Farm research…. a weapon against food insecurity
INAPPROPRIATE USE of funds, obsolete research infrastructure, little or no incentives for innovation, lack of coordinated planning and monitoring and little commercialization of research outputs are impeding agricultural growth in Pakistan. A country having agrarian economy is messed up with many challenges, if not being taken seriously we will suffer a lot. Climate changes are a major threat for various crops and giving alarm of food insecurity. Agricultural research needs well-coordinated planning on sustainable basis in order to get fruitful results. Research should not be in the minds of scientists, paper or in the laboratories. The results of research should be open for farming community with the help of government or private sectors support.
Punjabs land is naturally blessed with precious resources. The instability of government and lack of planning is slowing down the process of research since few decades. We are all engaged in one way or another, in the process of creating or commercializing scientific innovation, but the speed is miserably low comparing to other countries.
Agricultural Journalist Association (AJA) holds a consultative meeting with Punjab Agricultural Research Board (PARB) to discuss agricultural related issues and dwindling economy of Pakistan. A large number of gathering along with Chief Executive PARB Dr. Mubarik Ali, Vice Chancellor UVAS Lahore Dr. Talat Naseer Pasha, President Farmer Associates of Pakistan, Dr. Tariq Bucha and Vice-President Kissan Board Pakistan Sarfaraz Khan also attended the meeting. While addressing to the participants, Dr. Mubarik Ali said that Pakistans agricultural sector is focused on increased use of inputs, fertilizers, pesticides and water, which led to stagnation in productivity. Agriculture production is not picking up and the country has to import billions of rupees worth of pulses, fruits and vegetables every year.
Dr. Mubarik Ali highlighted the significance of R and D by saying that “The efforts of scientists and research institutes are producing nearly five times more grain as compared with the levels of pre-partition. It is the fruit of research that per capita consumption of food products has increased 15 to 20 %, while spending on food has dropped from 85 % to 65% during last several decades”.
PARB was revamped in 2007, but it had to spend initial two years in making rules and regulations. However, now it had been working effectively and efficiently and received 372 research proposals, out of which 65 had been approved by the Technical Working Group (TWG) after rigorous deliberations. PARB plans, coordinate, fund and monitor agricultural research projects on priority basis and also working for the commercialization of developed technologies.
Dr. Mubarik Ali informed the participants that within a span of just 2 and a half year, 53 solution-based research projects in crops and livestock sectors have been operationalized costing less than Rs.200 million a year. These projects are being monitored regularly in order to ensure the progress of the project. The strong incentive structure for the scientists and institutions submitting the projects encourage them to develop a competitive team which can deliver timely output.
VC UVAS Prof Dr. Talat Naseer Pasha said that research work in education institutions are now being better coordinated and expedited after setting up PARB. He added that special attention now has to be given to livestock and dairy sector. He expressed the hope that such efforts would help address one of the key issues of the livestock sector.
Dr. Tariq Bucha, President FAP, stressed the need for increasing interaction between scientists and farmers. He added that farmers being ultimate beneficiary of research should be fully involved in identifying research projects besides creating linkages at grassroots.
Sarfaraz Khan, said that small farmers being biggest shareholder in farming and dairy sector should be given priority in research work. He said various aspects of agricultural research should be properly discussed with representatives of farmer organizations.
PARBs efforts for R andD are commendable but despite these significant contributions, our efforts are just a drop in the ocean towards creating a significant and sustainable flow of innovations. Pakistans economy is already badly upset due to the extensive loadshedding, gas and water shortage. The inflation, unemployment and rising prices of basic commodities have disturbed our economy to a great extent. Pakistan, the mainstream of agriculture has to speed up the process of research and innovation because future seems not to be promising for these sectors.
The policy makers should join hands with scientists to promote agricultural innovation in Pakistan by considering it on top of their priority. A comprehensive strategy along with workable indicators, methodology and adoption should be done without any delay. Research is a long term process, talented scientists, well equipped infrastructure and resources but the outputs are long lasting for decades and beneficial for the stakeholders. Although the process is difficult, but it is doable, requires determination, consistency and willingness of the policy makers in the battle of war against food security.
We have the potential to increase yields and thus can become the tiger nation of worlds economy.
The author is Research Publication Officer at Punjab Agricultural Research Board, Lahore.