7.1 billion population, 852 million hungry people live in developing countries (FAO, 2012). Thus, investing in small scale agriculture and centering development policies around this important sector addresses hunger, and it also helps reduce the countless problems associated with poverty such as malnutrition, unemployment, conflicts and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio and etc. Moreover, economically well-off communities can afford to pay for services, goods and provide their families without aid in a sustainable way.

Will Small Scale Farming Address Challenges from  pollution, forceful evictions and poverty?

Small scale farmers lead the global food production and most of them live in developing countries of Africa, Asia and L. America. Studies by (Chung & Billingsley, 2013) show that climate resilient sustainable agriculture (CRSA) is the way to go to bring about food security, agricultural development, eradicate poverty and succeed in environmental mitigation and adaptation. According to the , (Chung & Billingsley, 2013) unlike large scale commercial farming, CRSA that centered around small scale farming provide better alternative to soil conservation, agro-biodiversity, water management, livelihood diversification, allows multi-cropping, promote local ownership and gender inclusion (Chung & Billingsley, 2013). One good example of the effect of commercial agriculture on the environment is the clearing of naturally forest covered areas of Gambella and Southern regions of Ethiopia. With little to no environmental regulations to preserve the ecosystem in the host country Ethiopia, Middle Eastern and Indian farmers are clearing the forests leading to the loss of thousands of species of trees and animal habitat. In American countries such as Guatemala and Colombia, native Indians were forced of their homes and lands violently to clear away for crop production and plantation by local elites and foreign companies who export the products to the U.S. and Europe. “Afro-Colombian and Mestizo communities in Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó, in the Lower Atrato region of Choco, have resisted invasion and land grabbing for generations. The communities, dependent for their livelihoods on shifting food production and livestock grazing, as well as for hunting and fishing, have suffered from counter-insurgency, paramilitary violence, and encroachment on their territories by banana and oil palm agribusinesses, logging and mining companies, cattle ranchers, and drug-traffickers” (Franco et al, 2012). Similar developments have been taking place in many countries of South Asia and Africa. Among the examples are the 30,000 hectares acquired in Nigeria by US Company Dominion Farms in 2011 for rice, a 200,000 ha acquired in Ethiopia by Karuturi India and Emami  Biotech,  and 60,000 hectares acquired in Cambodia by local businessman-politician Ly Yong Phat in 2006 for sugarcane (Franco et al, 2012).

Chart 1: Commercial Agriculture Land Deals Around the World

Source: The Economist

Commercial Agriculture is not Sustainable Solution to Hunger and Poverty

There is a huge misconception on how to go about agricultural development and food security in developing countries. For some, commercial farming is the way to increase agricultural output and income. This is a myth and not cognizant of the real situation on the ground at least in sub-Saharan Africa. As mentioned above, small scale farming employs the majority of farmers and produces most of the food we consume. On the other hand,  the commercial farmers  produce crops that are destined for export to foreign countries while locals experience hunger and face forced evictions. The second misunderstanding among those who advocate for commercialization of agriculture in the global south is that what commercial farmers usually produce do not constitute what locals eat or need. This is true of foreign companies in Africa. For instance, Karuturi and Emami Biotech leased 200, 000 ha of forest covered land combined in Ethiopia by displacing thousands of indigenous tribal population to produce palm oil, jatropha, rice, maize, sugarcane and edible oil seeds. These agricultural products neither make up what majority Ethiopians eat nor have demand at the local markets to ease hunger problems (Oakland Institute, 2012).

Recommendations by ActionAid USA on Resilient Sustainable Agriculture

 In order to scale up climate resilient sustainable agriculture (CRSA) ActionAid recommends that ‘agricultural systems, policies, and practices must be transformed’ (Chung & Billingsley, 2012). The following are lists of initiatives national governments together with international donors and CSOs should embark to scale up CRSA:

  • Draw up national sustainable agriculture strategies, focuses on ensuring food security and adapting to climate change

  • Design and implement climate change risk reduction strategies

  • Phase out input subsidy schemes for agro chemicals (chemical fertilizers and pesticides) in favor of those that promote sustainable agriculture

  • Reorient agricultural research and extension services and create ‘knowledge hubs’ to support smallholder farmers in the context of climate change

  • Provide credit programmes at low-interest rates and long payback periods to help smallholder farmers make the transition to sustainable agriculture

  • Promote community banks of grain, seeds, biomass, fodder, and storage facilities at the local level

  • Promote extensive land reforms to increase the security of tenure for smallholder farmers and endure that such laws apply equally to women farmers and

  • Strengthen social assistance programmes such as food and cash transfers

(Source : ActionAid USA)


Studies show that there is a huge potential for agricultural investment in developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Of the total global arable land, 60% is located in Africa which could be taken advantage-off by increasing the local capacity of small scale farmers and designing sustainable policies that promote climate resilient sustainable agriculture.  Effective policies that foster small scale farming are crucial to increasing agricultural output, eradicating hunger and the multifaceted problems that come with poverty. Leaders of developing countries especially those in sub-Saharan Africa should design climate resilient agricultural policies and follow a bottom up development approaches that empower small-scale farmers. Leaders of these developing countries should also be cognizant of predatory investors who are swarming their countries for arable land either to export-back products to their home countries or produce crops for bio-fuel in the name of green technology. Promoting commercialization of agriculture and deals with corrupt and cash-strapped dictators only favors the elites and the already rich. Due to the prevalence of corruption and bad governance, the benefit from the investment is less likely to reach the majority poor. In order to modernize the agriculture, ensure food security and improve the livelihood of the of people who depend on agriculture, government should work around the small scale farmers. Governments in developing countries should invest in small scale farmers and work with civil society and multilateral organization in the sector. Providing training,  micro-financing, investment in value chain, empowering women and construction of infrastructures (roads,dams and irrigation canals)  if coupled with sound environmental policy, can lead to a sustainable development and economic growth. International financial institutions and donor governments such as the World Bank, IMF, FAO, EU, China and India should recognize the importance of investing in small scale farmers and refrain from financing commercial farmers engaged in food-for-export and bio-fuel trading at the cost of locals.


Chung, Youjin B. & Billingsley, Christina. (2012). Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture: A Real Alternative to False Solution. Retrieved on January 22, 2014 from

Cotula L., Vermeulen S., & et al. (2009). Land grab or development opportunity? Agricultural

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Moyo, D. (2012). Winner take all: China’s race for resources and what it means for the world. New York: Basic Books.


INVESTMENTS ON INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN GAMBELLA. Retrieved on November 25, 2013 from ces.pdf

Oxfam International. (2011). LAND AND POWER: The Growing Scandal Surrounding the New

Wave of Investments in Land. Retrieved on December 9, 2013 from 220911-en.pdf