Outlook for Maize in KP

Outlook for maize crop

The Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of the crop in the province. – File photo

PESHAWAR: FARMERS in the Malakand division are hoping a bumper maize harvest this season in the wake of favourable weather condition and the lifting of an unannounced ban on the cultivation of the crop imposed by security forces in 2009.

The Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of the crop in the province.

Nasrullah Khan, a progressive farmer from Buner, said “There are no more restrictions on maize cultivation. The crop remained safe from rains and winds. We are hoping to get a bumper crop in the district with per acre yield of up to 3,200kg in some areas,” he said.

Muhammad Naeem, another progressive farmer and ex-head of the Model Farm Services Centre in Swat, endorsed Khan’s views. Local farmers hope per acre yield of up to 2,000kg from farm seeds and around 2,500kg from hybrid seeds in the area, which is the norm here,” he said.

However, in low/plain areas of the province like Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, according to farmers, maize crop was damaged first by shortage of water and rain and later by torrential rains.

However, officials rule out any damage to the crop from these factors.

Haji Niamat Shah, vice-president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said the most suitable time for maize cultivation in the plain areas of the province was between March and May though it can be sown till July. “But there were no rains and the supply of water was too scanty to cater to the needs of maize and sugarcane crops.

That was why the farmers didn’t cultivate maize until cane was harvested by end of April. Time is of importance as delay in cultivation reduces per acre yield day by day,” he added.

“Maize requires regular watering but cannot survive its excess. The crop was damaged later when it rained heavily and water stood in the fields. The subsequent rains also caused growth of weeds in the crop. The crop also needs proper quantity of DAP and urea intakes. But as prices of these fertilisers more than doubled during this period, these remained mostly unaffordable by poor farmers,” he added.

About 40-50 per cent of the crop across the province might have been lost to these factors, he said. To get the official version, this scribe tried to contact director general agriculture extension KP but he was not available. However, an official from Mardan agriculture department rejected Shah’s assertions and termed it an exaggeration.

“We provide hybrid seeds as well as technology. We had told farmers to cultivate maize either before 45 days or 15 days before the rainy season so that maize flowers are not damaged by winds or rains and the yield is better.

Those who did not follow our advice and making no arrangements for draining out surplus water from their fields might get some of their crops damaged by excess water but that would only be known when the crop was harvested, he said, adding there were no major negative reports from any area in the district and a good crop was expected.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces around 0.8 – 0.9 million tons of maize per year. According to an estimate, Punjab and KP account for 84 per cent of the total maize production and 95 per cent of the maize cultivation area. But while per acre yield of the crop in central Punjab has gone up to 4,600 kg, it is generally between 700-1,200kg in KP.

This is disappointing when that two locally developed hybrid maize varieties Babar and Karamat have yielded up to 4,800kg per acre in research farms.

KP’s share in countrywide maize production has been on the decline — it accounted for 68 per cent of the total maize production in 1996, down to 28 per cent in 2006.

The maize farmers in KP have remained far behind their counterparts in Punjab. According to a Swabi-based farmer Hameed Khan, the per acre yield in Punjab is higher because they use first generation (F1) seeds, do mechanised farming, apply latest production methods and have started commercial farming.

“But in KP, farmers lag far behind on these indicators and use mostly second generation (F2) or even third generation (F3) seeds. And it is known that yield from F2 declines by half while from F3 comes to less than 1/3rd of the F1 potential,” he says.

“Another advantage enjoyed by Punjab farmers is comparatively bigger land holdings and good financial position. They can invest more in standard seeds, fertiliser use and latest farming technology. Through efficient crop rotation and modern agriculture technology they have made it possible to grow three crops while in KP, despite potential, mostly two crops are grown,” he adds.

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Here is the original text of the article

Prospects of maize crop

By Tahir Ali Khan

Farmers in the Malakand division hope for a bumper maize crop in wake of favourable weather and the lifting of an unannounced ban on the cultivation of maize imposed by the security forces in 2009.

Good yield in the area could boost maize production considerably as Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of provincial maize production. A bumper crop besides increasing farmers’ incomes will also provide cheaper maize flour to the people, favoured by them for its warm effects.

Nasrullah Khan, a progressive farmer from Buner, said there were good prospects for the maize crop in the district this year. “There are no more restrictions on maize cultivation. There have been damages neither by rains nor winds. We are hoping to get a bumper crop in the district with PAY of up to 3200kg in some areas,” he informed.

And Muhammad Naeem, another progressive farmer and ex-head of the model farm services centre in Swat, seconded his views and said maize yield in the area will considerably increase as farmers face no curbs on maize cultivation this year. Local farmers eye PAY of up to 2000 kg from the farm seeds and around 2500kg from hybrid seeds in the area, which is the norm here,” he said.

However, in low/plain areas of the province like Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, according to farmers, maize crop has been damaged first by the lack of water and rain and later by excess of water due to torrential rains though officials say there is no threat to the crop from these factors.

Haji Niamat Shah, vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said the most suitable time for maize cultivation in plain areas of the province was between March-May though it can be sown till July. “But there were no rains and the supply of water was also insufficient to cater to the watering needs of sugarcane crop and maize simultaneously. So, the farmers didn’t cultivate the crop until sugarcane was harvested till the end of April. Time is of importance as delay in cultivation decreases per acre yield (PAY) day by day,” he said.

