Agriculture inputs centres

Farm inputs: need for village sale centres
By Tahir Ali
Dawn 30 August, 2010

FARMERS in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa have demanded of the government to provide them with easy and timely access to agriculture inputs so that they may sow the next crop.

“With thousands of tons of wheat and maize seeds having been washed away by recent floods, there is an urgent need to procure and store substantial amount of the commodities in advance. We would like the government to provide these two basic inputs to growers free of costs as they are hardly hit,” said Murad Ali Khan, president of the Kissan Board Pakistan.

For this to happen, village-based agriculture inputs/services provision centres (AIPCs) should be set up.

“Agricultural inputs are the main headache of farmers. In times of need, they either disappear from the market or are too costly and unaffordable for the poor growers. With the wheat sowing season not far away, there could no better time than now to advocate the village-based setup,” said Khan.

According to Niamat Shah, general secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, farmers’ income can be substantially increased if quality seeds, fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and other services are provided to them in time and on cheaper rates.

“These AIPCs would be like agriculture utility stores which also would serve as store houses/marketing centres for all agricultural inputs. They will provide inputs, soft loans, guidance and training and other services to farmers at comparatively cheaper rates and in time. These are vital for capacity-building of farmers and are supposed to create linkages between farmers and public/private line departments and associations. The centres will also develop and fund some demonstration farms. The high yield of these farms will serve as incentives to other farmers,” he argued.

These centres should be established on the basis of union council, Patwar Halqa or villages and should comprise all stakeholders in agriculture, i.e. farmers, livestock owners, agriculture department field assistants, patwaris, veterinary doctors, seeds/fertiliser industry and bank representatives.

To minimise the chances of corruption, there should be oversight bodies over these local chapters at district and provincial levels with membership on the same pattern, he added.

“The government should open a centre at each of the 986 union councils in the province. Then these bodies should be organised on Patwar halqa and ultimately on village basis to cover the entire or most of the farmers the province. These centres must function under the supervision of the provincial agriculture department,” said Shah.

Every AIPC should have certified seed, fertiliser, pesticides and farm machinery, repair workshop, veterinary hospital, the latest information about various aspects of farming, branch of Zari Traqqiati Bank to disburse interest-free loans, a multimedia workshop, storage facility and a branch of insurance company for crop insurance.

Finances for the centres are likely to be the most pressing issue. “But the issue could be tackled. Farmers should contribute a membership fee of at least Rs200 per head and another Rs800 as share money in the revolving funds of the bodies. This should be augmented by a matching grant by the government. This revolving fund will increase with the passage of time when invested in agriculture inputs and services that earns money. Farmers could also be provided training, guidance, credit facility to start businesses locally to earn more money for their families.

Revenue collected from agriculture can/should also be spent on its development. Cooperative bank, that has been revived, should also fund these entities once these start functioning. Banks could also be asked to be a share-holder in the business,” Shah added.

According to Khan, the seeds research farms in the province have developed high yielding wheat, maize and fruit and vegetable seeds but their timely and easy availability has always been a problem. “When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available to farmers, they have to use substandard, often dangerous, inputs. This explains the rampant low per acre crop yield in the province.”

“So far the government has failed to streamline the seeds’ distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on substandard seeds in the market,” Shah said.

In villages, he said, the government needs not invest that huge amounts on buildings for the purpose. Rather Hujras or empty houses, available in plenty there, can be utilised.

“The AIPCs will surely modernise and commercialise the subsistence and outdated farming when expert advice, machinery and marketing support is provided to growers,” said Israr Bacha, a farmer.

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Reviving agriculture in KP

Reviving KP’s agriculture
By Tahir Ali
(DAWN Monday, 23 Aug, 2010)

REHABILITATION of farmers and revival of agriculture in the post-flood Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is likely to be handicapped for want of enough funds.

The cash-strapped provincial government has neither received any support from the centre nor has the international community provided the required fund for the purpose.

To cope with the devastation, the PK government has asked the centre to provide an initial amount of Rs10 billion.

The floods have inflicted enormous devastation. Official estimates put the losses to crops, livestock and irrigation system at Rs12 billion, Rs7 billion and Rs10.6 billion respectively. Some other sub-sectors of agriculture have also suffered loss of a few billion rupees.

Murad Ali Khan, president Kisan Board Pakistan, said the flash-floods have not only destroyed standing crops and orchards in Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Shangla, Dera Ismail Khan and other districts, but also made lands uncultivable due to accumulation of mud and water.

In Lakpani area of Barawal in upper Dir, hundreds of acres of agricultural land worth billions of rupees have been washed away by the ravaging floodwater.

This soil erosion is likely to lead to legal fights over ownership of the farmland holding up cultivation till the settlement of disputes.

The destruction of irrigation infrastructure, like the Munda Headwork that irrigated around 0.3 million acres, is also a serious blow.

