EnvironmentInfrastructureLand use planningReal estateSustainable developmentUrban planning

Impact of Rapid Urbanisation on Agriculture of Pakistan

By 06/01/2021 4 Comments

Preamble

Massive growth in population and rural to urban migration has led to the rapid urbanisation of major cities in Pakistan. This blog presents how urbanisation in Pakistan is systematically different from that of the traditional model. The significance of the agriculture sector of Pakistan is also explained along with the impacts of urbanisation on the agricultural industry. Lastly, the blog gives suggestions to uplift the agricultural sector to maximise its potential and efficiency for sustainable growth. 

Research Questions

  1. What is urbanisation and how is it related to agriculture? 
  2. What is the current state of agriculture in Pakistan? 
  3. What impact does rapid urbanisation have on the agriculture sector? 
  4. How can the agriculture sector be uplifted? 

Introduction

Pakistan’s agriculture sector plays a central role in the economy. It contributes 18.9 percent to GDP and absorbs 42.3 percent of the labour force (Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2020). It also promotes growth in other sectors of the economy and acts as a source of foreign exchange for the country. Like the traditional model, urbanisation in Pakistan has not resulted from industrialization alone, rather a high population growth rate coupled with conflict-induced migration has led to the rapid urbanisation in the country. This has increased the demand for agricultural products and processed foods. The overall impact of urbanisation has been adverse as unplanned housing schemes have been built to quench the urban housing demand, industries have encroached upon agricultural lands and polluted water streams, and led to an increase in imported food items.  Measures such as crop diversification, efficient use of water, and promotion of biotechnology, reduction of mark-up rates, subsidised electricity, and cheap electricity for agricultural tube wells are required to uplift the sector and utilise its full potential. 

Urbanisation and Growth 

Urbanisation is often seen as a shift towards ‘modernity’ as the industrial revolution in the Global North allowed European and North American countries to increase their agricultural produce and develop their industry by introducing newer technologies. In the traditional urbanisation model, the rural population moves towards cities in hopes of higher wages providing labour for the industries, which in turn, generate capital for their owners. This seems like a win-win situation for both groups, but urbanisation in Pakistan is not a result of this industrial development. The underlying causes for urbanisation in Pakistan range from conflict, war, poverty, urban sprawl, deforestation, and natural disasters. Pakistan is the fastest urbanising country in the region (International Growth Centre, 2017). Its industry has remained stagnant at around 20 percent for the last three decades (Danish, 2018). There is also a decline in the agriculture sector owing to low value-addition of the service sector. On the one hand, urbanisation has the potential for economic development and the establishment of economies of scale. At the same time, urbanisation can also perpetuate socio-economic issues and inequalities. 

Agriculture Sector of Pakistan

Agriculture is the jugular vein of Pakistan’s economy. It contributed 22 percent to Pakistan’s GDP in 2019 (Statista, 2020).  A staggering 42 percent of the entire labour force in Pakistan is employed in the agriculture sector. As the rural economy heavily depends on it, agriculture also helps allied industries, such as livestock, fisheries, and forestry. The demand for food in the international market is increasing due to rising global populations. In Pakistan, the anticipated population of the country is expected to be around 300 million by 2050 and food security remains a challenge as it is heavily correlated with the productivity of the agriculture sector (Iftikhar, 2019).  A massive decline in the country’s agriculture production has increased Pakistan’s dependence on imported food items. In 2012-13, Pakistan’s food trade balance was at a positive $570 million, while in 2016-17, the food trade deficit stood at $3 billion (Iftikhar, 2019). Due to a high number of imported food items, farmers in Pakistan are forced to burn their produce as they cannot compete at the lower rates. Despite an abundance of agricultural resources in Pakistan, the country is not meeting the demand for its food items, which also exacerbates the future food security situation. No well-grounded and research-based agriculture policy has been devised to date. Only short-term measures were taken without predicting their long term effects. Successive governments promised agriculture reforms, but no concrete action has been taken to improve the sector’s performance. The government needs to bring policy reforms to support farmers as the development of agriculture is imperative for harnessing growth in the country. 

