Challenges for Rural Society and Agricultural Development in Pakistan

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Basically Pakistan is an agricultural country. Most of its population resides in villages. And most of the villagers get their livelihood from cultivation and livestock. So, when the agriculture of Pakistan develops the living standard of its villagers becomes satisfactory and whenever agriculture of Pakistan is in crisis the living standard of its villagers goes on regretful position.

We cannot separate the issues of rural society from the agricultural position of the country. Whenever peasants are prosperous then the rural society is happy, and whenever the situation is otherwise the results are also contrary. Though the challenges of rural development and agricultural development overlap each other yet we can classify these challenges sparately and discuss in detail. As for the challeges of rurala development are concerned poverty is the main one, and others namely rising unemployment, growing income inequalities , disproportinally low health and educational inequalities are also not insignificant. Main causes of these problems are the skewed land distribution, unequal distribution of income sources and social powers.

Poverty, being the main hindrance in rural development, causes many social problems as well. Infect, it has made the rural society both rigid and iniquitous. Crimes like theft, robbery, kidnapping are actually the outcome of poverty in the society. Most of the intellectuals in Pakistan are agreed on the maxim that poverty is the worst curse for any society. This is the poverty that make the people of the society do illegal activities. If one has no food for himself and his family, no cloth for himself and his family, no health care facilities, no respect in his society then how can we expect that he will observe all the moral as well as legal laws of his society and his country. So, poverty is the mother of all the challenges of rural development. The sole solution to tackle this challenge is justice and equal distribution of country’s resources among the people. If we cannot do so, this will be so ferocious thing that we could not repent in future.

Unemployment is another challenge in the rural development in Pakistan. This is a serious social problem. It hinders the smooth running of a country. Rovelt among the masses against the government had always been exercised mainly because of unemployment. It can caus intractable social problems and massive corruption. Therefore, it should be tackled before it paralyzes the whole structure of society. In Pakistan the challenge of unemployment is so firece that it seems this will wash away all the efforts being done for the development of rural areas.

A number of technological problems also arise from tremendously uneven distribution of land in Pakistan. For example, population pressure on unequally distributed land has forced continuation of traditional methods of cultivation, and supremacy of small size of cultivation units and rental farming, which work ultimately to block incentives for technological progress. Similarly, many economic problems stem primarily from the inability of the agricultural sector with unfair land distribution to provide full employment opportunities and its resulting failure to yield incomes needed for providing a satisfactory living standard to the rural population of the country .

Further, rural households with low income do not have enough saving capacity due to their low incomes to enable adequate capital formation for raising the productivity of both land and labor and thereby optimizing their potentials .


After independence, stagnation in agricultural production, experienced during immediate post–independence years and emergence of food deficits in the fifties are attributable not only to the highly unequal distribution of land and the attendant problems of incentives and constraints of adoption of new technologies but also to the absence of any integrated policy framework to tackle them. Except for the construction of some irrigation projects, the agricultural sector failed to stir itself out of a state of inertia. However, emphasis of shortages of food, foreign exchange and raw material for industrial development towards the end of the fifties forced the planners to contemplate a policy of agricultural development .

This policy aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in food, increasing production for both domestic use and export, and reducing unemployment in the country. The increased emphasis on agricultural and rural development in government policy, during the early sixties coincided with the advent of the so-called green revolution‘. This revolution started with the scientific and technological breakthrough in farm of inputs, like high yielding varieties of seeds (HYV), fertilizers and pesticides, and in rapid expansion of agricultural mechanization leading to assured supply of irrigation water and farm power from tube-wells and tractors .

In Pakistan, the green revolution period can be divided into two sub-periods with regard to the use of these inputs. During 1960-64, increased water availability due to greater supply of surface water and, more importantly, rapid expansion in tube-well installations, mostly, in the private sector, was the cutting edge of development. But in the second phase, i.e., 1964-69, high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, farm mechanization, and continued increases of supplementary water supply contributed to the breakthrough in the agriculture of the country .