“With the main irrigation infrastructure destroyed and canals to remain closed for repair, there would be water scarcity for the next crops. This would mean little wheat crop,” added Ali Khan.

Director Irrigation Muhammad Naeem Khan said the losses to irrigation infrastructure in all the ten major canal systems in KP amounts to Rs10.6 billion. “The department is trying its best to do the necessary repair and cleaning work to restore water availability within a month,” added Naeem.

Abdur Rahim Khan, secretary general of the KP chamber of agriculture, said farms will have to be cleaned from mud and leveled for cultivation. For the purpose, the government will have to provide sufficient support. That would not be an easy task keeping in view the fact that it would require sufficient funds, machinery and personnel.

The floods have also damaged the livestock sector. An official of the livestock and dairy development department said the floods have killed 0.15 million heads of animals.

The farmers have been deprived of an important source of income. It would also lead to shortage and increase in prices of meat and milk.

“The breaking down of the communication system prevented farmers from transporting their farm produce to markets and these decayed in trucks on way or in fields,” Khan added.

The disruption in supply of vegetables and fruit to market has also resulted in food inflation. The prices of vegetables, meat, fruit, wheat-flour and other food items have increased by about 30 to 100 per cent.

An official in the KP’s ministry of agriculture said that all the affected districts are the main sources of wheat and maize, fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, rice, and livestock production.

The wheat subsidy is Rs14.08 billion for this year. But it may need an increase due to a drop in local wheat production and increase in the import bill.

Farmers have demand that the government should immediately restore the communication system; address the critical problem of demarcation and rehabilitation of fields and irrigation network. For this purpose, the government must arrange for tractors and other field leveling machinery to the affected farmers.

The escalating debt burden of farmers also needs immediate attention. Farmers need to be provided free or subsidised agriculture inputs and fodder for their livestock. Agriculture loans of farmers should be written off or at least interest thereon should be waived. Easy farm and non-farm loans should be extended to small farmers to restart their businesses.

Farmers in the flood affected areas also need exemption from riverine and abiana for a couple of years.

Fruit/vegetable losses in Swat

Horticulture losses in Swat
By Tahir Ali
Dawn-Monday, 16 Aug, 2010

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FARMERS of the vegetable and fruit-rich Swat valley estimate that the recent floods have inflicted ten times more losses than those suffered by them during militancy and military operations.

July is the peak season for various fruit and vegetables produced in the valley which are known for their taste and quality. The vegetable crops, fruit orchards and walnut trees have been washed away or damaged by the devastating floods.

Murad Ali Khan, president of Kissan Board Pakistan, Bakht Biland, general secretary of Kisan Board Swat, and Muhammad Naeem, president of Model Farm Services Centre Swat, were unanimous that the region had suffered huge devastations during the recent floods and windstorms. These would have serious short, medium and long-term repercussions for the subsistence farmers.

“The losses to agriculture in Swat, according to our estimates, during the militancy period were around Rs28 billion of which horticulture suffered around Rs14 billion. From what we have come to know after getting feedback from farmers in the area after the floods, the losses to farmers are ten times more than those inflicted on us by years of militancy. According to our estimates, around 60 per cent of fruit and vegetable production has been lost to the floods,” said Biland.

“Peaches that were at maturity stage have been washed away or dropped to the ground in most of upper Swat. With seemingly no hope of revival of communication infrastructure in the area soon, the apple production about to start, farmers may not find access to market and get wasted,” he added.

“I have lost paddy crop on 102 canals of my prime cultivable land along with trees on the sides in Matta. Richer farmers can afford the losses, but where will the poor amongst us go. They need immediate relief before a vigorous plan for their rehabilitation and recovery of irrigation and agriculture is put in place,” he suggested.

The floods have destroyed most of the irrigation infrastructure and it is feared that lack of irrigation water will severely hit the farmers.

“Around 6,500 acres under rice cultivation have been completely washed by floods in our area. It is and will not be cultivable as the river has changed its course and is flowing through these fields,” said Naeem.

“The crops that have remained safe will surely dry out soon as no water will be available for them,” he added.

Naeem said they were still waiting for the compensation they had been promised earlier. “The government, NGOs and the world community will help us but the major concern should be that the aid reaches the right people. “NGOs earlier had helped but as responsible officials and departments such as agriculture department and patwaris were not taken on board and the aid didn’t reach the eligible people. This should be guarded against this time,” he added.

“With no transportation is available and upper Swat areas like Kabal, Matta, Kalam etc. remain cut off from rest of the country due to land-slides. Fruits and vegetables that will be ready this month must be transported out of Swat or else they will be lost. This is unprecedented damage requiring urgent restoration of at least temporary road and bridge network,” said Khan.

