Turn Challenges into Opportunities

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The economy of Pakistan depends heavily on agriculture. Importance of this sector is manifold as it feeds people, provides raw material for industry and is the base of our foreign trade. Foreign exchange earned from merchandise exports is about 45% of total exports of Pakistan. Agricultural sector is facing problems in Pakistan yet the major chunk of money comes from this sector. Let us shed some light on the problems of the agricultural sector of Pakistan of agricultural problems in Pakistan growth or development in Pakistan. One being no mechanism has been adopted to eradicate the soil erosion and even after harvesting nothing is done to restore the soil energy. Therefore, the fertility of soil is decreasing day by day. The thickness of fertile layer of soil in Pakistan is more than 6 inches but the average yield is lower than other countries where the layer of fertile soil is only 4 inches.

Water in Pakistan’s rivers has gone down to perilously low levels. The reason for this is not just lack of rains. India is restricting water flow of rivers that originate from her and then flow into Pakistan, especially the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers that pass through Indian held Kashmir. Pakistan has raised objections to Indian water projects, but a World Bank-appointed and supposedly “neutral” expert rejected most of the Pakistani objections, while also advising India to make some changes to the dam’s height. Pakistani commentators, pressure groups and leaders are convinced that India is controlling the river waters to strangulate Pakistan’s agriculture, which would definitely affect Pakistani exports and increase its dependency on food imports. Despite being the fifth richest country in water resources, Pakistan is estimated to be losing 13 million cusecs (approximately 368,119 cubic meters/second) of water every year from its rivers into the sea, as it does not have enough reservoirs or dams to store water. Owing to traditional methods of cultivation and harvesting, Pakistan has low yield per acre that means the average crop in Pakistan is just 1/4th of that of advanced states. Whereas Nepal, India and Bangladesh are using modern scientific methods to increase their yield per acre. There are large number of farmers who own only 4 acres of land. These small farmers do not get credit facilities to purchase seeds, pesticides, fertilizers etc. Additionally, a large portion of land is owned by feudal and the farmers who work on their lands, are just tenants. This uncertain situation of occupancy neither creates incentive of work hard nor attracts capital investment. On the other hand, water logging and salinity are increasing day by day. No effective measures have been taken to control it. The storage capacity of the dams is decreasing due to layers of mud accumulating at their basin so is the water availability per acre. Therefore, the farmers are installing more and more tube wells to irrigate their crops. This is why salinity is becoming a major issue in most parts of Punjab and Sindh.

Pakistan is rich in fertile land but this gift of good is being wasted. 79.6% million hectors of land is cultivated, whereas only 20.43% million hectors is cultivated. There are following main reasons for that.

  1. A major area is owned by feudals. It is difficult to manage such a huge area so only that part is cultivated which is easy to manage, the rest is left uncultivated.
  2. The rise of industrialization has given threat to this sector. People are migrating to cities and cities are expanding, thus new towns and colonies are constructed on fertile lands.
  3. Monopoly of Foreign Big Wigs and false policies of government must not be ignored. These companies are selling adulterated and expensive pesticides to poor farmers thus leaving them helpless
  4. Non-comprehensive Policies of Pakistan and less amount in budget was allocated for agricultural sector of Pakistan but the withdrawal of subsidy on pesticides and electricity on the conditions of IMF has done considerable damage to this sector.

First of all, feudalism should be abolished and lands should be allotted to poor farmers. This will not only enhance the performance of the farmers but also increase the productivity and per acre yield of all the crops in Pakistan. Taxes should be levied on agricultural income but not without devising a limit of land holding. Otherwise it would directly affect poor farmers. Lack of guidance is the main reason for the farmers’ backwardness. As the only means of communication in rural areas is T.V or radio so it is urgently needed on the part of these mass communication resources to air the programs and run ads related to the new agricultural techniques and scientific methods. But these programs should be telecast in regional or local languages. Moreover, refresher courses should be arranged by government to equip the farmers with the latest techniques and methods in use. The communication gap between well qualified experts and simple farmers have not been bridged. Availability of these experts is not ensured in rural areas as they are reluctant to go there. Moreover, Federal Seed Certification and Federal Seed Registration is approved but it should take responsible steps in approving seeds as it has already approved 36 new kinds of seeds. Those seeds which can create pest problem in future, should be banned. These seeds are of cotton mainly. A new Agricultural policy must be framed in which following steps should be focused on.

  1. Small farmers must be focused. The major problems of small farmers should be solved first.
  2. Provision of latest machinery, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers to such farmers must be ensured at subsidized prices.
  3. Consumer friendly policies must be formulated e.g they must be provided with accessible loans from banks.
  4. Productivity enhancement programs must be constituted to adjust and support prices.
  5. Different Agricultural zones should be introduced. As Multan is famous for its Mangoes and citrus fruits so it must be made Mango, citrus zone through which perishable products should be exported.
  6. Corporation needs to take steps in this regard. Surplus vegetables and fruits must be exported.
  7. Latest machinery should be provided to the farmers at considerable prices to increase the per acre yield. This provision should be on easy installments so that the farmers can avoid the burden of loans. Subsidies should be given by the government for modern machinery.

This article is collectively authored by Muhammad Naveed Arshad, Prof. Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad, Dr.  Fahd Rasul- Agro-Climatology Lab, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.


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