The liberal subsidization of inputs and higher output price incentives provided the needed motivation, in the form of higher profitability, to the farmers for adopting new technologies. The result of these economic incentives and technological improvements was that while the agricultural sector grew at an annual growth rate of only 1.8 per cent during the first plan period, its growth rate jumped to 3.8 per cent per annum during the second plan, and to 6 per cent during the third plan period. The peak growth of 11 per cent was registered during 1967-68.

This tempo of high growth rate could not be maintained for long. The rate of agricultural output growth plummeted from 7.5 per cent per year during 1966-70 to 1.9 per cent during 1970-78. The green revolution came riding on a wave of significant increases in public expenditure on subsidies, which propelled the initial state of the breakthrough. But since the associated development of support services, like agricultural extension service, and education and training did not take place, the agricultural sector began, despite the greater availability of most key inputs like fertilizers, high yielding varieties of seeds and water, to experience retreating returns due to inadequate attention paid to their efficient of their use .

Further, even land reforms interdicted in the early seventies could not keep the green revolution‘ from fading due to the institutional failure. However, agricultural production once again showed a rising trend in the late seventies, mainly because of favorable weather conditions, better input distribution, and more appropriate farm price incentives.

It has variously been argued that since the overall growth and development of the economy depends largely on the prosperity of agriculture, effort must be directed to enable it to generate a reasonable marketable surplus each year so that the needs of abundant supply of cheap food and fiber, large volume of exports and rising incomes of people connected with agriculture for them to be able to absorb a reasonable proportion of industrial output are fulfilled satisfactory .

Unfortunately, the role of agriculture was not viewed in this perspective in the 1950s and 1960s. Industrialization was considered the key to economic development. The result was that agriculture stagnated and the industrial sector lost its major source of support. Economic development of the country thus came to a standstill. Although the potential role of the agricultural sector began to be emphasized in the 1970s, natural disasters combined with inefficient government policies acted to restrict the growth of agriculture to a low level. Nevertheless, the performance of the sector during the 1980s was fairly impressive. The government seemed to have realized then the potential of this sector and some progress has since been made in formulating an effective long-term strategy for the encouragement and support of all forms of agricultural activity.

In a country like Pakistan, where most cultivators are either landless or most of the land is owned in large parcels by small numbers of households, a transfer of substantial land to the former groups can extend the peasant system or even transform it into a co-operative farm system. On the other hand, a land reform programme can also promote, rather than retard, the development of capitalist agriculture by creating necessary pressures on landlords by policy measures without redistributing land to landless share-croppers and poor peasants. There is substantial evidence that the land reforms of 1972 may have contributed to this tendency without strengthening the peasant system .

It seems that land reforms introduced in the country have not exercised any significant impact in terms of increase in the total cultivated area. However, they seem to have affected the distribution of land by different size categories of farms.

Farm credit is a major source of acquiring new technology for an efficient and profitable agriculture, and the key determinant of the level of production. Income from harvests in Pakistan generally comes only twice a year and is subject to fluctuations. Farm households, thus, rely on borrowing to tide over periods between harvests and poor crops. First farmers fulfill consumption requirements from production and then sell the surplus to buy inputs from the market. However, the growing popularity of ”HYV agriculture” has enhanced the importance of rural credit significantly. Farmers now need credit in ever-increasing amounts to finance timely purchases of modern inputs and farm implements. Credit helps not only in removing financial constraints but also provides incentives to growers for adopting new technology and practices with new aspirations and horizons, provided it is properly delivered .

However, the clientele of the rural credit markets are an often-small farmer who often find it difficult to fulfill the collateral requirements of the lending institutions. In order to facilitate the adoption of ”HYV” technology amongst small farmers, the government has disbursed large amounts of credit often at highly subsidized rates. Peak expansion rate of credit was observed during the 1970s. The rural credit expansion rate was estimated at 42 percent per year during 1969-70 to 1976-77. Such a surge in rural credit during this period was due to the nationalization of the commercial banks . Nationalization of banks aside, overall agricultural credit has tended to increase at an annual average rate of 25 percent over the period from 1965-66 to 2006-07 which has been higher than the average growth rates of all the other agricultural inputs.

A price policy may serve as an incentive for farmers to increase their production. There is convincing evidence in Pakistan that a shift from an unfavorable to a favorable price policy for agriculture was the main motivating force behind the Green Revolution in Pakistan . Some important dimensions of the domestic agricultural price policy are discussed below.