To ensure food supplies, as a short term measure, the government should put in place temporary and folding bridges to restore transportation networks as soon as possible. Supply of subsidised or free agriculture inputs and easy loans to farmers also needs to be addressed.

Farmers take two to three crops from their fields alternatively and earn their livelihood. Water-logging and soil erosion caused by floods have deprived them of this income for this year. This inability of farmers to cultivate their fields and earn money would exacerbate their debt burden.

Donors and government should ensure that agriculture losses of the destitute farmers are rightly assessed and compensated. Besides, the government should arrange for tractors and other field levelling machinery for the affected farmers.

The soil erosion caused by floods has also created another problem: that of demarcation of fields. Farmers had placed stones as signs of demarcation to differentiate their farms. These signs swept away by slides and gushing water in several areas could cause problem of demarcation inflicting more financial losses on farmers.

Dawn-Monday, 16 Aug, 2010

Teachers’ visits to students’ homes

Home visits by teachers

By Tahir Ali

Attaullah always took keen interest in his studies. He was regular in class and was popular in fellow students as well as teachers. But then he bagged inconsiderable marks in his 10th grade examination. He felt alienated by the treatment of his father over his poor result. He was remorseful for wasting his time. Life lost all charms for him. Dejected and enraged at himself, he indulged himself in activities that were detrimental to his time, studies and goals. He thought it was all over for him. But then a teacher visited his home a few times and talked to him and his parents.

“Reflect on your habits, priorities and activities. Think as to which were the things that distracted you from studies and wasted your time. Also know about the things and habits that had proved useful during any stage of your academic career. Avoid the distractions and follow the plus points…..,” he told him.

That lifted his spirits. Attaullah started working with a new zeal and commitment. Later, he won two gold medals in his career.

The above story illustrates that a hardworking, committed and friendly teacher can transform a student’s life. There can be tremendous interest in this home-visiting model provided these are carefully planned and effectively executed. These have the potential to improve low performing schools and provide an opportunity to build relationships with families that go a long way towards success of educational endeavours.

Though teachers’ visits to students’ homes usually follow problematic student behaviour or an urge on part of the school and teacher to ensure success of the students, an interested and committed teacher can spot pretty early on which are the students who might face some challenges and problems needing intervention and guidance.

Teachers’ visits can turn around weak students and schools. They give personal touch to the teacher-student relationship and create a sense of importance and confidence amongst students. They not only help build good inter teacher-students relationship and love but also give good information about the likes, dislikes, weaknesses and strong points of the students and teachers, which are crucial for educating the children satisfactorily. Poor performing children can excel with compassion, kindness, and some one-on-one help.

Educational experts say students do better if teachers, schools and students and their families act in unison. Our teachers need to come out of their ivory towers and be more friendly and close to their students and their parents if we hope for a better learning environment at schools.

Teachers may be lacking vital information about their students, and meaningful opportunity on part of the teachers to engage with their students and their families can solve the problem.

These visits and conversations not only help build a relationship with the parents and congeal one with their children, they also can create many other possibilities. For example, the teacher learns a ‘funds of knowledge’ from the parents and gets an insight about the prevailing situation at students’ homes, about students’ peer group, his neighbourhood behaviour and the way he deals with the situation.

Even though well-intended, these visits have both the potential to become a source of strength as well as trouble for the students and teachers. For example, there is the problem of reluctance on part of the teachers, especially female ones, and resistance on part of the parents towards this phenomenon.

Educators don’t want to be unwarranted guests and female teachers especially feel vulnerable to visit the homes of their adult students. Though parents usually like to be contacted for their children, sometimes they too resist these visits as encroachment and interference.

So, the visits should not be made mandatory for teachers, students or families. What then is to be done to make all these go for this highly beneficial practice: Teachers and educational administrators should be given financial and professional benefit for each visit they make. Parents and their studying children should receive stipend and educational credits on these visits respectively.

These incentives, rewards and chastisement and conditional cash transfers for teachers, parents, and schools will help foster friendly environment at the visits. We also need to ensure that training and a respectful structure is provided, and that visits don’t just target troubled students.

One important reason for the success of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, a successful project run by teachers’ union, school district, and a community group run in parts of USA since 1988, is that teachers are compensated for their time if they choose to participate voluntarily

The main problem is where will the funds come from and who would organise, supervise and evaluate the work of these bodies.

The thousands of Parents Teacher Councils (PTCs) functioning in public sector schools could make the task of organising, supervision and evaluation quite easier. Over and above, the national commission for human development (NCHD), that has huge budget with little practical impact, cannot find worthier business to pursue.  

Good communities create the foundation for great schools. In transforming public schools into the hubs of their communities, teachers and principals should play lead roles, supported by mentors, counsellors, media personnel and media outlets.

