Healthy innovation system leads to healthy economy
EVERY COUNTRY feels good to introduce innovations in their research system that ensures strong economy on sustainable grounds. Political will is the key to this factor. A healthy innovation system generates a healthy economy; generating peoples welfare and reduces poverty. In order to compete with international market world we have to overcome the laxities for research.
The Punjab Agricultural Research Board (PARB) in collaboration with its national and international development partners of Pakistan, International Water Management Institute, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), International Food Policy Research Institute ( IFPRI), International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) organized a consultative meeting on “Promoting Science and Innovation in Agriculture in Pakistan” at the Hospitality Inn Hotel, Lahore. The proposals of this meeting will be utilized in designing a possible USAID-funded project to strengthen agricultural science, technology and innovation in Pakistan.
Dr. Mubarik Ali, Chief Executive PARB, briefed about the weak innovation system of Pakistan but hoped that this project will bring continuity, autonomy and acceptance to our innovation system. He explained that despite being blessed with so many natural resources, Pakistan is still a net importer of many fruits, vegetables, pulses and oil seeds, worth billions of dollars. He quoted the example of Taiwan, having 8 times less population and has 22 times less land than of Pakistan, where over 30 new patents related to agricultural innovations are registered every year. “We still have not introduced the patenting culture that is so vital to promote innovation in the agriculture sector,” he commented. Dr. Mubarik Ali especially emphasized the political unwillingness regarding unhealthy innovation system by saying, “The policy makers have to look towards scientists to solve their economic woes with little cost and political strings.
After that he briefed about the role of PARB, funding mechanism of research projects and other opportunities for scientists. “PARBs contribution and our efforts is just a drop in the ocean towards creating a significant and sustainable flow of innovations” he added. While briefing about the objectives of the meeting Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad, Chairman PARC, apprised that USAID intends to fund investment in agriculture in Pakistan and for that purpose PARC initiated a consultative process in 2011 with local as well as international experts.
In his remarks, Dr. Khalid Mohtadullah, Country Director IWMI Pakistan, informed that a very disturbing global phenomenon regarding food prices is going on that has rendered 75 million people as food deficient during the last two years. Climate change is also endangering lives of people in many countries. He briefed that studies have shown that investment in agriculture reduce poverty and enhance economic growth. He was of the view that research partnerships need to be developed to remove bottlenecks in the way of scientific innovation. While talking about future context, he said developing low cost irrigation technologies, waste water management, managing drainage, technical solutions and institutional arrangements, empowering farmers, climate change affecting water management should be on priority.
Rickward from CIMMYT told that this opportunity will harness the strategic goals with the help of international donors, to articulate visions and strategic parameters to resolve key issues. “Capacity building of the staff in areas where technical gap exists can be a driver of economic growth” he added. He appreciated the PARBs CGS system and gratitude PARB as a major partner in the proposed project.
Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik from Forman Christian College University informed that 58 per cent Pakistanis are food deficient and political commitment is necessary to resolve agricultural issues. Research Boards on the pattern of PARB in Punjab should be established in all the provinces.
Dr. Anjum Ali, DG Extension and Adaptive Research, Punjab, said that we are developing/disseminating immature, unviable and unsustainable technologies to the farmers. Today technologies are complex and farmers need practical trainings to adapt such technologies e.g. IMP. He further stated said that food nutrition is also part of food security along with issues of availability, accessibility and affordability. He was of the view that HR in universities and research institutes should be trained for planning process i.e. how to convert ideas into viable projects.
Dr. Jameel Khan, Advisor Planning Commission, said that we need to think upon scientific innovation to make breakthrough in agriculture. Need is to review the weakness of our research system on urgent basis so that projects can deliver the output oriented results. Dr. Muhammad Sharif highlighted that low productivity, high post-harvest losses and low share of processing in milk sector were identified in two studies conducted by PARC.
Dr. Anjum Ali suggested following things to make the research system effective:
• Technologies developed at research institutes should be showcased
• Capacity of extension department for technology dissemination should be developed
• Research institutes should converge at some wavelength to convince farmers for adaption of new technologies.
• Careful training of the farmers should be done with respect to adaption of new technologies.
In the concluding remarks, Dr. Mubarik said that international research centers should be facilitated for bringing scientific innovations in our research system. Besides this research project should have built in components for commercialization of technologies to be developed. He informed that a series of meeting will be held in other provinces on similar lines to have their inputs and feedback.
The writer is the Research Publication Officer, Punjab Agricultural Research Publication Office