Reviving Agriculture and Tourism

Malakand, now

Plans and projects still need to be worked out to address many issues facing the division

By Tahir Ali

(The News, 23-01-2011)

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/jan2011-weekly/nos-23-01-2011/pol1.htm#5

Despite federal and provincial governments and international community’s efforts to revive agriculture and tourism in Malakand Division, some problems are impeding the process.

Soon after the return of displaced persons to the region in 2009, the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) began planning for early recovery and was about to start reconstruction efforts in the militancy-hit area but unprecedented floods interrupted the process.

“The finances and other resources had to be diverted to flood-affected areas across the country. This diverted the attention and resources of both the government and the international community from conflict-hit areas to start relief work for flood affectees,” says Adnan Khan, spokesman of PaRRSA.

But that was not the only problem. Locals think that lack of coordination between stakeholders, security and communication problems, lack of funds, provision of substandard farm inputs, negligence of remote areas in Swat in the distribution of free agricultural inputs and flawed distribution of hotel compensation money also slowed the process.

Various local and international non-governmental organisations are giving cash and technical support to farmers in the region but for absence of necessary coordination with farmer’s bodies and government departments, free farm-inputs and livestock in the militancy/flood-hit are being consumed by undeserving people.

President of model farm services centre Swat, Muhammad Naeem, appreciates the role of NGOs, “They are providing seeds, urea, DAP and agriculture tools and livestock to farmers. But in some cases commodities are being given to those who are neither farmers nor tenants. The agriculture and revenue department, the MFSC and the farmers’ association should be there in the apportionment and supply process of these inputs,” he says.

“The problem is that working of NGOs and government officials is restricted to the suburbs of Mingora and the far-flung areas like Kabal and Matta are not getting due support,” he adds.

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of Kissan Board Swat, says village organisations (VOs) might have been formed and given inputs by NGOs. “I cannot confirm or deny whether any inputs, support and training have been given to VOs in other areas but the VO in my village Dagaia, Kabal has received nothing for the last few months. Also, most VOs were already functioning in villages. VOs comprising of genuine farmers need to be formed,” he says.

Other insurgency-hit districts in Malakand division: Dir, Buner, Shangla, etc, also seem to have received scarce attention, resources and projects.

As per the Damaged Need Assessment (DNA), the agriculture, including the livestock and horticulture sectors suffered losses of Rs57.4bn, mostly in the Malakand division. The post-flood damages in agriculture and horticulture stand at Rs4.5bn. The forest sector lost Rs20bn, bulk of it in Malakand. The losses to Swat’s tourism industry stand at Rs731mn in infrastructure and of Rs2.29bn in revenue, according to the USAID.

To a question as to what PaRRSA has done to revive agriculture, livestock and tourism and what precisely are its achievements thus far, Adnan Khan says PaRRSA has done its due, “An Italy-funded Rs800mn Early Recovery of Agriculture and Livelihood Programme (ERALP) is being implemented by PaRRSA in agriculture. It will support 80,000 households and 638,000 beneficiaries in various subsectors of agriculture. 33 percent funds of another $21mn foreign funded project is being spent in the area under which immediate support is being provided in the form of provision of seed, fertilizer, animal feed and rehabilitation of water channels,” he says, adding, “Besides, PaRRSA is also implementing some other USAID-funded economic growth projects in Malakand division”.

“Another 8,800 households are benefitting from the cash for work activities under ERALP. Support to 22 Trout Fish Farms is being provided with a USAID project of $1.2mn. Under the Livelihood recovery program of $1.8mn, 7200 families have received micro-grants to increase their incomes in both the farm and non-farm sectors,” the official adds.

Besides, approval of the following projects is still pending with USAID. As for coordination and support from the federal government, international donors and non-governmental organisations, Khan says “the federal government and international donor community has taken keen interest in addressing needs of the individuals in almost all the sectors, however, the magnanimity of the damages still calls for more support. The international community had made several pledges for different sectors in the area but most are yet to be fulfilled,” he informs.