As far the funds, the government may allocate some funds for the project. If not, then the funds available with the NCHD and PTCs –the latter are given considerable funds for repair and maintenance of schools each year0- could be utilised. Similarly, grants and donations by public and private sector and by local or foreign NGOs could be used to fund these kinds of visits.

There should be no problem of resources. Various foreign bodies such as USAID, UNESCO and the like or the funds available with the NCHD could be utilised for the purpose. Anyway they are worth investment, because home visits can have far-reaching effects.

Besides, the project can be easily carried out by graduate teachers, especially female ones who are naturally more sublime and careful in dealing with students. It doesn’t require a psychological expert to do this as almost each working teacher is an expert in public dealing. However, for making and maintaining track-record of the meetings and findings of these visits and implementation and effects of these findings certainly warrant a short training. This can be done by plentiful public or private colleges, universities or the provincial and regional training institutes in the country.

Writer email: tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

Swat Tourism

Economy of Swat tourism

Most of the 900 hotels in Swat were either looted or destroyed and various tourism-dependent sectors heavily suffered.

By Tahir Ali

With Swat, the Switzerland of Pakistan, gradually returning to normalcy, can one hope that the badly-damaged tourism industry there will reach its pinnacle? Though officials assert that the peace festival coordinated by the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority, Pakistan army and the local tourism industry has somehow revived the industry, much still needs to be done.

The revival of tourism in Swat is vital to defeat terrorism and extremism but it requires several steps on part of the government. “Increased budgetary allocation, enough share in foreign funds meant for the area and a full-pledged continuous advertisement campaign on print and electronic media are urgently needed besides tourist information centres at several places,” argues Zahid Khan, President all Swat Hotel Association (ASHA).

“For the revival of tourism, community involvement in the security of tourists and development of communication infrastructure will have to be ensured. Malamjabba ski resort has got to be re-opened. Road to the beautiful Gabinajabba near Kabal should also be developed. Archaeological sites should be protected and developed, and Buddhist and Hindu festivals can be arranged,” says Khan.

“There is no communication and no mobile service and no TV transmission in some upper parts of Swat. Roads are difficult to travel on. Paithom, KP’s only tourism training institute, and the PTDC hotel in Kalam is still used by security forces. How can one hope of a hundred percent revival of tourism industry in this backdrop,” Khan adds.

The landscape of Swat is suitable for adventure tourism, eco-tourism, culture/heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, sports tourism, commercial tourism, etc, but the potential needs to be utilised. “Swat has over 400 Buddhist sites in Swat Valley only. There are 14 beautiful mostly unknown lakes in the valley. It’s both ideal for summer and winter tourism. There is much to enjoy now but we need official patronage,” Khan says, adding, “We want the world to know that the people of Swat are friendly and good-natured people. They have nothing to do with militancy and terrorism. They are supporting the government against militants. Swat is now even more secure for travelers than it has been,” he says.

According to Adnan Khan, media coordinator for Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), the festival was a big step towards the revival of tourism sector. Latif Bhatti, a Gujrat-based tourist, says the mela at the grassy ground bore symbolic significance. “It was the same ground where militants in April 2009 had challenged the state. Thanks to Pak Army, it is now a place where youngsters dance to the beat of drums. The flocking local females, youngsters, elders and children send positive signals about Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

Around three million tourists came to Swat during the festival. “Though the number was much less than that of the good old days, it was anyhow encouraging. We are happy over the massive response. There was so much jubilation that even the suicide attack in Mingora amidst the festival could not deter or frighten tourists,” Khan says, adding, “The middle class was conspicuous by its absence. Perhaps they were either unaware of the festival for lack of sufficient advertisements about it and did not turn up due to financial crunch. “

He accuses the provincial and federal governments as well as Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) and Sarhad Tourism Corporation (STC) for being disinterested in the revival of tourism in the region. “Neither of them had funded special advertisement campaign for the festival. Only the PaRRSA issued advertisement for us. Nothing was done by anyone else. Provincial ministers did come here but they only attended and addressed functions with no practical help,” he complains.

A thorough study of the Malakand related plans reveals that the sector has been altogether neglected and no allocations have been made for it. The sector has been allocated Rs0.67b or 0.9 percent of Annual Development Programme in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s budget this year. As far as the federal sector development programme (PSDP) this year, the sector has been allocated just Rs0.125bn (or 0.018 percent) in the total PSDP of Rs663bn. There is no mega Swat-specific project in the local and foreign components of both the ADP and PSDP either.

Syed Aaqil Shah, provincial minister for culture and tourism, says the KP government under is fully committed to development and revival of tourism in the region, “The Chief Minister visited Kalam last month and announced a hefty package for the area. In coming months, you will see concerted efforts to revive tourism in Swat and other areas.” “Swat and KP have vast Buddhist archeological sites and the government is mulling a special package for the people of Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka to visit these sites,” adds Shah.