Impacts of Urbanisation on Agriculture in Pakistan

As cities continue to grow amid rising population and rural to urban migrations, housing demands are being met by expanding cities into agricultural lands. Unplanned housing schemes, commercial plazas, hospitals, schools, and other settlements are fast ruining the agriculture landscape surrounding Pakistan’s major cities. In the 1950s, the agriculture sector saw tremendous growth in the form of the green revolution by introducing new crops and establishing educational facilities (Noman, 2018). But the momentum was not kept, and inadequate policies and lack of implementation served as a major setback to the sector. Weak land-use control and a fusion of urban activities on rural terrain are now common observations in all major cities. When Pakistan came into being in 1947, only 17 percent of the country could be called urban (Qadeer, 2020). As of 2020, 37 percent of the total population lives in urban cities, with a growth rate of 2.5 percent per annum (Index Mundi, 2020). With this massive expansion, industries have also expanded on to agricultural lands and have resulted in the subsequent pollution of water bodies required for farming. Demand for urban labour, construction workers, and manpower for the transportation and services sector has caused massive rural to urban migration, creating a dearth of resources available to farmers. 

Rapid urbanisation has also reduced the importance of the agricultural sector and increased the value of industrial and manufacturing companies located in the cities. As urbanisation has led to growth in the timber industry due to construction and housing needs, deforestation is also spoiling the natural habitat on the outskirts of cities like Lahore and Karachi. This also depletes the air quality and causes environmental damage affecting the future crops which require specific environmental conditions. There is a lack of vertical housing in Pakistan, which is causing encroachments on agricultural land and pastures. Urbanisation has also changed the food requirements and choices of the population. As cities continue to grow, more and more people need to be fed. But this is not entirely positive for the agriculture sector as demand for products and food items which cannot be locally produced has soared, leading to an increase in imports of such items. Urbanisation leads to continuous loss of agricultural land, and these processes put pressure on farmers reducing the agriculture sector’s efficiency and output. Urbanisation is also associated with dietary shifts towards more processed and pre-prepared foods due to reduced physical activity. As supermarkets and wholesale markets continue to grow in cities, large scale agricultural producers will be able to meet the supply-demand, but small to medium scale farmers are at risk of losing their land to bigger players. This also means a shift in employment within the food system, with fewer people working in agriculture and more working in transport, wholesaling, retailing, food processing and vending.

Way Forward to Cope with the Challenges of Urbanisation

The dream of economic stability in Pakistan cannot be realised without addressing the issues faced by the agriculture sector. With encroachments on agricultural lands becoming more and more common in areas surrounding cities, proper laws need to be developed to ensure that only arid land is used for the development of residential, commercial, and other types of infrastructure. Currently, there are no laws that bar this process of urban sprawl, and as housing needs continue to grow, vertical growth of cities must be prefered over horizontal expansion. Since demand for food is increasing globally and locally, if Pakistan is to improve its agriculture sector, support and help must be provided by the relevant authorities to ensure the provision of seeds and fertilisers to farmers in order to increase production and efficiency. Crop diversification is essentially needed as traditional crops of wheat, sugarcane, corn, and cotton are not enough to cater to the diverse demand for agriculture products. 

Water should be used more efficiently, and mechanisms should be installed to prevent pollutants from entering agricultural water streams from industries and megacities. Biotechnology is an emerging field and should be used to tackle the effects of climate change on different crops. Genetically engineered seeds are shown to produce more efficient results. Loans should be extended to farmers on low mark-up rates as this will promote the culture of farming and agriculture among the youth and masses of cities as a viable business option. Lastly, most farmers face productivity problems as they are not able to use electricity to power machines for crop handling and harvesting. The subsidisation of electricity and provision of cheap electricity to tube wells is also required. A robust and integrated system of coordination among all stakeholders, including research institutes, universities and related institutions is also needed. Pakistan can also look towards other countries, such as China, which have effectively managed the growth of their cities and efficiency of the agriculture sector. Modern techniques must be adopted along with research and the latest technologies to enhance the productivity of cultivated lands. Lastly, land reforms must be considered, and all stakeholders must come together for forming a proper policy on the future of agriculture revival in Pakistan. 

