Linking Rural Economic Development and Food Security: A Sustainable Approach

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Linking Rural Economic Development and Food Security: A Sustainable Approach

The Malaysia Global Business Forum (MGBF) has recently conducted a series of high level discussions with stakeholders ahead of the launch of the MGBF Food Security Initiative next month. The goals of the discussions were to understand the role that rural planning and develop will play in the implementation of a successful food security strategy for the country and how that link to other efforts will across ASEAN.

“The question is where to start?  In the context of rural development needs to be seen in the broader context of demand for goods and services to a specific market that a particular group of people wish to supply, this in turn has a direct impact on how planning needs to take place in those areas.  Rural communities are an important part of the story, they often bear the burden of food production or at least the production of raw materials for food production,stated Nordin Abdullah, Founding Chairman of the Malaysia Global Business Forum.

“From an economic and infrastructure planning perspective, once key industries or products have been identified, the various smaller holders and cottage industries need to feed into stronger SME’s.  While difficult, these companies need to be identified and capacity building of the existing SME’s within these areas will need to take place, this will be vital to the success of the rural economy. It is imagined that these SME’s will have the capacity to handle the increased financial and technological requirements for broader economic integration.”

“When we look at Rural Economic Development and Food Security we need to apply these same ideas, no doubt rural communities move at a slower pace than those in the big cities, as such change is easier to notice and by the same token, some amiss be it too much damage to the environment, not sharing the economic pie or a loss of cultural identity brought about by rapid social change. Yet we still need to bring about a sustainable development and modernisation that will be a part of the great good,concluded Nordin who is also the Managing Director of Glenreagh Sdn. Bhd.

To move forward, an understanding of where in the supply chain will these cottage industries be, how can they be efficient and is there a demand for what they are able to produce?  If not what are the alternatives for these people to create a livelihood. How can each of the sub sections of the rural economy be integrated into the overall economy?

In the context of Malaysia’s USD15 billion food bill, the recent discussions have pointed to the fact that Sarawak may be able to bring to the table another advantages that the rest of the country doesn’t have, sustainable supply of electricity to power the cold chain that is needed to keep produce fresh on its way to global markets. Coupled with the possible advantages of availability of land, water and sunlight, Sarawak has been identified as a key contributor to the strategy moving forward, the challenge now is to develop a detailed plan moving forward.

Khathijah Md Jaafar, who is a leading expert in rural, planning and development from Sarawak agreed that there are opportunities in Sarawak. “Planning encompasses many dimensions, one very significant being rural development planning. Keeping in view the various definitions, we can say that the aim of all rural development plans is to utilize the available resources in the most optimum manner, effectively achieving the well defined objectives during a given period of time.”

“There are several reasons as to why we need to plan for the rural areas just like we do in urban areas. Through proper planning we can increase national income. The objective of planning is to utilize the resources of the country in such a manner that it should increase the size of national income. In the developing country like Malaysia, planning for rural development as well as urban development is useful to increase the productivity of the country. The second reason for undertaking planning is to provide employment. In the less developed countries and in the advanced countries the objectives of planning is to provide employment opportunities in the rural areas to reduce the rate of rural urban migration. The third reason is to ensure equal distribution of wealth. In a capitalistic market like Malaysia, planning can reduce the inequalities in income by reducing the the gap between the rich and the poor. Planning for rural development in Malaysia especially for states like Sarawak and Sabah helps reduce if not eliminate regional disparity. Special funding can be allocated for the development of backward areas and less developed areas. It is through planning that focuses on rural areas that the regional disparity could be reduced. A significant reason for planning for rural areas is for self sufficiency in food. As our country aims to become self sufficient in food, the objective can be achieved through proper planning of the rural areas. In each of the development the target was proposed for the agriculture sector.”

“In addition to food security, proper rural development planning increases the well being of the people through the provision of facilities like housing, schooling, transport, water, electricity and telecommunication (internet) that enables the rural population to be part of the globalisation process. Planning, last but not least, assists in reducing poverty through increasing the rate of economic development in the country. National income and per capita income will rise and poverty will be reduced.”

Khathijah, who is the Senior Planning Consultant of Daya Rancang, a planning company that has been operating in Sarawak for more than 20 years concluded “Concern for the promotion of balanced development between urban and rural areas as well as the achievement of a well distributed and integrated development that will improve the welfare and quality of life of the rural people continues to be an important development policy agenda of the government of Sarawak. The development goal is to ultimately transform the vastly under-developed rural sector in the State into a thriving modern, attractive and economically viable living environment, whereby the present disparity or divide, in terms of income, economic activities and quality of life, between the urban and rural areas will be reduced.”

“It could then be argued that they need to be integrated into the Borneo economy followed by the rest of ASEAN and eventually the global economy should the conditions be suitable.”

The MGBF Food Security Initiative will continue to address how can rural communities, especially in Sarawak consistently produce a good or a service for a market outside of their vicinity for a price that is economically viable?  Or can rural communities in Sarawak produce a good or a service that they are currently importing from somewhere else cheaper than what it cost to import?

The Malaysia Global Business Forum has created the MGBF Food Security Initiative to shed light on the sustainable trade and investment opportunities in Malaysia and across ASEAN.  For more information, visit www.MalaysiaGlobalBusinessForum.com

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Linking Rural Economic Development and Food Security: A Sustainable Approach
Linking Rural Economic Development and Food Security: A Sustainable Approach

 

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