From the Desk of Secretary General
While the cities across the globe and more specifically in the African- Asian developing countries have grown immensely over the last few decades, rural areas have not seen the expected level of development. For a strong and powerful economy, the rural economy needs to grow. Rural areas in many of the African-Asian countries are still plagued by problems of unemployment, malnourishment, illiteracy, and lack of basic infrastructure like roads, educational institutions, hospitals, sanitation, etc. This has led to large scale migration of rural people, more specifically the rural youth to the cities. Our villages need to grow in tandem with cities and standard of life has to improve for inclusive growth to happen.

Following visit to the rural areas in any of the developing countries, be it in Africa or in Asia, one can conclude very easily that most rural areas are insufficiently developed and the rural people lag behind as compared to their counterparts in the cities by decades. While we have latest services and products available in the cities, villagers are still coping with age old products. It is easy to see the rising disconnect between cities and villages. Some examples are – While we have international fully air conditioned schools in the cities, the schools in villages still don’t have benches and chairs, leave alone computers. Even there are instances of children travelling a distance of 5-10 kilometers, exposing themselves to the heat of the sun and rain water for their primary education. There is a huge shortage of teachers in rural areas, and the school drop-out rate is very high. To the contrary, in cities, we have wide roads, flyovers and underpasses while many villages still don’t have proper all weather roads. Urban-rural road links can play a vital role in rural growth. While there are numerous hospitals, nursing homes and medical facilities in cities, villages neither have health awareness nor have the basic health care facilities. Employment opportunities are hardly there in villages, which forces rural youth to move to cities.The large scale migration of rural youth not only affecting the rural productivity, but is also creating several problems like housing, water and sanitation, security and a host of other related issues in the urban areas too. For greater benefits of both urban and rural areas, the need of the hour is to put a curb on this migration. This can be done by bridging the gaps between the rural and urban areas. In this context, infrastructural development in rural areas holds the centre stage of all rural development strategies.

Though all developing nations across Africa and Asia, in their strategic plans, are emphasizing on the infrastructural development in the rural areas, it is really unfortunate that many of them found it difficult to convert it into a reality. Uncertain political climate, natural disasters, mismanagement of resources, absence of advanced technologies, etc. are greatly responsible for the poor infrastructural progress in the rural areas in many of these countries.

Though basic infrastructural development in rural areas is crucial, the infrastructure related to agriculture forms the priority areas as a healthy and dynamic agricultural sector only can create a formidable base for rural development and can generate strong linkages to other economic sectors. Rural livelihoods are generally enhanced through effective participation of rural people and rural communities in the management of their own social, economic and environmental objectives by empowering people in rural areas, particularly women and youth, as evident from the Samuel unDong movements in South Korea. Similarly, close economic integration of rural areas with nearby urban areas through cooperatives, transport facilities, etc. and creation of rural off-farm employment can bridge the gap between the rural and urban areas, and what is more significant is that such initiatives expand opportunities in rural areas and encourage the retention of skilled people, including youth in rural areas. There is considerable potential for rural job creation not only in farming, agro processing and rural industry but also in building rural infrastructure, in the sustainable management of natural resources, waste and residues.

I am happy to share with you that African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO) over the years has made significant contribution in this direction not only by organizing several training programmes for the benefits of its member countries, but also by sensitizing policy planners of its member countries, from time to time, by organizing study visits, seminar and workshops at national, regional and international levels, deputing experts from one country to another countries, etc., besides disseminating information on best practices.

This issue of the Newsletter carries various technical activities of the Organization, carried out between October 2015-March 2016, apart from a host of other organizational and allied activities. I take this opportunity to invite all institutions including inter-governmental organization, and individuals to join hands with AARDO in taking such causes further.