Conclusion

As Pakistan continues to rapidly urbanise in the face of increasing population and the subsequent demand for housing and industrial development, the effect on the agriculture sector has become multi-faceted. Urban expansion into agricultural lands has caused many problems for the agriculture sector; however, no laws are present to stop this practice. If measures are not taken to secure the agriculture sector’s future, Pakistan faces a threat of food security and a massive decline in exports. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Pakistan’s agriculture sector plays a central role in the economy as it contributes 18.9 percent to GDP and absorbs 42.3 percent of the labour force. 
  2. With rapid urbanisation due to increase in population and rural to urban migration, there is an increased demand for agricultural products. 
  3. Measures such as crop diversification, efficient use of water, and promotion of biotechnology, reduction of mark-up rates, subsidised electricity, and cheap electricity for agricultural tube wells are required to uplift the sector and utilise its full potential. 
  4. On the one hand, urbanisation has the potential for economic development and establishment of economies of scale, while at the same time, urbanisation can also perpetuate socio-economic issues and inequalities. 
  5. Agriculture also helps allied industries, such as livestock, fisheries, and forestry. 
  6. If the present rate of urbanisation continues, Pakistan will become a food consumer instead of a food producer. 
  7. No well-grounded and research-based agriculture policy has been devised to date, and only short-term measures were taken without any regard for their longer-term effects. 
  8. The government needs to bring policy reforms to support farmers as the development of agriculture is imperative for harnessing growth in the country. 
  9. Weak land-use control, along with a fusion of urban activities on rural terrain are now common observations in all major cities. 
  10. Demand for urban labour, construction workers, and manpower for the transportation and services sector has caused massive rural to urban migration, creating a dearth of resources available to farmers. 
  11. Rapid urbanisation has also shifted the importance of the agricultural sector as more resources are being invested in manufacturing and industries as compared to agriculture.
  12. Cities in Pakistan do not follow the vertical growth model, which is causing encroachments on agricultural land and pastures. 
  13. Urbanisation leads to continuous loss of agricultural land, and these processes put pressure on farmers reducing the agriculture sector’s efficiency and output.

Bibliography

Danish, K. (2018). Re-Conceptualising Processes of Post-Colonial Development in Pakistan: The Interplay of Institutions and Class. Retrieved from https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/1037-re-conceptualizing-processes-of-post-colonial-development-in-pakistan-the-interplay-of-institutions-and-class

Iftikhar, T. (2019). Why we should invest in agriculture. Retrieved from Dawn: https://www.dawn.com/news/1463148/why-we-should-invest-in-agriculture

Index Mundi. (2020, November 27). Pakistan Demographics Profile. Retrieved from Index Mundi: https://www.indexmundi.com/pakistan/demographics_profile.html

International Growth Centre. (2017). The six biggest challenges facing Pakistan’s urban future. Retrieved from International Growth Centre: https://www.theigc.org/blog/the-six-biggest-challenges-facing-pakistans-urban-future/

Noman, A. (2018). Growing urbanisation: Shifting sands. Retrieved from Dawn: https://www.dawn.com/news/1038256

Qadeer, M. A. (2020). An assessment of Pakistan’s urban policies 1947-1997. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12294610/#:~:text=Abstract,1951%20to%2032%25%20in%201991.

Statista. (2020). Pakistan: Distribution of gross domestic product (GDP) across economic sectors from 2009 to 2019. Retrieved from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/383256/pakistan-gdp-distribution-across-economic-sectors/#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20agriculture%20contributed%20around,came%20from%20the%20services%20sector.