There have been no commitments from the international community for irrigation, livestock, forestry, energy and in mines and mineral sectors. In the agriculture sector, only Rs0.8bn have been provided as against the need of Rs2.2bn for post militancy reconstruction projects.

According to Khan, out of the total $4.3mn USAID-funded project for tourism, $0.56mn has been disbursed so far among 265 Swat hotels. Zahid Khan, President All Swat Hotels Association, believes the programme in its present shape might not serve its purpose. He criticises the survey and categorisation of hotels and says it has led to local rivalries.

“Most of the money is allegedly being consumed in security, transportation, remuneration and other expenses of project staff with little money being left for the affected hoteliers,” he claims.

Media advisor of USAID, Shahzad Badar, says categorisation has been made under relevant laws and there was no question of nepotism at the time of gradation of hotels. Though he agrees that the survey might be reviewed if there were still genuine reservations on rating of hotels but fails to reply how much of the money is required to be consumed by the project’s staff and how much will be left to the hotels.

The destroyed or deserted government hotels and motels, like the Malam Jabba PTDC hotel, should not have been left out of the project. Also, hotels seem to have been categorised on the basis of the number of their rooms and status of the building and not on the basis of the losses suffered by each one of them due to militancy and floods. Malakand accounts for 34 percent of plums, 95 percent of walnuts and 82 percent of provincial apple yield. It also accounts for 32, 22, 64 and over 50 percent of the provincial production of maize, wheat, rice and vegetables and fruit respectively.

Development and rehabilitation of agriculture and tourism is important as around 80 percent of the people are dependent on the sectors, directly or indirectly.

Pakistan has received billions of dollars in Coalition Support Fund. The province, being the hardest-hit, deserves most of the funds but under the enhanced partnership agreement, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is to get only 11 percent ($124.3 million off the $1.442 billion funds this year).

“Donors are attaching two more conditions and asking for unnecessary explanations which will certainly cause operational delays. They also want too many things done with meagre funds. Instead of spending on small schemes, funds should be spent on major projects,” says an official who does not want to be identified.

KP reshaping agriculture policy

KP reshaping agriculture policy.

By Tahir Ali
(DAWN Monday, 24-01-11)

 

AS the year 2011 sets in, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is
reshaping its agriculture policy to increase farmers’ incomes in the province.

A senior agriculture ministry official said: “The agriculture policy enforced in 2005 needs to be revised and updated.”

“The objective is to assess our performance in the light of the policy and learn about our achievements and shortcomings and remove bottlenecks in its implementation.

“This review will enable us to reshape the agriculture policy, bring in improvements in it as per new challenges of the time and take remedial measures to develop agriculture, livestock and its other sub-sectors in the province,” said Gul Nawaz Khatak, the chief planning officer in the provincial department of agriculture.

According to him, the main problem confronting the agriculture sector in the province is the poverty and inability of small farmers to buy quality inputs. But they had been, to some extent, neglected in the 2005 policy. “They will have to be empowered now. The banks are already providing agriculture credit to these farmers at a mark up of eight per cent to buy inputs and services,” he disclosed.

“And good news is that the provincial cooperative bank and its cooperative societies have been revived. The government would provide Rs1 billion seed money to the bank to give easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women to increase their income.

“Another intervention is the start of Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme which would provide farm inputs, financial and technical support to thousands of farmers,” he added.

“ Easy availability of farm inputs easily at critical times of sowing of Kharif and Rabi crops are one of the pressing problems. “Prices are beyond our jurisdiction as these are determined by inflation and market forces. But we will ensure timely and easy availability of inputs to farmers. The farm services centres have been established for the purpose and their numbers would be increased in future,” he added.

But will their limited number (60 only), restricted membership and weaker financial position let that happen, one wonders.

To cope with the decreasing agriculture land owing to its unprecedented conversion into real estate, the government, he said, would focus on bringing vast cultivable wasteland under agriculture by leveling and developing it through bulldozers and tractors.