Tourism in Pakistan has been badly affected by instability, indifference of government, militancy, poverty and price-hike. The number of foreign tourists reached upto 0.9 million in 2006 but their number came down to 0.84mn in 2007 and to 0.82mn in 2008.

Most of the 900 hotels in Swat were either looted or destroyed and various tourism-dependent sectors heavily suffered. The tourism industry lost over U$400 million in Swat alone and around Rs8bn of it, according to Zahid Khan, was directly lost by the hoteliers. “But no compensation has been given as yet. If the government can’t compensate us for the entire losses, it should provide us fifty percent compensation and interest free loans so that we can repair and redecorate hotels,” adds Khan.

Shah says losses would duly be compensated soon if funds promised by the federal government and foreign countries become available. Rehmat Din Siddiqui, general secretary of Kalam Hotel Association, says the government should develop a ski resort at Bishay Kalam and should arrange a chairlift facility there. “Also, the government can construct an international sports stadium and an international wildlife park near Kalam Bazar,” he says. Secretary tourism KP and Managing Director STC were not available for comment.

The proposed new National Tourism Policy intends to provide compensation to the Swat hotel industry for the losses they suffered between the year 2007 and 2009. Saleem Abbas, a private tour operator, says the public and private sectors must join hands to revive the Swat tourism industry.

Agriculture in pakistan hit hard by floods

Agriculture in Pakistan hit hard by floods

By Tahir Ali

The prevailing catastrophic floods have caused colossal damage to the agriculture sector of the country and the government will have to come to the rescue of the badly-hit poor farmers.

The floods, besides killing over 1,500 people and destroying innumerable houses and valuable assets, have also killed thousands of domestic animals and swept away standing crops on a mass scale. Furthermore, the gushing waters have eroded fields and irrigation networks, aside from water and mud accumulating in fields, thereby making the conditions unsuitable for farming.

According to careful estimates, the losses to public and private agricultural infrastructure and assets are severe, most of which occurred in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). United Nations (UN) estimates that around 1.1 million acre of agriculture land has been destroyed by floods in Punjab alone. Though the National Disaster Management Authority’s initial assessment found that the infrastructure loss caused to the country was $1.8 billion, the actual loss, according to an expert, could be around $4 to $5 billion given the magnitude of the loss.

About 70 per cent population in the country is directly or indirectly dependent upon agriculture for their subsistence. Farmers usually take two to three crops from their fields alternatively and earn their livelihood. Water-logging and soil erosion caused by these floods have deprived them of this income for the current year.

“We would take a minimum of three crops from our fields but there would be no crops in the field for the time being,” said a farmer.

Thousands of animals and poultry in several farms and multitude of feed and seed-stocks in research farms were also lost to floods. According to the UN World Food Programme, 80 per cent of food reserves have been destroyed in the flooding. Irrigation infrastructure has also suffered and officials say that its repair and rehabilitation would take not less than a year provided the adequate funds are made available.

The unprecedented losses to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, electricity transmission lines and telecommunication network have made relief efforts sluggish leaving much to be desired.

What is now clear is that with the losses so huge and the international response to the calamity hugely short of the needs, compensation to and rehabilitation of the farmers could take years. Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has appealed to the international community to come to the aid of Pakistan. China, US, Saudi Arabia and other countries have announced considerable aid for relief efforts but international response to the tragedy is much less than warranted.

The rehabilitation of the people and rebuilding of the state infrastructure would require hundreds of billions of rupees and the daunting task could take years to complete.

To cope with the upheaval, Punjab has asked for Rs10 billion for the time being from the federal government while the KP government has suspended its annual developmental programme (ADP) to divert the development funds for the relief and rehabilitation of flood affectees and asked for immediate assistance from the international community.

But quite understandably, neither federal nor provincial governments have the knowhow and finances to cope with the devastation.

KP had already incurred $692 million or Rs58 billion losses to the agriculture sector in the five districts of the Malakand Division and two tribal areas due to militancy and military operations and the recent floods gave another huge setback.

Due to the foul smell of the dead animals, the outbreak of hemorrhagic septicemia and cholera diseases are feared among the living cattle. The dead animals should be burnt/ buried immediately. Special vaccination campaign for the people and their remaining animals must be arranged so that diseases are averted.

Ironically, it was only a few months ago that the farmers were complaining of an intensifying water shortage but now there is a problem of excessiveness. The calamity, therefore, underlines the need to build new water reservoirs to store flood waters for dry years as well as to reduce chances of flooding at such huge scales. Though it would have some serious repercussions for the cash-strapped government, it is high time the affected areas are declared as calamity-hit with immediate effect.

The KP government has exempted the flood-hit areas from taxes and asked the federal government to do the same.

