Small farmers getting little bank credit

Small farmers denied access to bank credit

By Tahir Ali

October 31, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/31/small-farmers-denied-access-to-bank-credit.html

SMALL farmers have very limited access to agriculture credit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The worst-hit are the growers in the far-flung hilly and tribal areas.

They continue to rely on informal sector for their needs for credit that keeps them in a vicious debt-cycle and poverty trap.

The province accounts for only around four per cent of national agriculture credit disbursement. Whereas only six per cent of farmers in the province have access to agriculture credit against 21 per cent for the country.

Various easy credit schemes, support price mechanism and subsidy regimes in the past were designed for small and medium size farmers, but only big landlords ended up as its beneficiaries.

Small farmers got a raw deal in the existing 2005 agriculture policy as they could not provide collaterals for loans. Long credit approval and disbursement process, high mark-up and fewer lending branches are responsible for low agriculture credit in KP.

“The formalities for any agriculture loan require lengthy documentation that take around two to four months to complete,” said a bank manager when asked on the process of lending farm loans.

He suggested that small farmers should be given loans on personal guarantees. Group-based credit schemes are being followed by small banks but need to be taken up by main banks to improve credit disbursement ratio. Crop as well as life insurance is the best way to minimise the risk of farming community against losses and of banks against non-repayment.

Shahid Khan, a Mardan-based farmer, held banks responsible for low level of agriculture credit in the province.

“The banks avoid lending to farmers for fear of default. Much has been said about one-window operation but no bank has as yet come out with a fast track mechanism for credit disbursement. The banks must simplify their agriculture loaning system. Mobile credit officers should reach farmers at their doorsteps for credit delivery,” he said.

Last year, the government had promised Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers from bank but only Rs200 million was released. This year too, only Rs400 million was expected.

A borrower can avail a maximum unsecured financing up to Rs500,000 from banks as per prudential regulations. Also, under the revolving credit scheme, banks provide finance for farming on the basis of revolving limits for a period of three years with one-time documentation.

Borrowers are required to clear the entire amount of loan (including markup) in the agreed time. Agricultural credit under the scheme can be availed against personal surety but it is seldom allowed.

Under agricultural passbook system, banks are bound to allocate 70 per cent of their loans to subsistence farmers.

Globally, various innovative lending techniques like group based lending (the Grameen model), self-help groups (Indian model), solidarity group (Latin America model), community based organisation (also called village banking) have been successfully applied, which have made lending affordable and easily accessible to small farmers, helping them to improve farm productivity.

In group-based lending, small groups of farmers are formed by lenders involving 5-10 members having identical needs.

Collateral is generally not required and a joint liability agreement/undertaking takes its place wherein each member takes the responsibility of the outstanding debt of all group members. In case of any change in the group, a fresh guarantee is signed by the members.

A group coordinator acts as a facilitator of the group and agent of the bank. The bank ensures that group coordinator is executing the assigned tasks as prescribed like liaison with members, arrangement of meetings, etc. and if need be replace him, with consensus, in case he fails to deliver.

Group members ensure that the bank receives timely repayments from the borrowers. If a borrower dies, liability lies with the remaining group members. However, life insurance could safeguard the interests of both the borrowers and lenders.

Eligibility criteria for borrowers are: not more than 12.5 acres land (tenant or lessee) or 40 sheep, computerised national identity card, residence in the village and membership in the village organisation. The minimum credit limit is Rs20,000 and maximum Rs200,000.

Farm loans are repayable as per production cycle of crops. For non-crop activities like livestock farming, repayment period is three to five years.

 

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Unaffordable soil testing

Unaffordable soil testing

The private sector should also set up its own soil testing laboratories in farming areas to supplement the work of the public sector. – File photo

“I AM 70 and have never used the soil testing technology so far,” says Niaz Muhammad, a Swat-based farmer. “Such technologies are only for big farmers of the plains and not for the poor growers of remote areas,”
he says.

Most farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have remained deprived of the enormous benefits of soil testing technology due to apparent failure of the government to sponsor it in the province. Many farmers still do not know why this technology is
essential and how it is beneficial because of the limited outreach of the programme.

The reason is simple: the concerned department officials do not contact farmers at their doorsteps. The outcome is low per acre yield. Nutrient depletion and land degradation are the major factors for low agricultural productivity.

Addition of toxic and harmful substances to the soil in significant quantities contaminates it and disturbs its chemical composition. This is generally caused by application of chemical industrial wastes and excessive or inappropriate use of fertilisers and pesticides.

The soil in any country, based on its composition, has been divided into eight categories. The first has the least limitations for agricultural use and can give high yield of crop with proper management. Categories II and III have relatively more limitations for farm use and need better management. The problems are severer in category IV soil which, though capable of producing a few marginal crops, has little ability for improvement. Soils from categories V to VII are not suited to arable farming but can be used for rangeland or forestry. Soil of category VIII is barren.

Application of suitable fertiliser and pesticides to the soil, at appropriate time and in proper way and quantity increases its productivity by 30-50 per cent. The soil testing technology helps determine the kinds of chemical input the soil needs to improve its output.

“In agriculture offices in some districts and research stations on different crops – for example, the tobacco research stations, sugar/cereal crops research institutes – there are soil testing laboratories where soil samples are examined, analysed and the results conveyed to farmers suggesting the requirements of the land under their use. The growers are also helped and guided how to improve its fertility,” said an official.

