Rural poor

Rural poor at risk in 2022

Chilling Prospects 2022

Chapter 1.2

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Among the 54 high-impact countries, the rural poor population grew by 3.9 million, from 366.9 million last year to 370.8 million in the 2022 analysis. While electricity access gaps continued to decline in both rural and urban areas, the number of people living in extreme poverty in the 54 high-impact countries increased by an additional 16 million.  

Figure 1.4: Rural poor population by country at high risk due to a lack of access to cooling 

Approximately 370.8 million people living in rural areas in high-impact countries lack access to electricity and are likely to live in extreme poverty. Many of the rural poor are likely to engage in subsistence farming but lack access to an intact cold chain that would enable them to sell their products further afield at a higher price. There may also be a lack of medical cold chains in rural poor communities, putting lives at risk from spoiled medicines and vaccines.

The number of rural poor at high risk in high-impact countries rose from approximately 366.9 million in 2021 to 371 million people in the 2022 analysis, an increase of approximately 4 million people. This increase was driven by several factors, most notably the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that continued to affect the rural poor, with urbanization offsetting potentially higher growth. 

In 2022, the estimated rural population living on less than USD 1.90 a day in the 54 high-impact countries had increased by 10 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, and by more than 2 percent since 2020. Updated estimates by the World Bank suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic forced an additional 97 million people into extreme poverty, bringing the global figure up to 711 million. Of these, 478 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa and over 140 million live in South Asia. So, despite steady improvements in rural electricity access in high-impact countries, the risk-mitigating effects were outweighed by an increase in the rural population that may not have access to, or be able to afford, adequate energy services for cooling. 

Figure 1.5: Access to cooling risk trends for the rural poor (2000–2019)

The three countries with the highest number of rural poor at risk remain India, Nigeria and Bangladesh. India saw an increase in its rural poor population of 5.2 million people, while Nigeria and Bangladesh saw relatively small increases. The greatest proportional increases over the last year were seen in Egypt and Sri Lanka, rising 4.6 percent in each country respectively. Since the beginning of the tracking effort in 2018, Argentina (82 percent), Pakistan (21.8 percent), and Iraq (20.9 percent) have seen the largest proportional increases in their rural poor populations, while the most significant reductions occurred in Bolivia (-46.5 percent) and Indonesia (-42.3 percent). 

Table 1.2: Top 10 countries with rural poor at risk (2020–2022, thousand)

Regional analysis

Regionally, high-impact countries for access to cooling in Africa continue to be home to the greatest number of the rural poor in absolute terms, following a small increase in their number since 2020 when the economic shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be felt.

Figure 1.6: Rural poor regional breakdown (2018–2022)

In 31 African high-impact countries, the number of rural poor grew marginally in the 2022 analysis compared to 2021, with an increase of 400,000 people. Half of the global rural poor population continues to live in Africa, representing 40 percent of all rural dwellers in these countries and 5 percent of the total rural population globally. Of the top 10 countries with the highest number of rural poor at risk, eight are in Africa. More concerning is that more than half of the rural populations in a significant number of countries in Africa are at high risk due to lack of access to cooling, including Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mozambique and Somalia, where more than three-quarters of all rural dwellers are at high risk.

Figure 1.7: Share of rural poor as a proportion of the rural population in African high-impact countries (2022)

In 16 high-impact countries in Asia and the Middle East, the number of rural poor at risk has increased by 4.3 million people over the last year. Yemen (24 percent) and Timor-Leste (23 percent), have the highest proportion of rural poor at risk, while in absolute terms, India is home to 133.3 million rural poor, representing almost three-quarters of the rural poor in the region and 36 percent of the global rural poor population.

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to six high-impact countries for access to cooling which, combined, have 4.4 million people among the rural poor, or 1 percent of the total global population. In the 2022 analysis, the rural poor population declined in all six countries, by 6 percent on average. Brazil accounts for 3.6 million, or 82 percent of the rural poor in the region. The second largest rural poor population is in Peru, with 316,000 or 7.2 percent of the rural poor in the region.