devolution of agriculture: impact on KP

In the process
More steps need to be taken to complete the process of agricultural devolution to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
By Tahir Ali

As ordained by the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the longstanding highly centralised agriculture sector was last year devolved to provinces. It goes without saying that this devolution has increased the responsibilities of the provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They must come to grips with their financial and capacity constraints to deliver on this front as agriculture accounts for livelihood of around 70 percent of people in the country.

Increased powers require capacity enhancement and efficiency on the part of provinces but apparently facing budgetary and capacity constraints, shortage of personnel, lack of sufficient technology, the new beneficiaries seem ill-prepared to look after the devolved subjects.

What are the financial implications and how the province is coping with them? What has it done to increase the capacity of its employees to cope with the new responsibilities?

While acknowledging that problems of capacity constraints are there, officials, nevertheless, claim that KP’s agriculture department is fully capable to cope with the increased responsibilities and functions following the devolution of agriculture ministry to the province.

Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Israr Muhammad, says the province has sufficient resources and personnel to perform the new roles. “We have made elaborate arrangements for the purpose. By fulfilling the longstanding demand of the employees for service structure, we have promulgated the 4-tier formula for the officials serving in the agriculture extension, research and livestock sub-sectors. Again, different sections of the department have been allocated sufficient budgets to train their officials so that they could better perform the devolved functions. The department has correlated its targets with the outcomes of provincial agriculture policy and provincial horticulture policy.”

“While the provincial soil conservation directorate can fully address the devolved functions regarding soil survey of Pakistan, another post of director marketing has been created to look after the devolved agriculture products’ grading and marketing responsibilities,” he adds.

To a question as to what were the financial implications of the devolution for the province, Mr Muhammad says, “We have had to own only a few personnel of the soil survey of Pakistan (SSoP), which was handed over to Punjab but it decided to take only the employees and assets within its territory. Accordingly, we have sent the case of these officials to the inter-provincial coordination (IPC) division Islamabad through the provincial IPC department and the decision is awaited. They will be adjusted as and when the decision is conveyed,” he says.

“There is no shortage of money. The ANP-led government has increased the agriculture budget and it has promised to look after all our financial needs in the wake of ongoing and new projects,” he informs.

He says of the three PSDP projects that were left to the provinces to look after them — the national programme for improvement of water courses, programme for high efficiency irrigation and the crop maximisation project — KP has allocated Rs355million, Rs120mn and Rs170mn for them respectively from its own resources for the current fiscal. The money is sufficient for the year and the provincial government has assured us of financial allocation if need be.”

But the problems remain to be addressed. The PODB has been wound up and its functions devolved to provinces. “If any province or donor agency and foreign country wish to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for developing oilseeds or olive or any other agriculture crop, it will still have to seek approval of federal entities like PARC or ministries like economic affairs division and ministry of commerce,” says an official on the condition of anonymity.

“Had the provinces been fully empowered in this respect, agriculture would have greatly benefited. The provinces also need improved seeds and other services from foreign countries. They either need to be empowered or a facilitation centre needs to be setup for the purpose at provincial or federal level,” he says adding, “The resourceful tea/tobacco research institutes and PARC, etc, have been retained at the centre and only the financially weaker attached departments with only liabilities and no incomes have been handed over to provinces.”

The landmark 18th          amendment had devolved 12 functions and attached departments of the now defunct federal ministry of food, agriculture and livestock (MINFAL) to provinces or other federal ministries.

The devolved functions include those of plant protection; economic studies for framing agriculture policies; farm management/ research for planning; project formulation and evaluation; crops forecast and crop insurance; marketing intelligence; agriculture commodity, market and laboratory research; soil survey and preparing comprehensive inventory of soil resources; production of special crops like UT olive; standardisation of agriculture machinery; economic planning and coordination with regard to cooperatives; socio-economic studies for framing agriculture research policies; and high level manpower training for agriculture research.

As for the attached departments of MINFAL, the agriculture grading and marketing department, agriculture policy institute, department of plant protection, directorate general of food and agriculture, federal seeds certification and registration department, SSoP, Pakistan agriculture research council (PARC) and national agriculture research council, Pakistan central cotton committee, Pakistan oilseeds development boards (PODB) were devolved to provinces, adjusted in other federal ministries or wound up. For example SSoP was handed almost entirely to Punjab.”

The above devolution of functions and attached departments was affected according to the notification of June, 2011. But recently, another entity with the name of federal food security and research division (FFSRD) has been formed which will cater to all the functions of the former MINFAL to ensure food security and coordinate research in the country. The FFSRD is gradually obtaining back all the attached departments that had been handed over to other federal ministries. The export of agriculture items that had been handed over to the ministry of commerce will be reverted back to the new ministry.


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