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Poverty reduction is a key objective of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC). Although poverty is also increasing in cities, the majority of the marginalised and vulnerable population groups still lives in rural areas. In general, rural populations are excluded from political decision-making processes, have little income and insufficient employment opportunities. Their livelihoods are also challenged by hunger and malnutrition, lacking basic services such as health and education, deficient clean water as well as social and economic infrastructure.
In many of Austria's key regions and partner countries, agriculture still constitutes the main livelihood and frequently the single food and income source for the population. Many programmes and projects of Austrian Development Cooperation therefore concentrate on the promotion of small-scale farmers in order to enhance agricultural production and marketing. In this respect, organic agriculture allows for the optimal use of natural resources while preserving the environment and biodiversity at the same time. Utilisation of local knowledge, the development of appropriate technologies and methodologies, promotion of applied research and dissemination of information and extension services are supported amongst others.
Measures in rural development demand the active participation of all local actors - representatives of the public and private sector as well as the civil society - in planning and political decision-making processes. Capacity development and empowerment, especially of marginalised and vulnerable population groups, are key action areas of ADC.
Securing access to land and tenure rights as well as equal utilisation of natural resources for all population groups is an essential precondition for a sustainable improvement in the livelihood conditions in the primarily remote and marginalised regions in partner countries. In the past year the increasing sale of agricultural land to primarily external investors (land grabbing) has posed additional challenges in respect to food security and maintaining the livelihood conditions of the local population. Furthermore, due to increasing scarcity of natural resources environmental pressure and competition in utilisation are accumulating. Promotion of flexible and innovative savings and credit schemes, prevention measures and storage facilities, but also social protection schemes are taken into account in order to enhance the resilience of the local population against impacts of external, economic and environmental factors.