ENHANCING RURAL LIVELIHOODS IS KEY TO CUT POVERTY
Concept of enhancing livelihoods security should be expedited to greater employment generation and poverty alleviation
By Dr. AMAN ULLAH CHAUDHRY
Apr 17 - 23, 2006
The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving standard of life. The world leaders agreed on these points at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000. There are eight goals. For each goal one or more targets have been set, mostly for 2015, using 1990 as a benchmark. Indicators have been identified to measure progress against each target. In this context a global partnership for achieving the MDGs has emerged in which various stakeholders including developing countries, developed countries and multilateral institutions were given specific roles and responsibilities.
Under the new act passed by the Pakistan National Assembly the poverty alleviation and social sector spending would not be less than 4.5 percent of GDP. The incidence of poverty is alarmingly high in rural areas of the country and majority of people at subsistence level. According to recent report urban poverty came sown from 22.7 percent in 2001 to 17.2 percent in 2005 and rural poverty from 39 percent in 2001 to 31.8 percent in 2005.
In a sense it means that the concept of enhancing livelihoods security should be expedited to embrace the tighter deadline envisaged by UN. Community-based planning, design, implementation and management of natural resources have become the order of day. Needless to say, each such project or imitative must have an innovative learning system that distils the 'principles in a quick-learning format to address the compelling concerns. The following initiatives may be tried to increase employment and decrease poverty.
SMALL FARM MECHANIZATION
Can farm mechanization lead to greater employment generation and poverty alleviation? The answer is 'yes' provided the mechanization is on small scale and rural artisans and small-scale industry manufacture equipments. A case in point is Bangladesh, which has been experimenting with this concept for sometime now. The experiment should be seen in the backdrop of fragmented and decreasing land holdings from 0.81 hectare per head in 1980s to 0.61 hectare per head now. These holdings are much smaller in size, compared to that in Pakistan. However these holdings are more productive, if we see the examples of China and West Bengal, thus there is need for speedy implementation of land reforms in Pakistan.
Bangladesh had gone for small-scale farm mechanization, wherein tillage operations are mechanized and most of the farm equipments are manufactured locally. This had given rise to a number of backward industries involved in engine repairs and spare parts manufacturing and boosted income-generating employment. A large number of forward industries like paddy parboiling and husking mills, flour mills, oil mills, spices grinding mills and poultry feed mills have also benefited. About 40.000 small and medium sized local metalworking workshops have come up across the country. All this had boosted non-farm employment opportunities, even as the average annual working days of rural laborers increased by 35 percent and the wage rate by 88 percent. As a result of farm mechanization, the annual household incomes of different categories of laborers saw a rise from 75 percent to 113 percent.
But all is not hunky and dory on the mechanization front, globalization and liberalization are threatening to wipe out the economic growth seen so for. The government recently allowed free import of farm implements, but did not fix any standard norms on such imported machineries. Taxes too are not levied on these imported goods.
As a result, these cheap imports have found many buyers, affecting local entrepreneurs, village artisans and also the manufacturing units. To counter this Intermediate Technology Development Group- a global NGO - has taken on itself the responsibility of promoting locally made farm machinery. Their target group is a large number of small farmers. The Bangladesh farm mechanization experiment is based on the modernization of local-village based technologies. And if Bangladesh succeeds in this endeavor, it would set an example for Pakistan and other countries to emulate.
In Pakistan about 93 percent are small scales farmers with 5-12.5 acres land holdings. The human development strategy of the government should be based on the needs of the people at the micro-level. Government policies should facilitate the poor in making the right choices and decisions with regard to employment and livelihood. Further in creating conducive environment for growth of village and small-scale industries engaged in manufacturing farm implements. The following strategic actions are recommended.
(a) Machines should be compact, light, low-powered, and multi-purpose.
(b) Locally available materials must be incorporated in fabricating machines to reduce the manufacturing costs.
(c) Small size tractors, min-power tillers, small farm equipment can meet the needs of small farmers.
(d) Machines must be appropriate to farmer's needs and local farming conditions. For this matter, a need assessment would be necessary.
(e) Manufacturing and designing parts must be precise. This requires capability and skill development trainings.
(f) Farm labor shortage during harvesting season suggests high demand for harvesters with compact and efficient design.
(g) The higher cost of fossil fuel indicates the need to develop energy-efficient machines by harnessing non-conventional sources of energy.
(h) Enhancing adoption and utilization of farm mechanization technologies by using information dissemination activities. Training local craftsmen in manufacturing technology, operation, repair and maintenance, formation of farmer's organizations: farm machinery service centers.
(i) Cases of highly mechanized countries point to common factor, that is, strong political support. This support ca is in the form of favorable legislations, financial assistance through subsidies, loans and the like.
