9.1 Reforming the Agricultural Sector
Over 80 percent of the total population was found to live in rural areas, of which almost 90 percent were considered poor. Due to the fragmented nature of agricultural land distribution, rural development is crucial for alleviating poverty of this demographic.
As the living standards of rural wage earners and peasantry are below subsistence level, they continue to live in increasing poverty dogged by indebtedness, unemployment, under-employment, malnutrition and starvation. Recurring cycles of floods in the wet zone and droughts in the dry zone combined with soil erosion have made the life of rural people a miserable one. Resulting in tens of thousands from impoverished villages joining the armed forces and the Police during the civil war as a way to escape rural poverty. Encouraging ecologically friendly small-scale farming through farmer co-ops will benefit assuring food security and addressing climate change. Collective purchasing and distribution networks will also encourage farmer co-ops.
In order to reduce rural poverty, infrastructure development is essential. Provision of better roads and transport networks and long-term credit facilities to satisfy their capital needs to engage in modern farming techniques and start micro and small businesses will make their situation better. Development of physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, long-term credit facilities, provision of better educational and training facilities as discussed previously and creating better employment opportunities for people to become financially independent and enjoy a better standard of living will help in convincing villages to become self-governing co-ops with the capacity to serve their community’s economic and social needs.
In this regard, it will be important to provide a reference to the parliamentary investigatory committee on agriculture. For this purpose, a study will be carried out by widely consulting the farming sector to identify issues and recommend solutions based on the evidence the study gleans. Possibilities of setting up Farmer Cooperatives or combinations of Farmer-Consumer-worker cooperatives along with credit unions will be explored.
Provision of long-term loans can be used as an incentive to leverage farming cooperatives. Introduction of new plant and seed varieties, fertilisers and new technology can be used to boost agricultural production. Socially responsible financial institutions could manage and distribute these funds. The result will be a stronger economy that works better for both people and the climate.
There could be possibilities of diversifying production lines and helping out setting up different types of cooperatives for the rural communities to involve. A suitable farm cooperative model as a basis for collective action of agricultural workers, particularly, in the estate sector could be developed. Facilitating such initiatives will be one of the many roles of the WSDE authority. It will be possible to call upon advice and guidance from Legacoop, Emilia Romagna, Italy, who have successfully embarked on a similar rural program.