The international donors and relief organizations should come forward, assess the damage and provide aid to the flood victims. As a long-term measure, the policymakers should try to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. Not only contingency and coordinated response plans should be prepared but issues such as wide-scale deforestation and construction of small dams to absorb high river flows and rainwater also need attention.

Agriculture loans of all farmers, especially the small ones, should be written off. If the economic managers do not want to do that, at least interest thereon should be remitted. Farmers should be exempted from abiana and malia in the flood-hit areas for at least a couple of years. The livestock farmers should be provided offsprings of healthy animals free of cost or on offspring return basis.

Increasing milk yield

Increasing milk-yield

By Tahir Ali

Milk-yield in the Khyber Pakhtubkhwa is much less than potential. Commercialisation of dairy farming and a good marketing mechanism for the sector will increase the milk-production tremendously, officials and farmers say.

Besides that, they said, the cross-breeding of the local cattle/buffalo breeds with high milk-yielding exotic species, availability of better feed for the animals as well as large scale private investment will have to be ensured for the purpose.

“Development of breed improvement societies by the farmers and high yielding varieties of fodder crops by the public research institutes must be arranged. Milk collection/marketing centres should be opened in all villages across the province. The government should provide chilling tanks to farmers and milk processing plants should be installed near their dairy farms,” said Subhan Ali, a Swabi-based farmer.

Director general livestock and dairy development department KP Dr Sher Mohammad said there are a number of commercial dairy farms in the private sector but more needs to be opened.

“The KP government and the department was doing their best to improve the dairy sector, to facilitate private investment, to train, educate and offer technical services and expert advice and develop high yield fodder for the livestock farmers. But an increased interest and investment by private entrepreneurs is a must to convert the livestock sector from subsistence-oriented to income-driven commercial farming. The private sector, especially the dairy-market leaders like Nestle, Haleeb etc should establish a strong milk- marketing system in the province. This will not only provide an opportunity to the existing livestock farmers to earn more from their milk-sales but also lure others to the sector,” he said.

“A robust private investment in the dairy sector is vital for self-sufficiency in the milk-production in the province. If this happens in KP, it will increase milk production from an average of 3 litres to 6 litres / animal /day, thus doubling income of the livestock farmers. It will also most likely attract more local and foreign investment to the sector as it has a potential for high income and development,” he added.

According to Bashir Badshah, a farmer, the province may not be deficient in milk production but the poor marketing infrastructure and mechanism is spoiling the produce. “It is indeed discouraging for those who want to invest in the dairy sector,” he said.

Subhan Ali said it was ironic to see that there was only one cattle and buffalo breeding and dairy farms each in the public sector province-wide.

“The provincial livestock and dairy development minister Hidayatullah Khan had announced last year that the government was to open one model dairy farm in every district of the province soon but there is no development on that front,” Ali said.

KP produces around 4 MT of milk (about 12 % of the country-wide milk production). Out of this only 80% are available for human consumption while almost 15% are wasted during transportation.

Though improvement in milk-yield is highly needed and possible but, unfortunately, due to poor genetic make-up and non-quality feed, average milk-yield per animal per day in KP is 2 to 3 litres, which is amongst the lowest in the region. Similarly, average milk yield per lactation in the province stands at just 900 litres for cow and 1200 litres for buffalos. Again, milk availability is 118 ml/person/day (MlPD) while the requirement is 250 MlPD. So there is a gap of about 132ml.

Artificial insemination and cross breeding of the local and exotic high-milk-yielding species is, therefore, the call of the hour. It will help develop the local low productive breeds into highly producing ones. For example, animals bred through artificial insemination yield around 15-20 litres of milk in cattle farm. Likewise, the average milk production of local breed is 900 litres per lactation but it is 1800 (93% more) for the cross-bred animals. Similarly, indigenous cow-breeds have comparatively short lactation period of 200 days as against the cross-bred cows that provide over 5000 litres of milk for around 300 days.

Breed improvement, it is said, has improved per lactation milk of an average American cow to up to 9000 litres from 3000 litres of 30 years ago.

KP, luckily, does have some local dairy breeds which can be further improved by artificial the above methods. “In local cattle dairy breeds, Achai is the best suitable dairy breed available in KP whereas Sahiwali from Punjab and Red Sindhi from Sindh could also be adapted. The best local buffalo dairy breed is Azikhili however Nili Ravi of Punjab and Kundi of Sindh can also be modified,” Sher Mohammad informed.

As most of the livestock farmers are poor and they cannot buy the high-milk yielding cattle and buffalo breeds from the market, the government should give dairy offsprings on offspring return basis to them from the cattle and buffalo breeding and dairy farms.

Visas for US diplomats

Here is a piece that appeared in The News today. While one may not wholly agree to the contents and it is difficult to say how much element of truth is there in the story, it is worth reading.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010
By Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat

According to reports in the media, President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered the Foreign Office to change the visa policy for American diplomats and facilitate them to visit Pakistan.