THE PROMISE OF ORGANIC FARMING
The term 'organic agriculture' refers to a process that uses methods respectful of the environment, from the production stages through the handling and processing. Organic production is not merely concerned with a product, but also with the whole system used to produce and deliver the product to the ultimate consumers.
In most major organic product markets such as the industrialized countries, demand for organic products far outstrips domestic supply, and therefore imports are required to fill the gap. China and India are emerging as new giants, in production of organic food. As European union countries switch to more organic foods for value addition, India, China and also nations in Latin America are beginning to catch up. At the moment the International fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is trying to "increase the space for organic farming as much as possible'. In Western markets, organically grown food, which usually fetched a 20-40 percent premium over other produce, represents a new opportunity for small farmers for whom a lack of means to buy fertilizers and pesticides can be turned into an advantage. Difficulties arise, however, by way of certifying such products and then marketing it.
The primary IFAD objective in promoting organic farming is as a way of lifting multitudes of small farmers out of poverty, now that their limitation have the potential of becoming an opportunity. Organic farming could also create new jobs in rural areas and help reduce urban migration. Apart from the smaller farmers, commercially oriented farmers are seeing new market opportunities in certified organic products.
It is a growing business; global organic sales achieved double-digit annual growth for more than a decade.
For instance in India in a bid to make Karnataka state as the country's organic hub, the state government announced a series of incentives to the organic produce processing units including tax rebates, confessional power tariff and subsidy. The highlights are as follows:
(a) Concessional power, no market cess and power tax.
(b) Seasonal industry status.
(c) Five percent additional subsidiary.
(d) Government to bear certification cost for farmers.
(e) Marketing outlets in each districts center.
(f) Hundred hectares model farms in each Taluk.
In Pakistan under National Environmental policy 2005-15, Government will promote organic farming. Similarly Trade Policy 2005-06 envisaged promotion of organic cotton in Pakistan. To develop this opportunity every province should provide incentives to farmers as well as organic industry similar mentioned above.
VILLAGE LEVEL PROCESSING
Agricultural production is a prerequisite to rural poverty alleviation. However, in itself, agricultural growth is not sufficient to eradicate poverty, nor can it create adequate opportunities for enhanced rural employment, and income generation. Agro-processing maintains a high potential for boosting economies based on agriculture to help ensure sustainable growth and increasing rural income. And while the new global economy ushers in a rapid expansion of the worldwide distribution of agricultural products, our concern now should not only to produce in sufficient quantity, but also to enhance the competitiveness of the Pakistani agricultural in world market by developing value-added products based on higher quality standards and improved processing techniques. At present technology for sustainable and environmental friendly value added production are continuously developed, particularly to up grade ethnic and traditional agro-products and small-scale rural processing.
A. PRODUCTION OF RAW MATERIALS
An understanding of agro ecosystems is the key to determine effective farming systems. A report of results from 21 years study of agronomic and ecological performance of biodynamic, bioorganic and conventional farming systems in central Europe showed crop yields to be 20 percent lower in the organic systems, although input of fertilizer and energy was reduced by 34 percent to 53 percent and pesticide input by 97 percent. Enhanced soil fertility and higher biodiversity found in organic plots may render these systems less dependent in external inputs.
Optimizing traditional or conventional farming, organic farming and bio farming or the use of genetically modified crops can also achieve improvement of yields of crops. These three farming types can co-exist depending on the farming and land conditions. They can complement each other and actually are not competitive, for each will have its own markets. It is obvious however that organic farming will cost much in terms of label and management so that the selling price is naturally higher. Traditional or conventional farming may sacrifice sustainability of land use. Thus, bio-farming and good management is the one expected to give the least cost and best sustainability. However, recombined crops must fist be proven to be safe to humans, animal and environment.
B. SMALL-SCALE PROCESSING
The basic prerequisite for all such projects is that farmers belonging to a farmers' Association organize them. Their main interest may be in post-harvest practices, or in packaging and transportation or some other aspects. An important first step is to invite experts to give training courses or lectures, to help members improve their techniques of breeding, fertilizing, farm management or harvesting. The second step is to determine the right place for the factory and on what scale it should be. The farmer's Association or other advisory group should determine this. The design of factory, the layout of factories, pilot runs, and production may be carried out under the designated advisory service.
There are several ways of helping local Farmers Associations to develop small scale processing. One method is to establish a factory in the area covered by a particular Farmers Association. Management of the business and marketing of the products are carried out by Farmers Association. Another way is to establish a factory for a farmers Group. The member of this group has priority in supplying raw materials for processing, and the product is sold directly by the group. A third method is to establish a packaging and transportation center in the area covered by a Farmers Association. The finished or semi-finished product produced by the farmers is packed and sold by the local Farmers Association.