“Maize requires watering regularly but it also cannot survive excess of water. Later when it rained heavily, the crop was damaged by the heated water standing in fields. Heavy subsequent rains also caused growth of unnecessary weeds in the crop. Then, maize also needs proper amount of DAP and urea intakes whose prices have more than doubled during this period, thus becoming mostly unaffordable for the poor farmers” he added.

According to him, about 40-50 per cent of crop across the province might have been lost to these factors. To get the official version, this scribe tried to contact director general agriculture extension KP but he was not available. However, an official from Mardan agriculture department rejected Shah’s assertions, dubbing it as an exaggeration.

“We provide hybrid seeds as well as technology. We had told farmers to cultivate maize either before 45 days or 15 days before the rainy season so that the maize flowers are not damaged by winds or rains and it yield better. Those who have not acted upon our advice and haven’t made arrangements for draining out surplus water from their fields may get some of their crop damaged by excess water but that will only be known when crop is harvested and not now,” said the official adding that there are no big negative reports on maize from any area in the district and a good crop is likely to be harvested.

Similar views were expressed by a Nowshera based official though he conceded crop in some low areas might have been damaged due to excess of water as farmers are generally oblivious to drainage system in the fields.

KP produces around 0.8 to 0.9 million tons of maize annually. According to an estimate, Punjab and KP account for 84 per cent of the total maize production and 95% of the maize area. But while PAY of maize crop in central Punjab has gone up to 4600 kg, it is generally between 700-1200kg in KP.

This is disappointing when viewed in the backdrop of the fact that two locally developed hybrid maize varieties-Babar and Karamat- have yielded up to 4800kg per acre in the research farms.

KP’s share in countrywide maize production has been on the decline – it accounted for 68 percent of total maize produce in 1996 which decreased to 28 percent in 2006.

Maize farmers in KP have remained far behind than their counterparts in Punjab and they need to take advantage of the expertise of their Punjabi brethren for their financial prosperity and food security of the people.

According to a Swabi based farmer Hameed Khan, PAY in Punjab is high because they use first generation (F1) seeds, love mechanised farming and use latest production methods and have started commercial farming. “But in KP, farmers have lagged far behind on these indicators. Farmers use mostly second generation (F2) or even third generation (F3) seeds here. And it is known that yield from F2 declines by half, that of F3 comes to less than 1/3rd of the F1 potential,” he says.

“Another advantage enjoyed by the Punjab farmers is comparatively bigger land holdings and good financial position. They can invest more in standard seeds, fertiliser use and latest farming technology. Efficient crop rotation and modern agriculture technology there have made it possible for them to grow three crops while in KP, despite potential, mostly two crops are grown,” he adds.

The absence of support price mechanism, of official purchase centres and of maize processing plants in the province have discouraged farmers to invest more in maize cultivation.

There are two ongoing schemes from the financial year 2009 in the annual development programme: One, for adaptive research on new hybrid maize varieties worth Rs44mn; and two, maize hybrid seeds production through public private partnership but slow pace of the schemes is mitigating their impacts.

Both the public and private sector need to be proactive and establish seed laboratories and introduce new drought/air resistant maize seed varieties to increase maize production.

Cheating in the examinations

Cheating their way to success

 

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2011-weekly/nos-14-08-2011/pol1.htm#1

Use of unfair means in examinations need to be strictly checked to improve credibility and standard of education
By Tahir Ali

Examination results show the ability and capability of students, teachers and institutions. Good results ensure admission to reputable institutions and eventual success in life. The problem of cheating during examinations has rendered Pakistan’s examination system and its results invalid and unreliable. What is more dangerous is that some students think of it as their right.

The superintendent and other invigilators at a given examination centre have to confront pressure during examinations, ranging from requests by friends and family members to allow cheating to political pressure, and attacks and death threats from student groups. All these pressures are aimed at one thing – to allow students use of unfair means to get good grades.

These allegations of corruption are not restricted to the invigilating staff. There are complaints that invigilating staff of choice is appointed at the boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISEs), papers are leaked and even better grades are maneuvered with the help of BISEs staff and marking/checking personnel there, charges which are denied by BISE officials.

The National Accountability Bureau in collaboration with BISEs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently organised a seminar on the issue where a strategy against the same was prepared. Cheating in the board examinations, in one way or the other, is in the knowledge of all and everyone wants to correct the situation, states an official document prepared by a local BISE.

“Parents’ obsession with their child’s future, private education sector’s efforts to ensure good grades for their candidates, lack of required facilities, non availability of sufficient teachers, books and material in schools, paucity of female teachers and invigilators, absence of criteria and favouritism in teachers’ selection for examination duties both at the department and the board levels, political interference, etc, are some of the problems in this regard,” the document says.

According to a senior educationist, who wishes anonymity, negligible remuneration and daily allowance for invigilators for examination duties is another problem.

“Daily remuneration of Rs25, Rs37 and Rs60 for common invigilators, the deputy superintendent (grade 16 or 17) and superintendent (grade 17-18) respectively gets them around Rs225, Rs700 and Rs1080 for the full duration of the examination. Teachers also get a daily allowance of Rs280 and Rs500 respectively in the same order which is being given at this rate for years now. Earlier, it was given on the basis of running basic pay but now at lump-sum basis. Then there are mostly two papers a day but there is no extra remuneration or daily allowance for them for the double paper,” he says.

