LIMA — Despite a decade of rapid economic growth that decreased the Peru poverty rate to 22.7 percent in 2014, 46 percent of Peru’s rural population continues to live below the poverty line.
Agricultural exports have brought more prosperity to coastal regions while those who live in Peru’s central highlands and Amazon rainforest regions primarily depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.
Rural poverty in Peru is rooted in a lack of access to education, insecure rights to land and water and the need for better agricultural training. Many of Peru’s rural poor have also been negatively affected by physical isolation, poor infrastructure, a lack of available public services and histories of conflict and drug trafficking.
Efforts by the Peruvian Government to End Poverty
Peru is classified as an upper middle-income nation. In recent years, efforts have been made by the Peruvian government to achieve a more equitable distribution of income between urban and rural populations. During the administration of former president Ollanta Humala, several economic stimulus packages were passed to spur growth in rural regions. Reforms to environmental regulations to encourage investment in Peru’s mining sector were also passed. Mining investment fell in 2015 when conflict tainted the sector and global commodity prices stayed low.
Current president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who took office in July 2016, has pledged to cut the Peru poverty rate in half by the end of his term in 2021. As reported by CNBC, the country’s poverty rate dropped by 1.1 percentage points to 20.7 in 2016. Despite these gains, 3.8 percent of the population, approximately 1.2 million Peruvians, are considered to be in extreme poverty.
While the poverty rate continues to decrease, the speed at which it is decreasing has slowed since 2014, following lower commodity prices that hurt Peru’s mineral- and metal-dependent economy. With tax reforms and new infrastructure projects, Kuczynski hopes to use the rest of his term to restore annual growth to 5 percent and decrease the poverty rate to 10 percent or lower.
Joining Forces to End Peruvian Poverty
In addition to its own efforts, the Peruvian government has also partnered with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to create rural employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley region, which is characterized by extreme poverty and conflict.
The Peruvian government and IFAD also signed a financing agreement in October 2016 to allow IFAD’s Sustainable Territorial Development Project to begin. The project will benefit 50,000 families in 27 municipal districts across seven provinces from the low Amazon rainforest to the Andes Mountain Range. In these districts, 66 percent of the population consists of indigenous peoples, and 74 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Illiteracy rates are high is rural regions, especially among women. This lack of educational access contributes to the higher rate of rural poverty. Education initiatives and interventions by organizations like the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) have taken steps to ensure that all children have the opportunity to access education and break the cycle intergenerational poverty.
“In Peru […], CARE interventions promoted multi-lingual education models to ensure ethnic minority children were able to learn in a language they could understand as a bridge to learning in the national language,” states CARE’s Senior Technical Advisor for Education, Katherine Begley. As a result of CARE interventions in Peru, the percent of students passing standard math tests have increased from 1.3 percent to 37 percent.
The efforts of the Peruvian government and its strategic partnerships are demonstrating a positive shift in poverty and education rates for Peruvian citizens. With a particular focus put on improving education, increasing access to resources and creating employment in rural areas, Kuczynski’s goal of dramatically lowering the Peru poverty rate by the end of his terms may be realized.
– Amanda Quinn