The procedures followed may differ from one area to another, reflecting different crops and other regional differences. Strategic alliances or integration between small-scale processor and manufacturing industry must be enhanced, possibly through farmer's organizations.
To support the growth of rural processing enterprises, an Industrial Master Plan should be introduced.
Special incentive schemes far small-scale processing sector may be introduced. There may be four main types of incentives:
(a) Current incentives
(b) Export incentives.
(c) Incentives for research and development.
(d) Incentive for training.
ULTIMATE ENERGY SECURITY
Energy is life-blood or soul or central force of economy. One can even use all these three descriptions concurrently to qualify it. Without energy, civilization could not have bloomed nor will survive. It will inevitably be on the reverse gear and eventually fade into a black hole, never to resurface again. Keeping this in view, all wise nations lay emphasis on their future energy security. They have been looking far alternative sources of energy-reliable and renewable
Besides building nuclear plants and hydroelectric projects emphasis on bio fuels is increasing.
Ethanol has long been headlined as a major alternative energy source. Every year large amounts of ethanol are provided from sugar in Brazil and from Corn in United States, much of it destined for use in automobiles. In Pakistan ethanol can be produced as a by-product from sugar industry.
The other alternative is cellulosic ethanol called the 'green gold'. One main limit to getting the sugar substrate, apart from the starch in grains, is unavailable for fermentation by bacteria and other microbes. It is locked away in cellulose, the fibrous materials that make up 75 to 85 percent of the plant, the rest being lignin, the woody materials. However, a cocktail of enzymes called cellulases are able to break down cellulose into sugar units, which can then be fermented by microbes into ethanol. That means grass, straw, and other crop residues can also be turned into ethanol. That has been hailed as the 'green gold' that could replace 'black gold' crude oil, and is widely seen to have the potential of substantially reducing consumption of fossil fuel.
The other alternative is methane farming. Methane farming will provide jobs to millions in Pakistan. We have largest livestock population, which produces lot of cow dung. Using this we can produce enough methane gas to entirely replace LPG and kerosene in cooking, and substitute petrol in transportation. Methane gas can also generate enough electricity to meet all requirements, at least in rural areas. The by-product can serve as excellent organic manure, substitituting chemical fertilizer for organic farming.
The other alternative, Bio-diesel is Europe's dominant fuel. It is widely welcomed by environmental groups as a renewable energy that burns cleanlier than diesel. Bio-diesel manufacture appears straight forward starting from oil. It is based on a chemical process of trans-esterification in which fat or vegetable oil is reacted with a simple alcohol such as methanol in the presence of Sodium hydroxide as catalyst. The methanol splits the fatty acids from the oil to form methyl esters (bio-diesel) and glycerin. The glycerin is separated from the fuel and removed as a marketable by-product (for making soap). While the bio-diesel is washed with water and dried. Bio-diesel can also be produced from waste cooking oils.
Of the multitude of solutions "Jatropha" the bio oil tree may fill the need of bio-diesel. It has been predicted in 2004 that the world market for bio-diesel world market for bio-diesel would grow by 14.5 percent annually to 2.79 million tones by 2010. U.K based oil firm has fastened on Jatropha, a fast-growing, high yielding tree that can be planted in semi-tropical areas on wasteland and irrigated with sewerage water. The company already has plantation totaling 267, 000 hectares in Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, India and Philippines, and intends to expand to a nine million hectare. Indian government announced a national bio-diesel purchase policy in October 2005 that would enable farmers and bio-diesel producers to get a support price of Rs. 25 per liter for Jatropha oil, and intends to bring one million hectare of land under Jatropha cultivation to supply blended diesel with the next few years. Bio-diesel has also provided a much-needed outlet for the glut of genetically modified (GM) crops that consumers are rejecting. British Petroleum has announced it will fund a $ 9.4 million project by the Energy and resources Institute in Andhra Prudish to produce bio-diesel from Jatropha. The project, expected to take 10 years, would involve cultivating Jatropha on about 8, 000 hectare currently designated as "waste land" and install all equipment necessary for crushing the seed, extracting oil and processing to produce nine million liters of bio-diesel per annum. Part of the project will include a full environmental and social impact assessment of the supply chain and life cycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions. We may have adequate refining capacity suitable for this tree spread all over the country and operational scale of economy can be readily available at village level based on hundred hectares oil tree plantation to develop a village level power station to feed the entire village community needs both for domestic and farming, and could dream of selling this natural green power to the grid.
Recent development has made green fuels economically attractive in view of the resource potential of this option and the environmental benefits associated with it, along with employment generation and empowerment of the rural population.
The author is from Department of Agronomy University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org