Dr Talat Naseer Pasha is the incumbent VC of UVAS. He holds PhD. degree in Animal Nutrition from University of West Virginia, USA. Dr Talat has over 35 years of experience in academia, research and administration. He has supervised over 120 postgraduate students. He is an eminent researcher and has published over 80 research papers in internationally renowned journals. He has also won twelve international research grants for two projects. Prof. Pasha had been conferred Sitara-i-Imitiaz civil award by President Islamic Republic of Pakistan on Independence Day 2015 for his outstanding performance and excellence in the field of Veterinary Science. Dr Talat recently shared his thoughts in an interview with Technology Times
Tell us briefly about yourself and your career highlights?
I was selected as Assistant Professor in Animal Nutrition and secured PhD scholarship in the same discipline at West Virginia University, the USA in 1989.I returned to Pakistan in 1993 and selected as Associate Professor of College of Veterinary Sciences 1995 in a time when it was affiliated with University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
What are your goals as VC of UVAS and what efforts you have been made so far to obtain those?
When I joined as VC, I and all faculties formulated a strategic action plan. In this plan, we set our priorities and decided for periodic review of ourselves on the self-assessment basis that allowed us to identify the position where we are standing and devise future strategies for improvement.
Since this was young university and the systems were relatively weak so we tend to develop the systems. We developed the mechanism how quality assurance, working environment, international collaborations, working with accreditation bodies, and industrial linkages could be strengthened. When the university was established in 2002, the share of the livestock sector in agriculture economy was 39 per cent which has now climbed to 56 percent. So over the years there was the huge expansion in the livestock sector and there were a lot of scopes for us to work. We provided human resource; conducted problem-oriented research and trained industrial staff for value addition and linking them with international markets.
Does UVAS works on curriculum up gradation according to industrial needs and what industrial collaborations have UVAS made during your term as VC?
We are working very closely with industry. Within the past 4 years of VC ship the curriculum of DVM has been upgraded twice. We are a lead university in veterinary and animal sciences and there is a huge contribution of UVAS in the overall expansion of livestock sector. For instance, 6-7 years ago there was no corporate dairy sector but now there exist corporate dairy forms with imported dairy genetics. There are farms with four to five thousand animals. We not only changed our curriculum accordingly, but we also have in-house facilities for the training of students.
At present, we have 10 formal industrial collaborations. Our Ravi Campus, there we have all the production facilities, poultry breeding farm, poultry layer, feed mill, hatchery etc. All these systems are being run jointly with industry to train students in a commercial environment.
Similarly, an active collaboration with fisheries sector is on a roll as fisheries professional who had international funding available has invested in university to develop the hatchery. Equally in milk sector we are working closely with industry and we are doing research for the corporate sector. So as far as industrial collaborations are concerned UVAS is very active in it. We have two clubs, i.e. dairy club and poultry club whose regular monthly meetings are conducted in which all stakeholders participate. There is also case studies presentation during those meetings, which gives us immense backing in knowing that what industrial needs are and how we can meet them. In our syndicate and Board of Studies, industry representation is there.
Pakistan has a big potential of Biogas, how UVAS is contributing in this?
We are working on biogas production and at UVAS, Ravi Campus we developed a model for running of tube wells on biogas, that model is very much appreciated by the Government of Punjab and they are replicating that model in rural areas of Punjab to run tube wells with the biogas energy.
How UVAS maintain a balance between basic and applied research?
Our main focus is the applied research, but there are certain needs to go for basic research also and so we are focusing on it. For instance, there is a study going on embryo transfer and we are working on it. Similarly in vaccine production we have done some basic research. But more of our focus is towards applied, problem oriented, demand-driven research. For example, in red meat sector we are conducting research on standardization of meat cuts which was demand for the exporters.
What impact Amended GMO Seed Act would create on livestock sector?
Livestock definitely utilizes bi-products of crops, so if there is any harmful impact on crops due to that Amended Seed Act it would definitely be implicated on the livestock as well. The livestock sector is a very important market for the agri sector such as 60 percent of poultry feeds are made from maize wastes.
How aflatoxins effect on livestock health and how they can be avoided?
Aflatoxin is a major issue especially farmers at a small scale, they feed cottonseed cakes which are the main source of the aflatoxins and that is very harmful because it goes into the milk. If it is 200 ppm of aflatoxin in feed then 1 ppm will be in the milk. That is an issue so we introduce this certain measures where we can reduce these aflatoxin levels. Instead of just feeding cotton seed cake one should go for balanced feed like canola,rapeseed, and other meals in which aflatoxin levels are less and now even industry has adapted the system where monitoring of aflatoxin levels in feeds is ensured but still issue is there on grass root level.
What is the origin of aflatoxins?
It starts from the field also during harvesting a lot of moisture and humidity is present which triggers the growth of fungus and that converts into the aflatoxins. Maize is an excellent feed but if it is wet and improperly stored it has a fungus growth and aflatoxins levels are likely to rise thus making it worst feed. So, apart from gene it is basically storage and handling driven issue. Especially in the cotton seed it is difficult to manage.
With respect to livestock how food security can be ensured and what are major challenges that hamper to attain it?
Livestock is very important for food security as a source of livelihood. 3/4 crops harvested by farmers is badly affected due to lower prices in international markets. On daily basis by selling milk, eggs the farmer gets the source of income and at the village level the malnutrition issues can only be addressed if food sources are taken from an animal such as milk, eggs etc. You have noticed that there has been tremendous growth in poultry; we are able to get quality poultry meat due to intensive research.
This rapid growth of poultry is due to genetic potential. If you feed same feed to rural poultry, the same growth rate will not be witnessed. Poultry sector took the lead role for the provision of high biological value animal protein at lower cost for increasing the population of the country. There is a serious issue of malnutrition in the children. If government and development agencies plan to provide an egg and glass to milk to school going children that will check the malnutrition and attract children to school and start rural entrepreneurship and solve food security issue.
How science popularization can accelerate national development drive?
I unequivocally trust that without SandT and learning based economy you cant develop. All development of countries depends on equalization economy and for that you need to apply science. If we are not capable and losing traditional means for raising crops, you cant show signs of improvement in yield and in every other part. All circles of life ought to be added with science.
What is the main obstacle in Pakistan that impedes to adopt new technologies?
The primary deterrent is a business sector. In the event that we discuss 10 years prior, there was no corporate dairy farm with all automation and all best in class experimental conventions. The agriculturists have no motivation to apply advancements because of money related limitations. Thus, the business sector circumstance is not very well, India has forced 60 percent obligation on import while; we forced only 20 percent obligation which is a point to ponder and revisit the policies.
What are your comments about Technology Times?
I must appreciate this initiative, and this is the area where more and more investment and more and more things need to be done. Whatever we do in institutions is unable to reach out to masses due to lack of such mediums or under coverage of educational and scientific news which is a great barrier. So, this is a commendable effort and more such ventures must be initiated to reach out grass root level and spread SandT awareness.
What is your message for our readers especially student community?
I think the important thing for students is that whenever they plan a research, they should solve problems of the country and they should work with dedication, it should not research for the research. If some need based research is done it will have great impact thus adding value to research.