On the eve of an international meeting on development and education, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that education provides the best route for the rural poor in sub-Saharan Africa to work their way out of poverty.”Illiteracy is a correlate of poverty and hunger and is mainly a rural phenomenon which hinders rural development and food security, threatens productivity and health, and limits opportunities to improve livelihoods – particularly for rural girls and women,” FAO education expert Lavinia Gasperini said in anticipation of a ministerial seminar in Addis Ababa that opens tomorrow. “Since the vast majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa are rural, and since agriculture is a key sector for rural development and economic growth, more efforts are needed in educating the rural poor and helping them to apply improved technologies to make small-scale farming viable and profitable,” Ms. Gasperini added.The Addis Ababa seminar will focus on the current situation of education for rural people in sub-Saharan Africa and ways and means to improve it. The elimination of gender disparities in education will present an important topic. Ms. Gasperini said the meeting would gather, for the first time, ministers of education, agriculture, fisheries and rural development from several African countries. In addition, representatives from the African Union (AU), civil society organizations and bilateral and multilateral development bodies will attend.The meeting, which will run from 7-9 September, is organized by FAO along with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), in partnership with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education and with the support of the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS) and the Norwegian Trust Fund for Education in Africa (NETF).

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