The remuneration has remained unchanged for years though examination fees and prices have been increased manifold. “Do the board members, chairman, secretaries, controllers and the other officers at the BISEs draw the same level of remuneration and daily allowances for their examination related duties? It is not unnatural if, in this backdrop of meager remuneration by the BISEs, invigilators do not perform their duties on merit and impartially,” he says.

Examination centres also face paucity of space. The students are to be seated at four meters distance from each other but it is hardly practised for space constraints in the halls. Congested seating, resorted primarily to accommodate the students for shortage of space, makes supervision difficult and makes inter-students communication and copying easy, especially when there is frequent power shutdown in the summer, the examination season in the country.

Students usually use mobile phones for unfair means in the examination. Despite warnings from the staff, they bring mobile set(s) along with them. Invigilators ask them to switch their sets off but they usually dodge. Then, in some cases, megaphones are also used by outsiders to help candidates answer the questions.

Number of staff is also a problem. An invigilator is appointed for 40 students. Though an extra invigilator is allowed for 11 more students but if there are less than 11 students, one invigilator may have to supervise upto 50 students, which makes his or her task very difficult.

In some papers, where the number of students increases from average (on the basis of which the staff is appointed) the superintendents are allowed to appoint extra invigilators but they usually avoid doing so as it requires lengthy procedures to take sanction for extra staff and then no one is ready to do the duty for a day or two.

The boards can punish the cheaters on a written complaint from the superintendents, by canceling the concerned paper(s) or ban him/her for a few years from taking examination. But the examiners usually avoid so for three reasons: One, to avoid lengthy paperwork required to prepare a tenable unfair-means case; two, this can ruin the victim’s future beyond repair; and three, students often react violently at cases. Recently, a local BISE’s controller of examinations narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.

Some invigilators also point out that if students resort to hooliganism, it is the examiners who are accused of not using ways to avoid such incidents. What this practically means is: allow the cheaters if stopping them can create problems.

All the stakeholders in the examination system – students, their parents, teachers, schools and BISEs, who are responsible, though in varying degrees, for rampant malpractices will have to make efforts to stop or minimise this scourge.

It requires a three-pronged strategy to guard against cheating in examination: before, during and after the examination. Teachers and students need to fully commit themselves to teaching/learning process. Students should revise notes at home. Schools with hostel facility usually show better performance. Competitive environment in classes and a proper mechanism for guidance and counseling students are also needed in schools.

To improve teaching at schools, a system of reward and punishment for teachers should be introduced. The performance report of all teachers for this purpose should be prepared on a quarterly basis by the departmental inspection teams from lower classes, rather than on annual basis and at Matric or intermediate levels as these days.

Increase in remuneration and daily allowances of staff and then appointment of honest invigilators should be ensured. This can be easily done by computerising the record and the process of invigilation staff selection. The education department should forward the lists.

Teachers’ unions should not be allowed to interfere in the examination. Ruling political parties will have to take initiative by disowning their political wings in teachers and let the board administrators decide things on merit. Interference by outsiders can be prevented by police personnel and daily visits of inspectors to the examination centre. Moreover, fully enclosed examination halls could also help overcome the problem.

Through awareness campaigns in the print and electronic media and through functions and lectures, people should be convinced of the repercussions of using unfair-means in a students’ career.

“Complete dependence on external examination in total disregard to internal examination for final result of the students is flawed. A comprehensive testing system, which takes into account the results shown by students in both the internal examination conducted by his institution and external one by BISEs, will greatly minimise corruption in the examination,” adds the educationist.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

 

Following is the original text of the article as sent to the paper.

 

Arresting cheating in examinations

By Tahir Ali

It is examination season in the country. Examination results are the yardsticks of students, teachers and institutions ability and good results in it ensure admission in reputable institutions and eventual success in life. But the problem of malpractices during the examination has not only rendered Pakistan’s examination system and its results invalid and unreliable but what is more dangerous is that students are beginning to think of it as their right.

The superintendent and other invigilators at a given examination centre, have to confront several pressures and enticements during the examinations. Ranging from requests by friends and family members to allow malpractices to offers for money to political and social pressures and attacks and death threats from students’ groups, the students, their parents, teachers and institutions try their best to get undue advantage from them during the examination papers.

All these efforts, offers and pressures are aimed at one thing- to allow students the use of unfair means to earn good grades.

These allegations of corruption and malpractices are not restricted to the invigilating staff. There are complaints that invigilating staff of choice is got appointed at the boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISEs), papers are leaked and even better grades are manoeuvred with the help of BISEs staff and marking/checking personnel there, charges which are denied by BISE officials.

The national accountability bureau in collaboration with BISEs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently organised a seminar on the issue where a strategy against the same was prepared.

Cheating in the board examinations, in one way or the other, is in the knowledge of all and everyone wants to correct the situation, states an official document prepared by a local BISE.

“Parents’ obsession with their children future, private education sector’s efforts to ensure good grades for their candidates, lack of required facilities, non availability of sufficient teachers, books and material in schools, paucity of female teachers and invigilators, absence of criteria for and favouritism in teachers’ selection for examination duties both at the department and the board levels, political interference and pressures by the teachers unions are some of the problems in this regard,” it says.

According to a senior educationist, who wished anonymity, negligible remuneration and daily allowance for the invigilators for the examination duties is exacerbating the phenomenon.

