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Experts call for minimising rural-urban development gaps

  • Published at 09:23 pm April 18th, 2019
Guests pose with Global Food Policy Report 2019 at its launch on Thursday Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

They came up with this recommendation while launching the annual report of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Researchers and food policy experts have emphasized minimising persistent rural-urban development gaps by designing and implementing innovative development programs for rural revitalization. 

They came up with this recommendation while launching the annual report of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) titled “Global Food Policy Report 2019” at the Hotel InterContinental on Thursday. 

According to the report, in many parts of the world, deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities and environmental degradation have left rural areas in a state of crisis. 

This crisis, it says, threatens to slow progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global climate mitigation targets, improved food and nutrition security. 

Agriculture Minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque launched the report while IFPRI country representative Akhter Ahmed presided over the program. 

Akhter Ahmed said: “Bangladesh’s sustained focus on rural development over several decades and across many different governments has made the country a global model for how to transform the lives of millions of poor rural men and women.”

He said agriculture played a key role in reducing poverty and improving food security through different means. 

“The government has made important commitments to continuing these improvements by investing in roads, health care, nutrition and gender equality in rural areas”, he added. 

He mentioned three key accelerators for rural transformation — rice price stability, rural real wage increases and access to electricity in rural areas. 

He said monthly rice prices displayed greater stability during the last two decades compared to 1980s and 1990s, which significantly lessened the severity of lean seasons. 

He also mentioned: “Real agricultural wages increased sharply. In June 2005, agricultural labourers could buy 5.3 kg of rice from a day’s wage while in 2016 they were able to buy 12.8 kg of rice as their wage increased.” 

In his paper, he stated that in 1996 to 1998 only 12.9% rural households had access to electricity, which increased to 58.6% in 2014-16.

According to the report, in Bangladesh, as in many developing countries, rural areas are undeserved and face a wide array of challenges, including severe environmental degradation, agrarian crisis and an acute shortage of jobs for growing youth population. 

To overcome these challenges, the report called for rural revitalization by highlighting policies, institutions and investments that could transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work and raise families.   

Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, said revitalizing rural areas could stimulate economic growth, begin to address the crisis in developing countries and also tackle challenges holding back achievement of the SDGs and climate goals by 2030.

“Rural revitalization is timely, achievable, and, most importantly, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” he said. 

“Rural areas are the linchpin of agri-food system transformation for both rural and urban areas and fundamental transformation of agri-food systems of rural areas is urgently needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030,” he added.

The report emphasized that revitalization could make rural areas premiere hubs of innovations in just under a decade. 

It also recommended five building blocks for rural revitalization — creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities, achieving gender equality, addressing environmental challenges, improving access to energy and investing in good governance.

The report underlined that several areas of Bangladesh were in need of improvement. 

It also showed that Bangladesh had low access to basic sanitation in rural areas, which was hovering just above 40%. 

It pointed out that limited access to sanitation in rural Bangladesh might help explain child stunting in the country, which remained too high.

For that reason progress in these and other areas of development remained critical to improve rural livelihoods, it said. 

Minister Abdur Razzaque said that the ministry of agriculture was committed to implementing rigorous evaluations and updating policies to integrate evidence-based research.

“And this activity will increase women’s decision making power, wellbeing and access and rights to resources as a way to strengthening the linkages between agriculture and nutrition,” he said.    

“The government of Bangladesh is working diligently to promote rural regions as viable habitants and economic areas where livelihoods are secured, economic growth is enhanced and natural resources are used efficiently and sustainably”, he added.

Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser of prime minister, Shamsul Alam, member (senior secretary) of General Economics Division, Ministry of Planning, Professor Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and Professor MA Sattar Mandal, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University, also spoke among others.