Now Ambassador Hussain Haqqani has been authorised to issue visas to Americans, diplomats or whosoever comes in their guise, for one year without scrutiny. Earlier, Haqqani, who does not represent Pakistan’s Foreign Service, used to grant three-month visas in consultation with the Foreign Office.

Reports say that Haqqani is now facilitating some 652 Americans to come to Pakistan. Most of them, one figure suggests around 400, could be US security personnel. On the other hand, it has been reported the US has granted only 35 visas to Pakistani diplomats.

The development has serious dimensions and could have grave consequences for Pakistan’s national security.First, the visas have been given on express authority of the president, while ignoring both the Foreign Office and relevant security apparatus. It is not known how many of the 652 Americans comprise CIA personnel, representatives of infamous XE or Blackwater, those covertly representing Mossad or other US agencies involved in espionage.

Second, the decision will create a gulf between the Foreign Office and the PPP-led government, which has been ignoring professional advice and implementing decisions that sometimes are not in the national interest. Third, the PPP government has totally ignored the fact that Pakistan does not need such a large number of American diplomats and other personnel.

American officials say that aid workers and others being sent to Pakistan will bring help. US diplomats admit the additional deployment may increase the strength of the US embassy staff from about 500 to nearly 800. However, the figure of 300 is excessive and is no way related to the aid projects under the Kerry Lugar bill.

Fourth, the decision will pave the way for more unpleasant and undiplomatic incidents involving the Americans in the country. There have been several incidents recently where American diplomats were found carrying guns, using fake number plates on vehicles, abusing Pakistani officials and common people. Now with 600 more Americans in Islamabad and other cities, such incidents could increase.

One wonders why Mr Husain Haqqani, the erstwhile Pakistan envoy in Washington, is in such a hurry to grant visas to US nationals. Last year, Mr Haqqani had written a letter to the Pakistan Foreign Office, saying: “Denying Pakistani visas to US nationals besides harassing them, has adversely distorted Pakistan image and heavy costs will have to be paid in exchange of such events.”

There is no harassment of US diplomats as has been claimed in the letter. Unfortunately, US officials have also been claiming that their diplomats are being harassed in Pakistan. That has never been the case. One complaint is about checking of vehicles. It is understood that all vehicles are stopped at checkpoints, including those of US diplomats. There have been several attacks on installations in Islamabad, so the checking is necessary.

Also, it has been claimed that Pakistan is stopping visas as punitive action against American NGO or media personalities. That has never been the case. Every country has the right to restrict visas to those it believes are not involved in unduly criticising its policies or is a threat to its interests. Even the United States follows this policy. It is apparent that unilateral steps by the government to grant visas to American nationals or others should be stopped as it could have an impact on Pakistan’s national security.

Flooding

The devastating floods in parts of the province have killed hundreds of persons, destroyed crops, killed thousands of livestock, and badly impacted the health and businesses of the people. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chief minister rightly said the province has been pushed by 50 years by these floods. KP was already badly affected by years of militancy. It deserves all our help, support and prayers to be able to attend to the huge task of relief and rehabilitation of the flood affectees.

Best wishes
Tahir Ali
Mardan Pakistan
(+92)03459366452
Email: tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s declining PORs

Increasing KPK’s provincial own receipts

By Tahir Ali

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s revenue receipts from external-both federal and foreign- may have jumped up in recent months but the provincial own revenue receipts (PORs) have been dismally low.

“KPK’s economy has suffered on two accounts: Its failure to increase its revenues from its own resources which has stemmed from the federal control of its main revenue generating sectors of economy and its inability to fully utilise the resources at its disposal,” said an official.

PORs stood at Rs7.3bn (5.5 %) of the revised revenue estimates of Rs133.5bn. Strangely enough, PORs have been lowered to Rs7.2bn (3.6 %) out of the projected revenue receipts of over Rs198bn this fiscal.

The gap between targets and actual recovery of provincial taxes has been on the rise. For example, revenue targets were Rs5.2bn, Rs6.2bn, Rs7.4bn and Rs7.5bn from 2006-07 to 2009-10 but the actual recoveries made were Rs4.7bn, Rs5.3bn, Rs5.4bn and Rs4.4bn respectively. Officials ascribe this gap to unrealistic target by finance department and the dilapidated law and order situation but according to industry sources, lack of incentives to entrepreneurs is also to blame.

Provincial receipts during financial year 2010 -11 are estimated only at Rs7.23 billion.

From 2005-06 to FY 2009- 10, income from direct taxes was Rs0.59bn, 0.76bn, 0.83bn, 0.78bn respectively. This year, direct taxes are expected to earn Rs1bn for the province as against budget estimate of Rs1.2bn last year.

