Recent progress against poverty has been steady across the globe (fi gure A). But in most regions, poverty rates in rural areas still stand well above those in urban areas. These trends refl ect the continuing challenges facing rural areas linked to the social, economic and political marginalization of rural people. Small family farms dominate rural landscapes across the developing world, accounting for up to 80 per cent of food produced in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, while supporting livelihoods of up to 2.5 billion people (IFAD 2015). Yet these farmers face long-standing barriers to accessing technology, finance, knowledge and markets. At the same time, pressures on the rural natural resource base are growing, linked to population growth, unsustainable agricultural practices, urbanization, mining, land-use conversion and deforestation.