By Dr B K Mukhopadhyay
More than half of the global population already resides in cities. This number is projected to increase, with 60 percent of the population living in urban areas by 2030. Very recently the U N rightly warned that half of the world’s increase in urban land will occur in Asia over the next 20 years and two of the region’s largest economies, Chi and India, will see the most extensive changes. In India, the loss of agricultural land to urbanization, aided by insufficient planning for food supply lines, will place a severe constraint on the country’s future food security for its growing population, the United tions Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) opined in its The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook report.
With the total urban area in the world expected to triple between 2000 and 2030 and urban populations expected to double to around 4.9 billion in the same period, urban expansion, the report observed in its assessment, will put stress on water and other tural resources, and consume prime agricultural land. This report makes a strong argument for greater attention to be paid by urban planners and magers to the ture-based assets within city boundaries. Sustaible urban development that supports valuable ecosystems presents a major opportunity for improving lives and livelihoods, and accelerating the transition to an inclusive green economy.
Is there any short cut process to tackle the situation? Of course, a great no in as much as the development process itself has turned to be more complex even compared to a decade’s back. It is virtually the urban-rural-magement of integration process that would rule as the ultimate factor.
In fact, in this 21st century the rural regions are facing major challenges which arise mainly from globalisation, demographic change and the rural migration of young, well-trained people? Policies for rural areas desperately call for recognising and making use of strengths and opportunities.
No doubt, the policy shift towards integrated rural development has been there though at a sil’s pace - reflecting a fundamental change so far as the objectives are concerned and a movement towards a more holistic approach to rural development inviting new tools of alysis. But the goings in the developing world cannot be given an excellent certificate in as much as a number of inhibiting factors still roam at large.
It is not that in Economies like India planning has been a futile exercise, but it is to be agreed upon that either plans are idequate or implementation is poor. Supervision and control leaves much to be desired. It is crystal clear that integration reflects the complex linkages and interactions within the system of overall rural development. Putting too much emphasis on agriculture and ignoring its linkages to the rest of the economy result in sub-optimal utilization of resources. Integrated Rural development provides supplements and compliments to the farm sector, which, in turn, benefits all of the sectors rural or urban. Inter-sectoral -resource-flow starts zooming in such a business oriented professiolly maged environment.
An innovative approach has to be there in as much as tinkering around the existing practises could not eble an economy to reach at higher level of equilibrium. Rural diversification, one way of looking at this, in turn, refers to the process aimed at reducing the risks of farming and is a logical consequence of the policy shift away from direct agricultural price support - a synergy approach to rural development, incorporating both traditiol network and institutiol alysis, focussing on working mechanisms and processes. This, no doubt, paves the way for fostering co-operation between public and private actors to achieve sustaible development. Planning is a continuous and spontaneous process indeed.
So far land use planning is concerned – the most important factor to invite innovations - traditiol notions still domite Crop competition, demand from other sectors and the like have put the overall situation in a confusing state and the resultant effect is poor utilization of productive land in the region.
In particular, agricultural lands require lop attention in as much as sectoral competition may lead to diminution of farm land steadily in the absence of proper land use planning. It will be pertinent to refer here some global happenings. This is particularly serious in Egypt, where only 3 percent of the total area of that country is of any use for agriculture, the rest being largely desert. It appears that every year, that country now loses 0.5 percent of what remains of its agricultural land—a trend that cannot go on forever. The situation is similar in Chi. Indeed, since that country started industrializing it has already lost some 10 percent of its agricultural land. In Chi urban areas are increasingly encroaching on protected areas of the country. In the Latin American and Caribbean regions, where the number of cities has grown six-fold in the last 50 years, housing for low-income residents often occurs in important areas for biodiversity and ecosystem services such as the wetlands or floodplains. These are mistakenly considered to be of margil value by planners.
At the same time environmental concerns should have been considered and integrated during the planning phase of programmes of measures to support rural areas. A large share of policies targeted at land use in rural areas should have served to promote agro- bio-diversity and environmental measures in agriculture.
Side by side, it also remains a question as to why the T C G [Technological Consolidation of Holdings] Model is not attached due weightage! Under this system the individual ownerships remain undisturbed as such but the inputs / facilities that are extended are meant to all of the owners who use the land for productive purposes. Accordingly, the rate for water use / machine use remains same and is calculated on total use vis-a vis pro rata basis [i.e. keeping in account the actual individual shares].
Then, why not to recognize the local knowledge? It may be mentioned on this score that globally speaking: even the ancient combition of livestock and crop activities had helped farmers - to use the manure as fertilizer for crops, and the crop residues as feed for livestock. In place of this now in many parts the practise becomes less optimal - most of the manure usually lost up to half its nitrogen content before it became nitrate and was readily available as fertilizer to plants. The quantity also became idequate as the population increased, so chemical fertilizers and artificial feeds had to be purchased, eroding the small profits of the small farmers.
Next, due to interplay of a number of factors the incidence of regiol disparity Galore It is definitely a matter of grave concern in as much as not only between the districts, but within the blocks also differences galore – in case of any indicator on this score – irrigation, fertilizer use, water use, productivity, cropping intensity and the like. The trend is to be mitigated.
Empowering rural population [that includes a large number of vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous peoples, fisher folk, member of low castes, and ethnic minorities], still remains a far cry. Women, as is well known [thanks to the African Proverb: without women we will go hungry] in particular are responsible for a vast majority of food production, household work, and care work - they are yet to be actively included in designing and implementing the programmes that will enhance the security of their livelihoods. Poor Educatiol facilities and awareness on this score stand in the way of achieving gender equality and equity. These, in turn, blocked speed of the ongoing efforts directed towards mitigation of regiol imbalances. Manpower wastage, marketing hindrances, idequate availability of quality inputs and magerial ineffectiveness, among others, just go on adding to sectoral and spatial imbalances.
Further innovations inclusive of drive for optimizing productivity, subject to environment constraint, is the crying need to push the integrated farming system almost to perfection.
Filly, what about access to services and infrastructure that should be available throughout the economy (drinking water supply, sewage treatment, mail, telecommunications, transport, access to broadband in the field of IT and telecommunications)? The quality of these services, however, differs from region to region. One field which urgently needs improvement is sewage treatment where, for economic reasons, the number of decentralised systems is growing. Furthermore, employment opportunities are not at all sufficiently available in rural regions – where are various long lasting assets generating measures to improve the situation?
As rural innovation becomes increasingly viewed as a complex process that defies simple solutions, it has become more and more difficult to identify the types of investment and policy interventions needed to make developing economies’ rural regions to be more responsive, dymic, and competitive. So, the requirement is there to identify where the most binding constraints to rural innovation are existing and how better to target interventions to remove such constraints.
(The writer is a noted Magement Economist, an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Trends and Principal, Eminent College of Magement and Technology, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)