Let urban remittances revitalise rural economies
The world is facing an economic downturn occasioned by Coronavirus pandemic.
To revitalise the economies, international and national investment alone will not be enough, hence the need for domestic mobilisation of resources.
It is imperative to note that as most economic activities were grounded in urban centres due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns, with many people losing livelihoods, the rural folks stepped in to support city dwellers by sending food.
This phenomenon calls for new focus on strategies to ensure integration of the two continuums of economic development.
Research puts the development of rural areas at the centre of attaining Sustainable Development Goals.
This view is supported by those who consider Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP), that significantly reduced the role of State in rural development as genesis of Africa economic stagnation.
With SAPs stripping States of the role of rural development, previous efforts in transforming rural areas in Africa have been disjointed, hence devastation of many lives.
For instance, most of the rural people still face monumental challenges such as access to safe and nutritious food, water and healthcare.
Yet, inaccessibility to the basic needs continuously weakens the rural economies by increasing the inequalities.
In turn, when global challenges such as Covid-19 strike, their impact becomes extremely devastating to those in rural and urban centres.
It is, therefore, important that effective strategies be focused on curbing the spread of the pandemic, increasing food productivity, ensuring access to water and improving transport infrastructure especially in rural areas.
Accordingly, most urban areas are dominated by the service industry with most people engaged in offering services.
Consequently, lockdowns and social distancing requirements destroyed many jobs leaving the majority of city dwellers without income, hence their dependency on food sent from rural villages.
As the urban economy rebounds, it must be a priority for those living in towns to invest in development of rural areas through remittances.
One of the areas where remittances should play a key role is in ensuring access to water.
Investment in water storage and conservation facilities is critical. It is worth noting that access to water could encourage and improve small-scale farming.
For instance, research has shown that availability of water encourages small-scale irrigation which in turn increases food productivity.
Small- scale irrigation in rural areas will mean food is produced without worry of changing weather worsened by climate change.
Further, water is key Covid-19 health requirement that people maintain a high standard of hygiene with hand washing given high priority. Access to safe and clean water has a direct bearing to the health.
But individual city dwellers remittances alone could not achieve expected results, instead there is need for strategic collaboration and partnership with the county governments.
To this end, county governments must take stock of its population in urban centers and initiate programs and policies that encourage residents of towns to invest back in rural areas.
County governments must move with speed to draw strategic plans to revitalise economies.
These plans should take into consideration the involvement of those who live in urban centres and diaspora.
This could be achieved through aggressive mobilisation of individuals to support rural development initiatives.
Putting together different professional groups could help in harnessing human resources that will be essential in designing and executing relevant rural development projects. With such programmes, rural development would be accelerated.
On the part of the national governments, developing and improving roads, ensuring access to electricity and better environmental regulations will be key.
In collaboration with county governments, the national government must effectively transfer resources commensurate with the functions devolved.
For instance, given that education is devolved, and considering its role in developing future human capital, critical attention must be given to the sector.
As schools reopen, school feeding programs must be enhanced. However, the responsibility of feeding school-going children must not be left to school administration alone; rather, the alumni groups must lend a hand in supporting the feeding programs.
To ensure the school feeding programme benefits the agri-food sector development, procurement rules must allow parents to supply food products to offset fees balances.
Further, county governments must be encouraged to develop effective warehouse system policies to allow for storage of surpluses to avoid post-harvest losses.
Development and improvement of spot markets is another critical element in transforming the rural economy.
With increase in agricultural productivity, better market structures and improved income, the agri-food sector will stimulate the manufacturing sector. — The writer is food policy analyst