But increase in acreage demands more irrigation water, shortage of which is becoming a nightmare for farmers. “This will be done on two counts: by efficient management of available water for which schemes have been prepared, and through extension of irrigation infrastructure by building small dams which is being done by the irrigation department,” he added.

The official claimed that his department was also working out on how to cope with the new and bigger responsibilities following the devolution of some departments to the provinces.

Access to market and improved marketing is vital for increasing farmers’ income. “To address the problem, we intend to establish more regulator markets across the province. At present these markets function only in two districts. These markets will have committees comprising 6-10 farmers and one official who will weigh, assess and sell farmers’ produces. Farmers will get good price for their produce and hard work,” Khatak opined.

“Lack of coordination between farmers and government has harmed the growers a great deal. First, we are trying to remove glitches in inter/intra departmental coordination and then it will be strengthened with farmers and their representative bodies,” he said.

On financial help to flood-hit farmers, Khatak said Rs240 million had been earmarked for the purpose which would be distributed shortly among farmers through district coordination officers.

Seeds research farms in the province have developed high-yielding wheat, maize, fruit and vegetable seeds but their timely and easy availability has always been a problem. “When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available, farmers have to use substandard and often spurious inputs and are looted by the profit hungry mafia. This explains the reason behind rampant low per acre yield in the province.”

The primary goal of the 2005 agriculture policy is to ensure food security and alleviation of poverty, but it seems a far cry if low per acre yield, poverty of farmers, outdated farming and lack of planning for any crash programme for uplift of agriculture is considered.

The culture of household farming can also bring positive changes.The growing role and impact of middlemen in agri-businesses has also gone unnoticed
The government has so far failed to streamline inputs distribution. The mass availability of fake, substandard and under-weight varieties are badly hampering farmers’ productivity and it would have to be stopped.

If expert advice, machinery and marketing support are provided to farmers, they will change farming from subsistence farming to commercial and modernised one.

The agriculture sector has been ignored so far despite the fact that it accounts for over 20 per cent of provincial gross domestic product and about 80 per cent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s population is dependent on it for survival.

The government will have to ensure especially increase in per acre yield, land development, and developing the livestock sector and horticulture and augment storage capacity for vegetables, grains and fruits. Preparation of better feed for animals, milk farming and meat-farming should also be given allocations.

USAID-funded Swat hotel package

Call to review compensation package for Swat hotels

DAWN January 10, 2011

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/10/call-to-review-compensation-package-for-swat-hotels-2.html

WILL the US-funded compensation programme for Swat’s militancy-hit hotels help revive the local hotel industry while its representatives are questioning the flawed mode of grant distribution?

The lack of coordination between the industry and the Firms Project and the controversy over the categorisation of hotels through an “incorrect survey” may not serve the purpose for which the funds are being provided, complain hoteliers. The USAID media advisor says the project managers are ready to review the survey if there are still some reservations over it.

Zahid Khan, president of All Swat Hotels Association (Asha), welcomes the $4.5 million help for the Swat hotel industry but thinks that the programme would not revive the tourism industry.

He criticises the survey and categorisation of hotels. “The categorisation is the basis of distribution of money and hotel accessories. The categories A (3 star hotel), B (2 star) and C (1 star) will be provided Rs0.65million, Rs0.3million and Rs0.11 million in cash respectively as compensation. Each hotel will also get accessories worth Rs1mn, Rs0.85mn and Rs0.51mn in that order. But the categorisation of hotels by the Firms Project was flawed as many hotels have been assessed wrongly. It has been conducted on the basis of favouritism. And the coming phase of offering hotel paraphernalia is also flawed,” Khan complained.

“A brick and a cement bag, for example, that cost Rs9 and Rs300 in the market have been projected at Rs27 and Rs690 respectively. The prices should be brought down and the hoteliers should be asked to take their dues,” he said.

Also, it seems that hotels have been categorised on the basis of number of rooms and status of the building and not on the basis of losses suffered by each of them because of militancy and floods.

Mr Khan added that though the programme was started with around $4.5 million, much of the money was allegedly being used for the security, transportation, remuneration and other expenses of the project staff.