“Daily remuneration (tea, meal expenses) of Rs25, Rs37 and Rs60 for common invigilators, the deputy superintendant (grade 16 or 17) and superintendant (grade 17-18) respectively gets them a around Rs225, Rs700 and Rs1080 for the full duration of the examination. Teachers also get a daily allowance of Rs280 and Rs500 respectively in the same order which is being given at this rate for years now. Earlier it was given on the basis of running basic pay but now at lump-sum basis. Then there are mostly two papers a day but there is no extra remuneration or daily allowance for them for the double paper,” he said.

“The remuneration has remained unchanged for years though examination fees and prices have been increased manifold.  Do the board members, chairman, secretaries, controllers and the other officers at the BISEs draw the same level of remuneration and daily allowances for their examination related duties? It is not unnatural if, in this back-drop of meagre remuneration by the BISEs, invigilators hardly resist the offers provided by the institutions and parents of candidates and if they don’t perform their duties on merit and impartially,” he questioned.

According to another public school teacher, examination centres also face paucity of space. “The students are to be seated at four meters distance from each other but it is hardly practised for space constraints at the halls. Congested seating, resorted primarily to accommodate the students for shortage of space, makes supervision difficult, renders inter-students communication and copying easy and makes time miserable for students and the staff especially when there is frequent power shutdown in the summer, the examination season in the country,” he opined.

Students usually use mobile phones for unfair means in the examination. Despite warnings from the staff, they bring mobile set(s) along with them. Invigilators ask them to switch their sets off but they usually dodge. Then megaphones are also used by outsiders to help the candidates answer the questions.

Staff paucity problem is also there. An invigilator is appointed for 40 students. Though an extra invigilator is allowed for 11 more students but if there are less than 11 students, one invigilator may have to supervise upto 50 students. Is it possible?

In some papers where the number of students increases from average (on the basis of which the staff is appointed) the superintendants are allowed to appoint extra invigilators but they usually avoid doing so as it requires lengthy procedure to take the sanction for the extra staff and then no one is ready to do duty for a day or two.

The boards can punish the cheaters, on a written complaint from the superintendents, by cancelling the concerned paper(s)/examination or ban him/her for a few years from taking examination. But the examiners usually avoid so for three reasons: One, to avoid the lengthy paperwork required to prepare a tenable unfair-means case; two, this can ruin the victim’s future beyond repair; and three, students often react violently at UFM cases and even fire at the staff. Recently, a local BISE’s controller of examinations narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.

Some invigilators also pointed out that, if students resort to hooliganism anywhere for strictness of the invigilating staff and any untoward incident happens as a result, it is the examiners who are accused of not knowing/using the tactics to avoid such incidents. What this practically means is clear: allow the cheaters if stopping them can create problems.

How to tackle the problem

All the stake-holders in the examination system- students, their parents, teachers, schools and BISEs, who are responsible, though in varying degrees, for rampant malpractices, will have to make concerted/joint efforts to stop or minimise this scourge.

It requires three-pronged strategies to guard against cheating in examination: before, during and after the examination.

Teachers and students need to fully commit themselves to teaching/learning process. Students should revise the work at homes. Schools with hostel facility usually show better performance.

Competitive environment in classes and a proper mechanism for guidance and counselling of the students are also needed in schools.

To improve teaching at schools, a system of reward and punishment for teachers should be introduced in schools. The performance report of all teachers for this purpose should be prepared on quarterly basis by the departmental inspection teams from lower classes, rather than on annual basis and at Matric or intermediate levels as these days.

Increase in remuneration and daily allowances of the staff and then appointment of honest invigilators should be ensured. This can be easily done by computerising the record and the process of invigilation staff selection. The education department should forward the lists.

Teachers’ unions should not be allowed to interfere in the examination. Ruling political parties will have to take initiative by disowning their political wings in teachers and let the board administrators decide things on merit.

Interference by outsiders can be prevented by enough strength of police personnel and daily visits of resident inspectors to the examination centre. Moreover, fully enclosed examination halls could also help overcome the problem.

Through awareness campaigns on print and electronic media and through functions and lectures by social, political and religious celebrities, people should be convinced of the repercussions of the unfair-means for the students’ careers. Obviously, when children know that their parents can go to any limit to get them pass, why would they work hard after that?

“Malpractices in the examinations could be minimised by reducing the weightage of external examination. The present complete dependence on the external examination in total disregard of the internal examination for the final result of the students is flawed. A comprehensive testing system which takes into account the results shown by the students in both the internal examination conducted by his institution and external one by BISEs besides taking other aspects of his performance and character, apart from the written one, will greatly minimise corruption in the examination,” adds the educationist.

(tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

 

Tea project delayed or Tea prospects in KP

Tea prospects in Pakistan

Or Tea project delayed

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

 

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/15/agriculture-and-technology-tea-project-delayed.html

 

AFTER a long delay following a series of negotiations among stakeholders, an important tea plantation project is likely to be launched in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shortly.

 

The project—a public-private partnership with an outlay of Rs490 million and conceived by the federal government a few years back— has been devolved to the province under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

 

The project was designed to bring around 70 per cent of 3,000 acres in KP and Fata under tea plantation with a capacity to produce around 23 tons of tea per annum. The forest departments in KP and Azad Kashmir had to lease out 1,000 acres each to three private companies for tea cultivation. These companies had to provide job, health care and education to local people in their respective areas.

 

But differences among stakeholders on some issues, reservations of the forest department and the devolution delayed the

project.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is ideal for tea plantation. According to project director Ijaz Malik, the project has been devolved to the province and a sum of Rs25mn earmarked for it this year.

