Inclusive rural transformation is essential to eliminate poverty: report

International Fund for Agricultural Development calls on govts in the Asia-Pacific region to develop targeted policies and invest in promoting inclusive development of rural areas

Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: Inclusive rural transformation is essential to eliminate poverty and hunger and to build inclusive and sustainable societies, according to a report compiled by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The rural development report 2016, released in New Delhi on Monday, points out that policies, institutions and investments are the key factors determining the speed and inclusiveness of rural transformation in countries like China and India.

Significant reduction in rural poverty is not possible in the absence of rapid structural or rural transformation—inclusive rural development in terms of accessible healthcare and unemployment, the report says. It calls on governments in the Asia-Pacific region to develop targeted policies and invest in promoting inclusive development of rural areas.

Changes in food consumption patterns, urbanization and climate change are the major factors affecting rural transformation—which contribute to overall economic development.

The study identifies initiatives taken by India towards poverty eradication and rural upliftment and applauds the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for significantly increasing agricultural wages, especially for women.

India has made progress in its fight against under nutrition. Child wasting or acute malnutrition fell from 20% to 15% between 2005-06 and 2013-14. Stunting declined from 48% to 39%, the study said. However, the report says India needs to put in place programmes to reduce the proportion of underweight children under 5 years.

Among initiatives dedicated to rural transformation, the study mentions Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PFBY)—a crop insurance scheme with low premiums, an agriculture irrigation scheme covering 2.85 million hectares, a dedicated long-term irrigation fund and launch of online national products market e-nam to connect wholesale market across the country. Land reforms through policy and legislation also form a major part of the set of schemes towards rural upliftment.

“The thrust has completely shifted to ensure that we create assets that last, that are durable and help in transforming irrigation potential to actual irrigation utilisation,” said Amarjeet Sinha, secretary, ministry of rural development referring to MGNREGA—rural employment generation programme.

Sinha outlined various factors which will promote inclusive rural transformation. The vehicle of transformation will be women, who have organised themselves into self-help groups, he said. The availability of institutional credit to women, reduction in the number of households participating in MGNREGA every year from 50 million to 30 million and skill development will ensure inclusive rural transformation, added Sinha.

The report mentions that several fast transforming countries have not achieved inclusive growth as rural poverty still persists in those countries. The need for inclusive transformation calls for specific policies and programmatic actions by the government.

“The government is looking at structural transformation through distinct agricultural policies by boosting existing agricultural capacity followed by agricultural modernization and finally introducing sustainability,” said Shobhan K. Pattanayak, secretary, ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare.

According to the report, India and China’s perspective is important at the global level as more than 60% of their population lives in the rural areas. These economies together achieved an average annual growth of 7.4% in 2011-2015, which was associated with the reduction of poverty and malnutrition in these countries. They accounted for the most of the Asia and Pacific region’s overall reduction.

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