“Initially the hotel association was taken on board but was kept aloof from the survey. We have sent our views to the Firm Project but our reservations have not been addressed. The survey needs to be reviewed for fair distribution of the compensation amount. There should have been close coordination between the surveyor and the association,” he added.

Media advisor of USAID Shahzad Badar said hotels were categorised in line with the Pakistan Hotels and Restaurants Act of 1976 and other relevant laws/directories.

Asha had provided a list of 22 hotels which in their opinion were neglected, misclassified or incorrectly rated. All hotels were accounted for, necessary corrections were made and subsequent working grants were issued to them, he said. “On September 16, 2010, we provided the hotel association with complete responses and justification for each.

However, hotels owned by government, hotels converted to other businesses during the census period and those who didn’t participate in the census were left out as they didn’t meet the requirements. Some of the hotels were occupied by the army and the surveyors were not allowed to collect complete census data of these hotels,” he said.

He said the question of favouritism by the surveyor didn’t arise as the survey was completed before the grants programme was even designed or known.

“The Firms Project had kept the hotel association abreast of the survey and resultant grants to hotels. Asha had promised its support for the successful implementation of the programme. The president and office bearers of Asha participated in various programme activities from May to December 2010,” he said.

“The Firms Project is mandated to work with the provincial government and is taking their guidance on the best means of restoring the hotel industry in Swat and bringing revenue back to the area,” he said.

As to the ‘inflated’ security, lodging, transportation and remuneration expenses of the project personnel, Mr Badar said Firms Project had been implemented in accordance with the scope of work and budget approved by the USAID.

“The operational cost, including transportation and remuneration expenses of staff and their security arrangements, was kept at reasonable rates so that the bulk of money could be spent directly on revitalising tourism in Swat,” he added.

Mr Badar, however, failed to specify as to how much of the money was estimated to be consumed by the project’s staff and how much would be left for the hotels.

As far as prices of items in the survey forms are concerned, he said, the average costs on these include transportation costs for hotels located in Swat Valley including Kalam. These are for the purpose of estimation only.

The actual cost of each item and their transportation cost will vary from hotel to hotel based on their distance from the location of vendor’s shop,” he added.

He agreed to review the survey if there were any reservations on inclusion or rating of hotels. “The Firms Project intends to update the hotels census/survey soon to include all such genuine hotels that were left out in the first phase due to their unwillingness at that time or due to an oversight on the part of surveyors and to capture post-flood updated information of Swat hotels,” he clarified.

According to an estimate, the tourism industry in Swat suffered a loss of Rs8 billion in last nine years in various tourism dependent sectors like hotel, transport etc.

Revival of tourism in Swat is pivotal to rehabilitation of people there as millions directly or indirectly depend upon the sector but it requires robust funding to build the tourism infrastructure and improve law and order.

With the government hotels and motels, like the Malam Jabba PTDC hotel, in the area also destroyed or deserted, these also should have been restored but these have been left out of the project.

Early recovery project for Malakand farmers

Early recovery project for Malakand farmers

 
Dawn January 3, 2011

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/03/early-recovery-project-for-malakand-farmers.html

A
$10 million early recovery of agriculture and livestock programme has
been launched in the Malakand division for the benefit of farmers
affected by floods and militancy.

The programme, initiated in October 2010 and to be completed by
October 2011, is being implemented and monitored by the Provincial
Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Settlement Authority (PRRSA) with
the Italy’s debt swap grant.

According to a PRRSA official, the programme is improving the lives and incomes of the households in the target areas.

“Within three months, the programme has helped restore and increase
community-government liaison, revitalised village organisations (VOs)
in the project area, restored and strengthened inputs supply chain,
increased the number of farmers in model farm services centre (MFSC) by
about 159 per cent from 1,588 to 3,959,” he said.

“In two batches of the programme for revival of commercial poultry
farms, three female and seven male farmers, earned about Rs12million by
investing Rs10 million.