 

“In Azad Jammu and Kashmir the project is going on in full swing. In KP, however, some snags like leasing of land to private companies has delayed its launching. It is expected that the issue will be resolved soon as stake holders have agreed on the lease agreement. The land has been identified and will be handed over to companies after the signing of MoU between a private company and the KP forest department shortly. Things are expected to be sorted out fast as the province will directly deal with the companies,” he said.

 

The National Tea Research Institute (NTRI) in Mansehra through its tea research and advisory unit in Swat, had completed tea plantation over 268 acres before Taliban captured the area. Heavy shelling destroyed the plantation area.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt needs about 35million kg tea for its population of 35 million (around one kg per person per year) including Afghans living in the province and Fata.

 

According to the NTRI estimates, tea can be grown on around 64,000 hectares in Mansehra, Battagram, Swat and some other areas of KP apart from the tribal belt and Azad Kashmir.

 

Even if half of the potential area is brought under tea cultivation, it can produce around 80 million kg of tea enough to meet half of the country’s demand.

 

But, despite enormous opportunities, land under tea cultivation has been dismally low in KP and the country — less than 1000 acres — as the crop has remained ignored both by farmers and the government. There is no specific programme for tea cultivation in the provincial ADP.

 

The tea project was being looked after by the NTRI, a subsidiary of the federal government’s Pakistan Agricultural Research Centre, both retained by the centre even after devolution.

 

According to Husnain, an ex-worker of the NTRI,: “It is the absence of an intensive campaign by both the public and private sectors that had led to low tea acreage and low per acre yield — around 3,500kg per acre per year in NTRI fields but only 1,000-1,500kg at farm level,” he said.

 

“Moreover, the problems of irregular rains and delayed returns from the crop (tea starts production after six years while majority of farmers cannot wait that long as they need money for their daily needs) and lack of official support to lease out land for tea cultivation in the province, have hindered the expansion of the plantation,” added Husnain.

 

The NTRI trains farmers in nursery development, provides tea plants and guidance for cultivation and evolves technology packages for them. It also gives inputs to farmers and purchases their produce. It aims at self-sufficiency in tea. But due to shortage of personnel and absence of extension system, it has limited outreach to farmers.

 

The provincial agriculture department with its large staff, plentiful resources and outreach capacity could play active role in tea plantation that could help earn billions for the cash-strapped province and alleviate poverty in the militancy-hit areas in Malakand division and the tribal belt.

 

The NTRI has three tea research and advisory/marketing units at Swat and Battagram in KP and Abbaspur in AJK.

 

Tea can boost farm income 4-6 times and employ over three million people as labour force and improve their lives, saving billions of dollars by reducing tea imports.

 

This is the original version of the article as it was sent to the paper

 

Delayed Tea plantation project

By Tahir Ali Khan

 

After a long delay and series of negotiations between the stakeholders, a vital tea project is likely to be started in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the near future.

 

The commercialisation of tea production project through public-private partnership worth Rs490 million was originally conceived by the federal government a few years ago but it has been devolved to the province under the 18th amendment. The project will bring around 70 per cent of 3000 acres under tea plantation in KP and in Fata which will yield around 23 tons of tea.

 

Under the project, the forest departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir of had to lease out 1000 acres of land each to three private companies for growing tea and the companies had to provide employment, health and education services to the locals in the respective areas. But some difference between the stakeholders, reservations of the forest department and the issue of devolution delayed the project.

 

KP is ideal for tea cultivation and the delay in leasing out the land to tea companies is beyond comprehension.

 

According to Ijaz Malik, the project director, the project has been devolved to the province and Rs25mn has been earmarked to the project for the year.

 

“In the AJK the project is going on with full swing. In KP, however, some problems like lease of land to the private companies had delayed the launch of the project.  However, now the problems will soon be sorted out as the stake holders have agreed on the lease agreements. The land has been identified and will be handed over to the companies as MOUs between a private company and the KP forest department will be shortly signed. Things will be quickly decided now as provinces will directly deal with the companies,” he said.

 

The delay had prompted the former federal agriculture minister Nazar Gondal in April last year to warn exclusion of KP from the project if the lands were not provided. The threat, luckily, didn’t materialise.

 

The national tea research institute (NTRI) in Mansehra through its tea research and advisory unit in Swat, had completed tea plantation over 268 acres before the Taliban captured the area but then heavy shelling destroyed the planted tea and the local tea processing plant before tea leaves could be collected there.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt needs about 35mn kg tea for consumption (One kg per person per year for a population of around 35mn, including Afghans living in KP and Fata).

 

The NTRI estimates tea can be grown on around 64000 hectares in Mansehra, Battagram, Swat and some other areas of KP alone apart from the tribal belt and Azad Kashmir.

 

If even half (32,000 hectares or 80,000 acres) of the potential area is brought under tea cultivation, it can produce around 80mn kg of tea (average per acre yield of about 1000kg per year) worth Rs24bn (at the modest rate of Rs300 per kg though tea currently is over Rs500 per kg in the market). That is enough to meet half of the national demand.

 

But, despite enormous opportunities, the land under tea cultivation has been dismally low in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the country –less than 1000 acres at the maximum- as the crop has been traditionally ignored both by farmers and the government. There was/is no specific programme for tea cultivation in provincial ADP thus far. The reasons thereof have been numerous.

 

Tea plantation was/is looked after by NTRI, a subsidiary of the federal government’s Pakistan agricultural research centre, both retained by the federal government even under the 18th constitutional amendment.