· Input Subsidies

Pakistan has subsidized agricultural inputs since the mid-1950s. Initially, chemical fertilizer was subsidized in order to popularize its use . The list of subsidized inputs and the rate structure of the subsidies were expanded in later years so that towards the end of the sixties, almost all the agricultural inputs including fertilizers, insecticides, seeds, irrigation water, tube-well installations, and the operation and purchase of tractors and tractor-related equipment were subsidized in one or the other form . In the 1970s, subsidies were curtailed to some extent in response to input price increases that occurred in the wake of world worldwide recession, oil embargo, credit crunch, war with India, and steep devaluation of Pakistani Rupee. Although apressures from the IMF and the World Bank resolutely remove them from the beginning of the 1980s . As a consequence, there was a total withdrawal of subsidy from seeds, insecticides, tubewells, and tractors. Phased withdrawal of fertilizer subsidy was also under taken, culminating in the case of nitrogenous fertilizers in 1984-85 and in the case of phosphoric and potash fertilizers in 1989-90.

Firstly, the input subsidies trended continuously up over the period under consideration. Second, in the case of implicit subsidies, irrigation water accounted for as large a share as almost 60 percent of the total subsidy, followed by institutional credit and electricity. Third, many land arguments about the size of the agricultural input subsidies have been made in most of the government meetings and public forum, they hardly exceeded Rs. 2 to 3 billion for most of the period, and never exceeded Rs. 8 billion a year. Finally, as a percentage of budgetary expenditure, total subsidies on agricultural inputs fell from nearly 10 percent in 1979-80 to 1.5 percent in 2000.

· Large vs Small Farm Productivity

There is impressive empirical evidence on the inverse relationship between the farm size and its productivity in agriculture. Empirical evidence in Pakistan also lends support to the inverse relationship between farm size and agricultural productivity . The gross productivity of the small farms has been consistently higher than that of the large ones between 1965-66 and 2004-05. In the light of the above, there is no room for the assertion that the large farms overtook the small farms in farm productivity under the Green Revolution. Indeed, the differences in the adoption rates of various modern technologies between the two groups have narrowed with the passage of time.

It is argued that the major difference in farm investments of larger and small farmers lies in their ownership of tube wells and tractors. According to the 1980‘s Census of Agriculture, large farmers owned nearly 59percent of the tractors and about 39 percent of the tube-wells. By contrast, the small farmers owned only 16 percent of the tractors and 35 percent of the tube-wells. However, the situation of small farmers with respect to farm water and power on their increased access to custom sales of tube well water and tractor services. Accounting for this fact, nearly 35 and 32 percent of the small farmers were users of tractors and tube-wells. By contrast, the respective percentages were 44 and 33 for the large farmers.

As far as the adoption of bio-chemical technologies is concerned, both the large and small farms used HYVs with almost the same proportion by the early seventies. It may be interesting to note that the HYVs of wheat accounted for 68 percent of wheat acreage in 1980, on both the small and large farms. By contrast, the small farms devoted nearly 54 percent of their rice area to HYVs of rice compared to 44 percent on large farms. Whatever differences in the rates of application of fertilizer on large and small farms existed in the Sixties, they were greatly reduced by the early 1980s .


to sum up, Pakistan has been and is still facing many challenges especially the rural lot of its natives. There came many phases in the history of Pakistan when its agricultural development became so speedy that it seemed that the Pakistani people will achieve their status of developed country in very few years to come. And there also came some deteriorated situations when agricultural and rural development seemed even to be jammed. Actually this is not just the fault of policy makers not just the slackness of Pakistan citizens that is responsible for the fluctuation of these ups and downs. Many of the factors are responsible for it. Pakistan is multicultural country, multisoiled country, multiseasoned country, multicasted country. Above all the localtion and geography of Pakistan is the greatest factor where the fluctuations in plocies is dependant on it political situation. For the stability and development of Pakistani agriculture, rural society, economy, politics, foreign affairs, educational institution all these factors should be tackled wisely and tolerably. Pakistani rural society and its agriculture can be developed when Pakistani nation becomes united and determined to do so.


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Asif Baloch

ISCS PU Lahore

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