Housing has been a challenge in Pakistan’s major cities because over the years, residents of rural areas entered urban areas in hopes of earning livelihoods. The influx meant higher concentrations of people on a limited area of land. The problem for this country has not actually been limited land, however. It has been under-development of rural land and a failure of understanding the potential that rural towns have with regard to developing as self-sustaining micro-economics. The 2019 Global Food Policy Report by the Washing¬¬ton-based Inter¬national Food Policy Research Institute supports the notion that rural development could contribute significantly to GDPs in countries across South Asia. The measures it provides in order to transform rural areas are difficult to achieve in Pakistan as even urban settings have a long way to go.
The five building blocks to rural rejuvenation include good governance, gender equality, farm and non-farm employment, overcoming environmental challenges and improving energy availability. To that we say welcome to Pakistan in the 21st century. Quips aside, a concrete blueprint of rural transformation needs to be created and has to start with focus on one of these areas. The government has demonstrated some will; recent polices such as the National Drinking Water Policy, 2018 Food Security Policy, and the 2018 Provincial Agriculture and Water Policies suggest this. Following through with them will confirm good governance.
Rather than encouraging rural residents to come and work in cities, the public and private sectors should consider shifting commerce out. Agricultural reform in Pakistan has seen positive steps but now is the time to capitalise and stand out as a leader by facilitating the one-fifth South Asian rural population that remains destitute and resides in Pakistan. Ally nations have recently expressed interest in importing Pakistani agricultural goods; this is a potential catalyst upon which to grow our agrarian economy. Ensuring a smooth process and satisfying foreign importers of Pakistani agriculture would ensure more business and thus carry potential for growth.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2019.
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