 

According to Husnain, an ex-worker at NTRI, at individual level, many farmers have grown the crop but even if small farmers here and there cultivate tea on their small landholdings, it can bring little difference on the ground.

 

“It is the absence of an intensive campaign by both the public and private sector that had led to low tea acreage and low per acre yield –around 3500kg per acre per year in NTRI but only 1000-1500kg at farm level,” he said.

 

“Moreover, the problems of irregular rains and delayed returns from the crop –tea starts production after 6 years while majority farmers could not wait that long as they need money for their livelihood needs– and lack of official support to lease out land for tea cultivation in the province have hindered the expansion of the crop,” added Husnain.

 

The NTRI trains the farmers in nursery development, provides tea plants and guidance for tea cultivation and evolve technology packages for tea farmers. It also gives inputs to farmers and purchases their produces. It aims at self sufficiency in tea but due to shortage of personnel and absence of extension system, it has limited outreach to farmers. This explains why farmers in the province have been lukewarm to grow tea despite its huge benefits.

 

The provincial agriculture department with its huge staff, plentiful resources and outreach capacity could play more active role for tea plantation that could help earn billions for the cash strapped province and alleviate poverty in the militancy hit high altitude areas in Malakand division and the tribal belt.

 

The NTRI has three tea research and advisory/marketing units at Swat and Battagram in KP and Abbasspur in AJK but such meagre presence is obviously short of needs and reflect non-committal attitude of the authorities towards the crop.

 

Tea can boost farm income 4 to 6 times and could employ over three million individuals as labour force thus improving their lives and saving billions of rupees by reducing the imports of tea –Pakistan imported 95mn kg in 2009 worth over Rs22bn. The rest was catered to by tea smugglings.

 

Production of organic tea (with use of natural fertiliser) needs to be started. It’s vital in the present scenario when fertiliser prices have almost doubled recently.

 

More incentives (interest free loans or grants in the no-production period of tea crop and the like) need to be given to local farmers.

 

Foreign investment can be ensured atleast in Muree and Mansehra where there is no problem of law and order, the main cited hurdle in local and foreign direct investment.

Potato growers’ woes

Potato cultivars

Image via Wikipedia

Frustrated potato growers of Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/08/frustrated-potato-growers-of-swat.html

WHILE potato growers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from the huge losses caused by the floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes.

Most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored but the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the crop from Kalam and other upper Swat areas difficult, costly and unaffordable for growers.

Officials claimed that the reconstruction work would be finished within a year but the pace of work indicates it may take much longer for the actual completion. If the monsoon this year triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may become impossible.

Shah Abdar, president of model farm services centre, upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows quality potato in abundance. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers.” he said.

“Large size, good quality and taste are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents reap most of the profits. Average per hectare yield of the crop in KP and the country is 12 and 17 metric tons respectively but it is around 20MT in Swat,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project but communication problems are diminishing its impact.

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam, Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sack of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even more. An acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

Going by the current market price, an acre’s harvest can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers. In the international market it could fetch $7,000 or Rs0.59mn (average price of $500 per metric ton).

To fetch a good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. However, it too has its related problems. “The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence need to be used within weeks but nevertheless provide us the growers good returns. The more the delay, the lesser the price at the market,” says Gul.

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

“Inadequate storage, processing facilities and the manipulation of the market by middlemen results in price volatility as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by proper bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” another farmer Bakht Biland Khan, said.

Limited grading and labelling of the produce, absence of regulated local potato purchase along export facilitation centres and market information system are the other major problems faced by potato growers.

Despite favourable climatic conditions for the three potato crops, KP has a meagre share in countrywide potato yield. Its output was about 0.12 million tons from 10,000 hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.The main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat with seeds obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20 per cent potato is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities. A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 per cent reduction in post-harvest losses cane save Rs6 billion.

Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the world market. Despite having export potential worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

Lack of credit facilities is the main snag for small growers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were unable to buy standardised seed from the market as banks denied or delayed credit facilities.

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Original text of the article.

Dejected Swat potato growers

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

 

While potato farmers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from massive losses for the impacts of floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes this season once again.

 

Though most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored, the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potential potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the potato produce from Kalam and other upper Swat areas highly difficult and costly, almost unaffordable for farmers.

 

Officials claim the reconstruction work would finish within a year but the pace and volume of the work suggests it may take three to four years to complete. And if this year’s rainy season triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may virtually come to a standstill.

 

Shah Abdar, the president of model farm services centre upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows abundant quality potato. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers. In the past, farmers in far off villages would bring their produce to the market using camels and donkeys but that has also become unfeasible as onward transportation from upper Swat is expensive beyond affordability, for transportation charges have quadrupled of late,” he said.

“There is vast potential for the crop. Large size and good taste and quality are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents have reaped most of the profits. Average yield per hectare is 12 and 17 metric tons in KP and the country respectively but is around 20MT in Swat. But, for marketing snags, farmers prefer to grow only for their own needs and avoid commercial farming,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project and farmers but communication problems are diminishing its impact now.

 

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sac of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even beyond. And, an acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

 

Going by the current market price, it can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers which is a hefty price by any standard.  And in the international market it could fetch $7000 or Rs0.59mn (on the basis of price of $500 per metric ton).

 

To fetch good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. But it too has its related problems.

