ISLAMABAD - Senior Agriculture Economist, World Bank, Pakistan, Hans GP Jansen, has said that in Punjab yield gaps in major crops is hazardously high and yields are 30-50percent low in the neighbouring countries of the region, reasoning that Pakistan is at the bottom of agricultural R&D spending which is lower in South Asia .

Speaking at a seminar on 'Successful rural development models in Pakistan' organized by Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) here, the senior agriculture economist said that the agriculture policy practicing in Pakistan became irrelevant due to rapid change of globalization and policy needs to have smart market reform and public investments & incentives.

Hans GP Jansen said that Punjab province has achieved self-sufficiency in wheat which is a major achievement but the agriculture productivity is poor, and yield gaps in major crops is hazardously high. Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, Member Food Security and Climate Change Planning Commission, said that that Pakistan exports have not been able to enter in high-value market and fetch good return due to lack of value-addition by exports sectors and diversification of products, terming it as one of the factors of country's balance of payment problem.

He said that value chain is another challenge which is around 2 to 3 percent in Pakistan and ideally the country should have around 12 percent value addition. With 2-3 percent level Pakistan cannot have viable and ideal products. The country is always struggling to export raw material at very low cost, he added.  It is not possible to have presence in high markets at higher prices and that is why the country is confronted with balance of payment issue and the economy is suffering on all these accounts, he said.

He said that all know that there are huge challenges, although some positive signs were seen in terms of improvement in growth level achieved during last few years.

He said that from the current state of surplus in major food staple, the country is at comfortable level, but when look at the nutrition, there are many challenges as under nourishment problem is there.

Dr Aamir Irshad, CEO CRE said 12th five-year plan has included rural transformation in their priority list by understanding the sensitivity of the rural issues in Pakistan.

He further said that sustained growth, economic development and poverty reduction are vital for the economic, social and political viability. "In Pakistan, the achievements of these goals have been constrained by absence of an effective national strategy and public policy. This is manifested in a pervasive lack of necessary infrastructure, well-functioning institutions, profitable opportunities and skill-oriented capacities," he said.

Realizing the importance of the rural economy and the emphasis from the Pakistan Vision 2025, the ministry of Planning Development and Reform had decided to set up CRE to facilitate the implementation of knowledge based polices.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Pakistan Representative, Mina Dowlatchahi said that effective rural development strategies are central in achieving the SDGs.

She stated that today's concept of successful rural development models concerns not only with improvements in economic growth, per capita income, and production output but it also includes the social assessment of changes in the quality of life, such as improvement in health and nutrition, education, environmentally safe living conditions, and reduction in gender and income inequalities and food security. She added, rural development is essential part of the process for structural transformation characterised by diversification of the economy away from agriculture.

Qazi Azmat Isa, CEO of Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) said the inclusion of the rural inhabitants is the key in  rural transformation; the ownership must be shared with the local community for sustainable development.

The current rural development programs under implementation in the country have bottom-up and demand driven approaches. Zafarul Hassan (Chief, SDGs, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform) said that Planning Commission has made a framework for sustained development.

Belinda Chanda (Programme Analyst, ILO) talked on means promoting decent work in the rural economy, a source of livelihood of for more than 1 billion people with contribution of 20 to 60 percent in GDP.

She highlighted the poor working condition caused killing of 170,000 agriculture workers each year. She said ILO is working to promote decent work in the large agro-food sector by using two-pronged programme strategy (institutional development and direct support).

Dr Stephen Davies (Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI, Pakistan) concluded the session.

Nabeela Farman (Manager KP, Smeda) discussed how rural development mechanizes through entrepreneurship and stated that favourable entrepreneurial ecosystem is prerequisite of this time.