Learning from China’s rural revitalisation | By Yasir Masood

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Learning from China’s rural revitalisation

Beyond doubt, what China has accomplished over the past decades in poverty alleviation is a miraculous feat, having lifted millions of people out of poverty.

The next stage is to usher in a new era of preventing people from falling back into poverty by maintaining their living standards through consistent measures.

For the last 19 years, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council of China have collaborated on the publication of what is commonly referred to as the “No.1 central document,” which outlined opinions, policy tools, and guidelines for promoting comprehensive agriculture development and rural reintegration.

In the “Two Sessions”, the annual sessions of China’s national legislature and top political advisory body, it was stated that “China is capable of feeding one-fifth of the global population with nine percent of the world’s arable land and 6 percent of the freshwater resources”.

Seven decades ago, the country had an underfed population of 400 million; but today, its 1.4 billion people eat well and have access to a diverse range of food varieties.

Agricultural and rural development objectives and responsibilities are regularly articulated at China’s Central Rural Work Conference, with an emphasis on “Three Rurals” (agriculture, rural regions, and farmers) for the coming year.

Food security is regarded as one of the country’s most fundamental interests. China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) aims at connecting the two objectives by detailing the country’s social and economic objectives. This requires the continuation of annual grain production of over 650 million tonnes.

In 2021, China’s grain output exceeded 683 million tonnes, a 13.36 million tonne increase over 2020. Remarkably, grain production has increased in the last seven consecutive years. The Central Rural Work Conference set a target of over 650 million tonnes for 2022 to sustain this growth.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic and external geopolitical upheavals, a prudent mix of policy and concrete measures will set the stage for rural revitalisation.

China can increase domestic food production, control food prices, promote storage, optimize markets, prioritise quantity and quality of production, close the supply-demand gap, and strengthen practical measures such as accountability and responsibility in order to achieve inclusive rural development.

Additionally, they sought to encourage farmers to grow more crops, establish training centres for agricultural awareness and pilot programmes, promote agri-tourism, maximise plantation and close the gaps in agriculture and eco-farming.

As with many record performances in China, it comes down to three factors: First, consistent policy execution that is frequently reviewed to yield positive results; second, political and administrative intent communicated and transferred from provinces to counties and townships; and third, bottom-up engagement of people as drivers of their own development and change.

What, however, is in it for Pakistan to emulate, learn and implement? Pakistan’s economy has been in disarray for a long time, and the government has made every effort to shore it up.

Besides, the foreign debt repayment and borrowing cycle from the international financial institutions, with their strangling terms and conditions, is tightening the noose on Pakistan’s economy even further.

Pakistan is an agrarian economy, with an abundance of canals and rivers, fertile land, and four distinct seasons producing the world’s best organic vegetables and fruits.

However, scientific means and innovation, value addition to agro-products, inadequate infrastructure, traditional farming practices, untapped green and marine resources, inappropriate rural development management, deforestation, shortage of equipment and professional training to battle disease and disaster, insufficient public funds, lack of industries, and a paucity of agro awareness and technical training centres are some of the challenges that need to be addressed.

A few proposals may prove valuable for Pakistan’s urban and rural development. First, rural development requires rigorous policy making; second, rational capital distribution in phases lays the groundwork for achieving the intended outcomes of inclusive development; third, a monitoring and evaluation system ensures timely implementation; and fourth, making full use of the opportunities presented by CPEC.

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