 

“The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence needs to be used within weeks but nevertheless they provide us good returns. The more there is delay, the lesser is the price at the market,” says Tor Gul.

 

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

 

“The combination of inadequate storage and processing facilities and middlemen manoeuvres lead to volatility in prices as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production and supply that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” Bakht Biland Khan, another farmer, said.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Swat in particular has not been able to exploit the potato potential. Escalated cost of production, non-availability of quality potato seeds, poor post-harvest handling and lack of value addition and of modern plants of potato by-products in the province are hindering the process.

 

Besides, limited grading and labelling of produce, the absence of regulated local potato purchase centres, potato export facilitation centres and market information system are the other woes of potato growers.

 

Despite being tax-free zone and hub of industries, the lack of potato processing units, one that could produce potato chips or frozen French fries, is amazing to the say the least.

 

A multinational company, according to a report, had agreed to install a potato chips unit in Swat but the facility is no where seen thus far.

 

Despite having favourable climatic conditions for all the three potato crops, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has meagre share in country-wide potato yield. It yielded about 0.12 million tons from 10 thousand hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.

Main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat. Seeds in obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20% of potato quality is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities.  A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 percent reduction in post-harvest losses means savings of Rs6 billion.

 

Potato has large potential for the province and the country. Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the global market. Despite having potential of exports worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

 

The lack of credit facilities are one of the main problems for small farmers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were reportedly unable to buy standardised seed from the market for the banks denied or delayed credit facility to them.

The provincial horticulture policy says nonexistence of producers and marketing associations and market committees, non-exploration of new markets, and traditional outdated delivery systems of horticulture produce as the biggest constraints of the sector.

It recommends setting up of agriculture producers markets and market information systems at the district level and urges for quality grades for vegetables and to establish training institute for productivity and quality enhancement with funding from the export development fund.

The government should provide tax holidays for the first five years to encourage processing industries and ensure launch of specials schemes for development of modern horticulture enterprises in private sector in the province.

Improving agriculture extension system

Improving farm extension services

farm extensionA highly minute per cent of farmers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa use modern technology when it comes to agriculture. – File photo

ONLY about 20 per cent of farmers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa use modern technology in agriculture. This is because either most of them have no money, or if some of them have, they are ignorant and not inclined to use it.

The agriculture extension services staff has not made growers aware of the advantages of the modern farming technology or motivated them to use it.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous developments and various technologies are used for ploughing, sowing, harvesting and packing crops. But most of our local farmers are still stuck to traditional ways of agriculture, resulting in low yields, wastage of assets like water and 30-40 per cent loss of farm-produce.

Farmers either reject or adopt innovations on the basis of their awareness, interest, experience, product cost and their financial position. They are usually too conservative, ignorant and poor to adopt new technologies and strategies, but once the utility of the system is established, they quickly adopt it. But it requires expertise, profuse contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel, which unfortunately are lacking.

Instead of following a proactive approach in its interaction with growers, the agriculture extension officials primarily wait for them to come to it with their problems to get them solved. One wonders why this can’t be the other way round i.e. the directorate staff reaches the farmers at their doorsteps to do the required job.

“Agricultural extension department is mandated to provide research technology to farmers, convey growers’ feedback to agricultural researchers and keeps them abreast of the field problems for further improvement in their research work. It is supposed to contact and train farmers, check sale of fake fertiliser and pesticides, collect data and prepare reports on crops and extension materials for farmers, supporting donors and dealers.

But the extension directorate has given up these functions. Its officials now seldom visit fields and farmers. There is no interaction and liaison with farmers to know their problems and needs,” said Haji Niamat Shah, vice-president of Anjuman-i- Kashtkaran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to him, till the recent past, officers regularly visited farmers and fields. There were daily farmer-specific radio and TV programmes, agriculture extension shows and melas and film shows at village levels, and spraying and pruning of orchards by extension officials.

Fruit plants were also provided to farmers but there is nothing of this sort these days,” he complains.

The extension service has suffered both from insufficient capacity and commitment as well as paucity of staff. Out of 2,654 personnel of the department in 2004, there were only 38 technical officials while field staff numbered 2,129 who had to cater to the agriculture needs of around 1.4mn farms in the province.

When an official had to attend 527 farmers on an average, how could extension duties like making frequent contacts with farmers and checking of pesticides and fertiliser dealers for quality be satisfactorily carried out?

Though there is no direct evaluation of the extension impact – it is indirectly judged from crop yields and cash returns to farmers etc.. There is no authentic data to show as to whether high prices of farm produce have benefited growers more or the middlemen and commission agents?

In 2007-08, model farm services centres were developed for extension purposes but these bodies are now dormant in most of the districts. There is no separate statutory law to govern its functions under which they could be registered.

The department needs to invest on strengthening its information technology section as its website is not updated and still displays figures of 2006 on achievements of agriculture extension services.

The lack of service structure and chances for promotion is discouraging new talent to join the directorate and the existing ones are also leaving their services.

There is a need to establish genuine farmers organisations at village level as community participation is generally better at micro level.

The government and private sector should establish agricultural machinery pools and inputs centres at villages where farmers could get these things and also guidance on subsidised or deferred payment.

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Here is the original script of the article

Improving extension ystem

By Tahir Ali Khan

Agriculture development in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, besides other problems, is also suffering from weak agriculture extension system that has hindered mechanised farming and perpetuated low per acre yield -607kgs as against the national average of 1040kg per acre.

