This set of news reports from around the Asia-Pacific region discuss some persistent matters: the need for food security systems which also protect smallholder farming communities, stemming the tide of migration to towns and cities, recognising and encouraging womens’ participation in business and local administration, reforming land rights so that the marginalised (and particularly women) can use their ownership to advantage.

Although large farms have a place where there is a history of large scale farming and land has been plentiful, there is no question that smallholder agriculture will have to be the mainstay of agriculture in both Asia and Africa, as the sheer number of small farms and the large size and share of population in agriculture in these countries requires and given that a large share of the agriculturally dependent population has smaller and smaller plots of land to cultivate.

A growing body of evidence shows that gender equality is good economics. Lack of women’s participation in the workforce across Asia-Pacific costs the region an estimated US$89 billion every year, as the Jakarta Globe news report has mentioned, a figure that comes from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report: ‘Power, Voice and Rights-A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific’.

Another estimate, using long-term data from 1960 to 2000, suggests that a combination of gender gaps in education and employment accounts annually for a significant difference of up to 1.6 percentage points in per capita growth rates between South Asia and East Asia. Over that period, East Asia made long leaps in life expectancy and education for women, while pulling a record number of them into the workplace. In turn, this sub-region grew faster than all others worldwide.


Only slum-dwellers can ensure a slum-free India
Sanjay Jog, Business Standard
The reasons for growth of slums in India are many. However, one thing is clear – that people are pushed to languish in slums due to poverty, untouchability and because of the nature of economic policies. Many policy shifts do not fulfill the requirements of the people. In urban India, we don’t have land titles or security of tenure even after 60 years of Independence. Besides, every state, every town has a different policy. Take Mumbai, where one part of the policy is for slum development while another is for slum eviction.
(28 February 2010)

Laos: small towns buckling under strain of migration
IRIN (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)
Small towns in Lao PDR are experiencing an influx of migrants in search of better living conditions, increasing the strain on infrastructure and services such as water and sanitation, the UN and government officials say. Lao is experiencing a high urbanization rate of 4-5 percent per annum, adding to pressure on local authorities to provide basic infrastructure. There are an estimated 139 small towns in Lao, and many of those along economic corridors, bordering Cambodia, PRC, Thailand and Viet Nam, are seeing influxes from rural areas.
(18 February 2010)
Also at WASH news Asia & Pacific.

Urban migration needs both short and long term solutions
An Nguyen, Thanh Nien (tribune of Vietnam’s Youth Association)
Hanoi has good reason to impose taxes and other conditions on its residents in order to stem the flood of immigrants from other parts of the country. Hanoi is overcrowded and lacks facilities to cater to its current population. What Hanoi needs is the right to impose special taxes, like large cities in other countries. If one wants to settle in Hanoi, one has to accept the cost. In the long term though, we need to find out answers to why people from other cities and provinces rush to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Not everyone is thrilled to leave their family behind to work in the cities, but everyone longs for better chances to get jobs and access a better life.
(28 February 2010)

Urban-rural income gap widest since opening-up
Fu Jing, China Daily
PRC recorded its widest rural-urban income gap last year since the country launched its reform and opening-up policy in 1978. Researchers warned the gap will continue to widen in the coming years if effective measures to narrow the difference are not implemented soon. The urban per capita net income stood at 17,175 yuan ($2,525) last year, in contrast to 5,153 yuan in the countryside, with the urban-to-rural income ratio being 3.33:1. Experts feel the urban-rural income gap will continue to expand as the country focuses its efforts on urban sprawl, rather than rural development. The wealth gap is due to low salaries for employees and migrants in many companies, as well as rapidly growing profits for the management of state-owned enterprises, real estate developers and some private companies, according to an expert.
(2 March 2010)

Lack of women in workforce costs Asia-Pacific billions
Reuters (via Jakarta Globe)
Women in the Asia-Pacific region have little economic and political power, impacting economic growth prospects of developing nations, the United Nations said in a report released on Monday. The region ranks near the worst in the world on issues such as protecting women from violence or upholding their rights to property. The report said lack of women’s participation in the workforce is costing the region an estimated US$89 billion annually. While many women in the Asia-Pacific region have benefitted from improved education, health and prosperity, they continue to face barriers to the same opportunities available to men, the report said. The absence of a female voice in the Asia-Pacific’s political systems is also a concern, and women who do manage to gain a voice at local or national level face trouble.
(8 March 2010)

Going beyond band-aid solutions
Syed Mohammad Ali, Daily Times (Pakistan)
Leading economists have established that higher rural poverty in Pakistan is directly related with higher landlessness. Over 60 percent of the Pakistani households do not own any land and are compelled to work on the land of larger landlords as agricultural laborers or under varied sharecropping arrangements. The unfair tenancy arrangements for tillers of the land under sharecropping are a major obstacle to agricultural growth and poverty alleviation. Top-down approaches, such as the corporatization of fragmented land holdings, or leasing state lands to other nations, have received more attention than trying to ensure that the rural poor are provided the land and other support services to make an effective contribution to national food security and agricultural productivity.
(9 March 2010)