Rural development is elevating the living standard of the farmers, miners and the poor and all those living in the areas where basic amenities like education and developed physical infrastructure are not easily available. In rural areas, a dominant majority of population is engaged in primary sectors rather than the industrial or services sectors. Pakistan consists of vast rural areas inhabited by nearly 116.52 million people and this is the fact that warrants special attention of the government. If the government prioritizes the development of rural areas, it would certainly lead to a developed and economically strong Pakistan in the near future.
One of the world’s best networks of canals irrigates the rural areas of Pakistan. Wheat, rice, cotton, millet, sugarcane and tobacco are the important crops. In addition to these striking features, Pakistan’s rural areas possess great potentials not only to fulfil their own food needs but also those of their urban counterparts besides boosting the exports of agriculture produces, manufactured goods, like handicrafts, and human resource. Although successive governments have made tall claims regarding the provision of facilities to rural areas in order to develop those, yet the desired objectives of increasing agricultural produce, alleviating poverty, reducing rich-poor gap have not been achieved till today.
Pakistan has the 10th largest labour force in the world. According to the Labour Force Survey 2013-14, the total labour force in the country, out of a total population of approximately 191.71 million, is 60.09 million. But, ironically, our markets are flooded with inferior foreign goods especially those we import from Japan and China by spending precious foreign exchange. By developing the human capital in rural areas, we will be able to cut our imports thus saving billions of dollars of foreign exchange.
Now the question arises here that what methodology we should adopt to increase employment opportunities, mitigate poverty and to raise living standard of the rural masses. The answer is simple, i.e., employing technology for tapping the available natural and human resources. We should equip our rural workforce with modern sophisticated technology but training people in its use may not be an easy task as majority of rural population is illiterate. In fact, the literacy rate in rural Pakistan is only 49 percent, the lowest among.
The rural sector can prove to be the real backbone of the country’s economy if we promote rural industrialization. In this way employment should be maximised through promotion of labour-intensive industries and technologies in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In addition, investments should take place for further improving cottage industries which would create value addition and enhance worker skills and human capital development.
Local governments, supported by the provincial and federal governments need to develop the rural sector by improving access to land, water and livestock, enhancing activities in the non-farm sector, including agro-processing, provision of agricultural inputs and supply of basic consumer goods and services. New sources of plantation and improving agriculture should be identified. This will increase the aggregate income of rural population, making it financially independent. Emphasis should be laid on promoting rural industrialisation and market development.