The work of the directorate general of agriculture extension -to disseminate latest agriculture technology and techniques to farmers- is made difficult by apparently scant commitment of the former and the latter’s inability or disinclination to modernise their farming.

The challenge facing the extension department is two-pronged: One, to make the research scientists to develop new varieties and techniques; two, how that is to be made available to farmers and to motivate them to use it. Newly discovered agriculture technologies and techniques come to nothing if these aren’t promptly transferred to farmers -the end users.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous developments and various technologies are used for ploughing, sowing, harvesting and packing the crops but most of the local farmers still use the old-fashioned ways of agriculture resulting in low yields, wastage of agriculture assets like water, around 30-40 per cent loss of on farm-produce and therefore less incomes for them.

Only about 20 per cent farmers use modern agriculture technology. This is because either most have no money to buy and, if they have one, no knowledge or inclination to use the modern farming techniques and services as extension staff fails to motivate them.

Farmers either reject or adopt the innovations on the basis of their awareness, interest, experience, the cost of the product and their own financial position. Though farmers are usually too conservative, ignorant and poor to adopt new technologies and strategies but once their utility is established, they quickly adopt it. But it requires expertise, profuse contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel, which unfortunately are lacking.

 

The current extension service does not suit the requirements of modern age and has weaknesses both in structure as well as methodology: poor use of electronic and print media for transmission of messages, lack of expertise of front-line extension workers, scanty staff strength and thus poor mobility, resource constraints and inadequate opportunities for training and national and international exposure for farmers and officials, and weak linkages between line departments and farmers and educational institutions, and so on.

 

Rather than following a proactive approach in its interaction with growers, the agriculture extension primarily waits for them to come to it with their problems to get them solved. One wonders why this can’t be the other way round i.e. the directorate reaches to farmers at their doorsteps itself rather than the former case.

 

Small farmers have limited access to extension officials and they lack resources, courage and urgency to approach the research and extension systems and are kept from technology adoption their poverty and ignorance.

 

With agriculture having been mostly left to the provinces under the 18th amendment, there can be no better time for major overhauling of the extension system to ensure more efficient extension. This obviously requires substantial increase in resources for the directorate and renewed commitment on part of its staff.

 “Agricultural extension is mandated to provide research technology to farmers, conveys farmers’ feedback to agricultural researchers and keeps them abreast of field problems for further improvement of their research work. It is supposed to contact and train farmers, check the sale of fake fertiliser and pesticides, collect data and prepare reports on crops and extension materials for farmers, supporting donors and dealers. But extension directorate has given up these functions. Its officers and officials now seldom visit fields and farmers. There is no interaction and liaison with farmers to know their problems and needs,” said Haji Niamat Shah, the vice president of Anjumani Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to him, till the recent past, officers would regularly visit farmers and fields. There were daily farmer-specific radio and TV programmes, agriculture extension shows and melas and film shows at village levels, and orchards and spraying and pruning of orchards by extension officials and fruit plants provided to farmers but there is nothing of the sort these days,” he argued.

Extension has suffered both from insufficient capacity and commitment as well as paucity of staff. The extension personnel mostly lack the requisite communication skills and don’t utilise print and electronic media and other resources like mobile, telephone or internet profusely for the purpose.

For example, the directorate, apparently, has not made any special effort to identify and project the areas where foreign donor assistance or large scale public or private sector is direly needed. It is not surprising then that in the agriculture sector there is no foreign funded project in the budget. And it is understandable that most of the farmers still don’t know how and why soil testing is essential and beneficial, what to think of utilising this and other new discoveries for their advantage.

And out of 2654 personnel of the department in 2004, there were only 38 technical officials while field staff numbered 2129 who have to cater to the agriculture needs of around 1.4mn farms in the province. When an official had to attend 527 farmers on average, how can extension duties like making frequent contacts with farmers and checking of pesticides and fertiliser dealers for quality can be satisfactorily done?

Though there is no direct evaluation of the extension impact -it is indirectly judged from crop yields and cash returns to the farmers etc., there is however no authentic data available to show as to whether high prices of agriculture produce have benefited farmers more or the middlemen and commission agents?

In 2007-08, model farm services centres were enthusiastically developed for extension purposes but the bodies were neglected afterwards and these are now dormant in most of the districts. These bodies still have no separate statutory laws to govern its functions and under which it could be registered.

The department needs to invest on strengthening its information technology section as its website is not updated and still displays figures of 2006 on achievements of agriculture extension services.

Female farmers would happily attend trainings and receive inputs and services if these are arranged through female extension workers.

Acknowledging the failure of the extension system, the government rightly intends to revive the erstwhile outreach directorate in the province. The sooner this is done, the better.

The lack of service structure and chances for promotion is discouraging new talent to join the directorate and the existing ones are also leaving their services.

There is a need to establish but genuine farmers organizations at village level as community participation is generally better at micro level.

 

Close partnership between the public extension system and the work of participatory NGOs will surely maximize coverage to the farmers. An agricultural T.V. Channel can be opened to corroborate the efforts of the research and extension system in transfer of technologies to the farming community.

 

There are two separate extension departments for agriculture and livestock which is unwarranted since it is costly and expose farmers to frequent visits of narrow specialists. Instead, there should be multi-commodity focused extension where different technical specialists may offer advice to farmers at their doorstep simultaneously.

The government and private sector should establish agricultural machinery pools and inputs centres at villages where farmers could get these things and guidance on subsidized or deferred payment.*******************************************