In maize crop, one Sheerin from Miandam, Swat, increased per acre
yield by about 163 per cent enhancing earning from Rs48,000 to over
Rs1,28,000. In pea crop, Gulshan and Ali Rehman of Miandam increased
their incomes from Rs13,700 to Rs75,000 and from Rs11,800 to Rs53,000,”
the official added.

“For the first half of the project which ends in March 2011, we had
a target of forming or revising 60 VOs, but we have formed 90 bodies so
far. We intended to provide, inter alia, maize, pea and onion seeds to
6,600, 2,700, and 2,000 farmers respectively. We have given seeds of
these crops to 3,200, 2,700, and 660 farmers in that order already. We
provided 235 tons of wheat seeds out of 300 tons and gave 1,300 tons of
fertilisers to farmers of our 3,000 target,” he added.

“In the livestock sector, the project intended to provide 12,500
poultry units to women farmers but instead 4,600 were provided with the
poultry. As against the plan to vaccinate 13,500 animals, 15,000 were
vaccinated. Establishment of 50 water conservation ponds in the area is
also in progress,” he said.

“In the forestry sector, against the target for setting up of 17
private forest nurseries, 22 were opened. The 2.1 million of the forest
plant production target has also been met.

Working on 81,000 olive trees against the target of 200,000 has been
done. However, community plantation has been carried out at only 84
hectares against the targeted 2,200 hectares,” the source said.

“We will be giving 400,000 fruit plants and 10,000 and 500
hand/power sprayers to farmers and opening 20 private fish farms in the
area. Some 50 farmers’ field schools and 12 each agriculture/livestock
extension workers training centres would also be set up. We would also
be rehabilitating 100km long irrigation channels. Ten biogas plants
will also be installed,” he informed.

By providing farm inputs, agricultural technology, poultry and
livestock to the affected farmers in selected parts of Malakand
division – Kabal, Matta, Charbagh, Khwaza Khela tehsils of Swat and Dok
Dara union council in Upper Dir- ERALP, the project aims at restoring
food security of the area people at household level, help recover the
pre-crisis level of agriculture production and improve the
capacity/incomes of the poor families, especially of women, landless
and vulnerable people through income generation activities,
reforestation, orchard management and rehabilitation of irrigation
system in the area.

“By improving their incomes through delivery of better tools,
inputs, knowledge and market access, not only their poverty can be
reduced but the problems of food security and food inflation can be
solved,” added a farmer Naeem.

Ms Sara Rezoagli, an official of the Italian embassy, has promised
that the project could be extended after reviewing its financial
aspects and recommendations of technical experts.

Agriculture was badly affected by years of militancy and the devastating flash floods in July last year in the region.

The post-militancy damage needs assessment report had estimated
Rs2.2 billion losses for fruits and Rs2.8bn for vegetables in the area.
It also revealed that 75 per cent of the livestock population has been
lost in the region.

The DNA had envisaged Rs22 billion for rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock and irrigation sectors in the area. .

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of MFSC, Swat, was sceptical of
any positive impact of the programme. “VOs might have been formed but
most were already functioning at village levels and didn’t comprise
farmers necessarily. I cannot confirm or deny whether any inputs,
support and training has been given to VOs in other areas but the VO in
my village Dagai, Kabal, has not been given anything during the last
few months,” he said.

“PRRSA in June last year had distributed maize and pea seeds besides
providing wheat seeds and fertilisers through the extension department
and MFSCs. The extension department officials also worked better. I am
at a loss to understand as to why the good process of working through
the extension department and the MFSCs was given up and new independent
methodology was adopted for this project,” he maintained.

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Early recovery project for Malakand farmers

Early recovery project for Malakand farmers


Dawn January 3, 2011

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/03/early-recovery-project-for-malakand-farmers.html

A $10 million early recovery of agriculture and livestock programme has been launched in the Malakand division for the benefit of farmers affected by floods and militancy.

The programme, initiated in October 2010 and to be completed by October 2011, is being implemented and monitored by the Provincial Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Settlement Authority (PRRSA) with the Italy’s debt swap grant.