Whereas in last year around Rs1.8bn were collected from indirect taxes as against the target of Rs2.6bn, this year revenue target of Rs2.1bn has been fixed for the year. Revenue from indirect taxes stood at Rs1.4bn, Rs1.5bn, Rs1.3bn and Rs1.3bn respectively during the above years.

Non-tax receipts stood at Rs4.7bn as against budget estimates of Rs3.6bn and. But for this year revenue target has been lowered down to Rs4bn from the source.

The future revenue targets are not that encouraging. Under the medium term fiscal framework, for example, PORs are projected at Rs7.6bn out of total projected total revenue receipts of Rs 223bn in 2011-12 and Rs8.1bn off Rs251bn in 2012-13.

Agriculture, despite being the biggest sector of its economy, has contributed only Rs0.017 to the provincial exchequer last year in direct taxes and around another Rs0.067bn in non-tax receipts.

KPK has set 6% as the target for increase in provincial tax collection. But the target and the economic revival and growth, the professed goal of the economic managers in KPK, may not be achieved if the existing half-hearted efforts to increase provincial revenue and increased security expenditure and pay and pension budget are taken into account.

KPK relies for about 93 per cent of its revenue needs federal transfers and local and foreign loans. It must increase its revenue generation potential to ensure sustained growth of its economy, to offset the negative fallouts of frequent delays in federal transfers and amid growing current expenditure.

The seventh NFC award had recommended that the federal and provincial governments should streamline their tax collection systems to reduce leakages and increase their revenues through efforts to improve taxation in order to achieve a 15% tax to GDP ratio by 2014. It also underscore the need for the two to initiate steps to effectively tax the agriculture and real estate sectors and develop and enforce mechanism for maintaining fiscal discipline.

By improving tax administration and tax collection system, wastage of money can be stopped while revenue can be increased. To be able to cope with the growing security, payroll and O&M expenditures, the province must invent new sources of income besides augmenting the existing ones.

“The staff strength of the provincial government has risen from 288,203 to 375, 935 posts over last five years. The revenue budget has increased to Rs128bn as against Rs80bn last year. Salary budget was Rs40b in the FY 2008-09, Rs48bn the next year and this year it has been jacked up by 59% to Rs76bn. The operation and management budget is 18 per cent of the current budget and has also witnessed sharp hike of 82 per cent from Rs13bn last fiscal to Rs23bn this year,” said an expert wishing anonymity.

“Police budget has been hiked from Rs9.6bn last year to Rs21bn this year. If the present trend of creation of more posts and subsequent increase in payroll continues, funds for meeting non –salary requirements in future will be severely depleted. This warrants increase in PORs,” he added.

Foreign and domestic debt management has been allocated Rs4.9bn and Rs3bn as compared to Rs0.69bn and Rs2.5bn of last year’s budget estimates. This is a welcome sign.

KPK should bring down its current expenditure by unifying several overlapping departments, restructuring of Public Sector Enterprises, rationalisation of government size, budgetary measures, substantial curtailment of foreign visits and of expenses on public offices, security and energy efficiency and conservation.

Industrial sector has the potential to foster real economic growth in the province. With a proper strategic framework, this sector can play an important role in addressing poverty alleviation by harnessing indigenous resources.

“The provincial growth strategy should focus on production of products that can be made from local raw material like marble, furniture and gemstones sectors,” he added.

Smuggling has been on the rise ever since. The informal economy of the province, believed to be three times bigger than formal economy, would have to be brought into tax-net.

The limited private sector presence is further shrinking as entrepreneurs are shifting to other provinces. Many of the erstwhile industrial zones are wearing a deserted look. This trend has to be reversed through investors’ friendly environment.

KPK has bulky and cheaper workforce available which can be an asset. But the workforce mostly comprises illiterate and unskilled persons. A huge number of them work overseas but remittances are also considerably lower as most of them work on low-paid unskilled jobs. High literacy ratio and skill training centres can tackle the problem.

The agriculture sector has also been neglected. The farm area is only 11 and 30 per cent of the total cultivable land in the country and the province respectively. And it may have been further decreased by residential and commercial use.

To get the province out of its current economic turmoil, importance of a clear vision, a sustained growth strategy and a strong political can’t be overemphasized.

A proactive and robust private sector’s role is a must.

To ensure industrial growth, the provincial government would have to build as many small power generation plants as possible.

The province should invest in labour intensive industries. Exports and value addition may increase provincial revenues.

A self support fund should be opened and locals and expatriates should be asked to contribute in it. The funds should be used for retiring KPK debts, start productive projects and for infrastructure development.

KPK and FATA house over 30 million of the 45mn wild olive trees in Pakistan. By making these trees productive, the province can produce about 75,000 tonnes of olive oil worth $1.5bn annually.

There should be a special plan for livestock farmers. Public or private ventures for boasting the beef and milk production in KPK can boast PORs.

(tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

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