Despite the momentous demographic shift from rural to urban areas taking place across the global South, the incidence of extreme poverty remains a predominantly rural problem with 70% of the world’s poor living in rural areas. South Asia has the largest number of rural poor in the world with approximately 80% of the poor households belonging to rural areas, majority of them comprising women and children. The problems facing rural people have been exacerbated by the appropriation of land by state authorities and private mafias for commercial purposes, fluctuations in commodity prices driven by global financial speculation, and South Asian nation- states’ attack on land and labor rights in the name of neoliberal economic policies.
In the face of worsening odds, individuals, community organizations, and social movements have launched community mobilization campaigns and rural development initiatives to help rural people break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and sustain their livelihoods. In this lecture, Shoaib Sultan Khan, one of the pioneers of the rural development paradigm in South Asia, will present his reflections and findings on rural development in South Asia. His unique approach, inspired by the philosophy of late Akhter Hameed Khan, has helped millions of people in South Asia in mitigating their circumstances. Drawing on more than 40 years’ development work among rural people in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, he will explain how and to what extent mobilizing the people has helped reduce poverty in South Asia.