According to a PRRSA official, the programme is improving the lives and incomes of the households in the target areas.

“Within three months, the programme has helped restore and increase community-government liaison, revitalised village organisations (VOs) in the project area, restored and strengthened inputs supply chain, increased the number of farmers in model farm services centre (MFSC) by about 159 per cent from 1,588 to 3,959,” he said.

“In two batches of the programme for revival of commercial poultry farms, three female and seven male farmers, earned about Rs12million by investing Rs10 million.

In maize crop, one Sheerin from Miandam, Swat, increased per acre yield by about 163 per cent enhancing earning from Rs48,000 to over Rs1,28,000. In pea crop, Gulshan and Ali Rehman of Miandam increased their incomes from Rs13,700 to Rs75,000 and from Rs11,800 to Rs53,000,” the official added.

“For the first half of the project which ends in March 2011, we had a target of forming or revising 60 VOs, but we have formed 90 bodies so far. We intended to provide, inter alia, maize, pea and onion seeds to 6,600, 2,700, and 2,000 farmers respectively. We have given seeds of these crops to 3,200, 2,700, and 660 farmers in that order already. We provided 235 tons of wheat seeds out of 300 tons and gave 1,300 tons of fertilisers to farmers of our 3,000 target,” he added.

“In the livestock sector, the project intended to provide 12,500 poultry units to women farmers but instead 4,600 were provided with the poultry. As against the plan to vaccinate 13,500 animals, 15,000 were vaccinated. Establishment of 50 water conservation ponds in the area is also in progress,” he said.

“In the forestry sector, against the target for setting up of 17 private forest nurseries, 22 were opened. The 2.1 million of the forest plant production target has also been met.

Working on 81,000 olive trees against the target of 200,000 has been done. However, community plantation has been carried out at only 84 hectares against the targeted 2,200 hectares,” the source said.

“We will be giving 400,000 fruit plants and 10,000 and 500 hand/power sprayers to farmers and opening 20 private fish farms in the area. Some 50 farmers’ field schools and 12 each agriculture/livestock extension workers training centres would also be set up. We would also be rehabilitating 100km long irrigation channels. Ten biogas plants will also be installed,” he informed.

By providing farm inputs, agricultural technology, poultry and livestock to the affected farmers in selected parts of Malakand division – Kabal, Matta, Charbagh, Khwaza Khela tehsils of Swat and Dok Dara union council in Upper Dir- ERALP, the project aims at restoring food security of the area people at household level, help recover the pre-crisis level of agriculture production and improve the capacity/incomes of the poor families, especially of women, landless and vulnerable people through income generation activities, reforestation, orchard management and rehabilitation of irrigation system in the area.

“By improving their incomes through delivery of better tools, inputs, knowledge and market access, not only their poverty can be reduced but the problems of food security and food inflation can be solved,” added a farmer Naeem.

Ms Sara Rezoagli, an official of the Italian embassy, has promised that the project could be extended after reviewing its financial aspects and recommendations of technical experts.

Agriculture was badly affected by years of militancy and the devastating flash floods in July last year in the region.

The post-militancy damage needs assessment report had estimated Rs2.2 billion losses for fruits and Rs2.8bn for vegetables in the area. It also revealed that 75 per cent of the livestock population has been lost in the region.

The DNA had envisaged Rs22 billion for rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock and irrigation sectors in the area. .

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of MFSC, Swat, was sceptical of any positive impact of the programme. “VOs might have been formed but most were already functioning at village levels and didn’t comprise farmers necessarily. I cannot confirm or deny whether any inputs, support and training has been given to VOs in other areas but the VO in my village Dagai, Kabal, has not been given anything during the last few months,” he said.

“PRRSA in June last year had distributed maize and pea seeds besides providing wheat seeds and fertilisers through the extension department and MFSCs. The extension department officials also worked better. I am at a loss to understand as to why the good process of working through the extension department and the MFSCs was given up and new independent methodology was adopted for this project,” he maintained.

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