“It is with the help of this technology that farmers are able to control the degradation and improve physical properties of land to increase yield and ensure prosperity for the farmers,” he added, emphasising the need to increase the number of soil testing laboratories across the province to facilitate the growers.

Sabir Ali Khan, another farmer from Swabi, says that after repeated poor yields, he had a chance to get the soil tested in a laboratory which diagnosed its deficiencies and enabled him to take measures to increase its productivity.

Farmers often opt to use or reject a particular technology on the basis of their interest, experience, the cost of the product and their financial position. They usually oppose new technologies and strategies but once their utility is established, they adopt it. But this requires expertise, contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel, which unfortunately are lacking here.

Small farmers lack resources to approach the research and extension systems. The department with its aversion to participatory approach i.e. working together with farmers in the target area, has also left them in the lurch.

Average per hectare yield of wheat in KP is much less than the national average. In 2007-08, the national average yield per hectare was 2,585kg for the country while for KP it was 1471kg. Average sugarcane yield by progressive farmers is around 40 tons per acre while ordinary farmers still have per acre yield of around 16-20 tons. Per acre yield of maize in central Punjab has gone up to 4,600 kg, whereas it is generally between 700-1,200kg in KP.

“Soil testing laboratories should be established in all district and tehsils of the province with the use of geographical information system for assessment and mapping of soil fertility.

Soil testing laboratories had been promised at the model farm services centres in all districts but these
are yet to be provided in most of the districts.

The private sector should also set up its own soil testing laboratories in farming areas to supplement the work of the public sector.

Under performing sugar crops research institute

I took photo with Canon camera.

Image via Wikipedia

Sugarcane research in a shambles
By Tahir Ali Khan
August 29, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/29/agriculture-and-technology-sugarcane-research-in-a-shambles.html

KHYBER Pakhtunkhwa’s Sugar Crop Research Institute in Mardan is handicapped for paucity of funds, shortage of research staff and meagre seed production capacity, according to its officials.

“About 80 per cent of our limited budget is consumed by wage-bill and the rest is spent mainly on land preparation, cultivation and harvesting at the SCRI and two other research stations at Harichand and Dargai. There is virtually nothing left for research and development work,” said Sartaj Ali, farm manager at the SCRI.

While there are no funds for purchasing new equipment and machinery, load-shedding and low voltage often damage the precious equipment installed in early 1990s.

The institute is spread over 96 acres. One-third of the 70 acres available for cultivation is kept fallow while the rest is under cane cultivation. “But only 15 acres are under seed multiplication that produce around 440 tons of quality cane-seeds. This is clearly insufficient for the province. And in its subsidiary, Harichand farm too, 10 of 20 acres available for cane-seed multiplication remains unused for want of funds,” he said.

“The SCRI has developed 22 cane varieties so far. Some of these varieties have increased yield and income of farmers.

“Sugarcane farmers in 75 per cent areas grow CP77/400, a seed variety developed by SCRI. Sugarcane requires abundant water, more than required by rice crop. So we have developed SPSG-394, Mardan 92, and NCO310 as well for water stress areas. Most of these varieties have 12 per cent of sugar recovery ratio, the highest at world level,” he added.

“We are trying to bridge the huge gap between yields of farmers, institute and progressive farmers. While our average yield at the SCRI is about 32-36 tons, progressive farmers obtain around 40 tons per acre while per acre yield of common farmers is not more than 16-20 tons,” he said. “Their efforts in this regard have failed due to weak extension service and liaison with farmers as a result of shortage of staff and resources at our end and ignorance and lack of cooperation and coordination at the farmers’ side,” he added.

The staff shortage has also undermined the research work at the SCRI. Lack of service structure and opportunities for promotion as well as poor remuneration have discouraged many a talented people to join as research officers and encouraged the existing ones to leave for lucrative offers elsewhere.

“Over half of the 20 research officers’ slots are lying vacant. Country-wise, the situation is even worse. Over 260 of the 350 research officers in the SCRIs countrywide have left. Another problem is that 60 per cent of the existing research officers, recruited in 1973-74, are retiring in the next three to four years. There is no replacement for them in sight, he said.

Responding to a question on the causes of low cane yield, Ali said: “Most farmers resort to intercropping of wheat and cane which reduces output. Most of the farmers use less than the recommended four tons seed per acre, resulting in less plant population. They also do not use enough fertiliser and pesticides. Moreover, they still grow old varieties and delay cultivation and harvesting of cane for better prices.

Regular watering, inconsistent rains and abundant poplar trees around field also reduce yield and cause termites problems as well. Another issue is that of small landholding. Land fragmentation reduces cropped areas and compels farmers to do inter-cropping and makes commercial and mechanised farming impossible,” he added.

“Farmers should grow early cane varieties (CP72/2086, CP80/1827, Mardan93 and CP85/1491) as these mature in September/October and provide better sugar recovery (12 per cent) and price, an opportunity to cultivate wheat in time and save ratoons from frost and cold,” he added.

According to him, globally, education, research and extension are looked after by the universities. “In Pakistan too from 1982 till 2006, research work was the responsibility of universities. This expedited the process of sanctioning the project. But in 2006-07, during the previous MMA government, research was handed over to the department, not a good decision,” he said.

“The agriculture department has launched Rs30 million project for sugarcane seed production through chip buds, chip nodes and standardisation of technology in KP but it needs to be speedily and effectively implemented.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa industry’s blues

The Petrochemical Industry dominates the Bayto...

Image via Wikipedia

Industry: Stalled at the start

Industrial sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa looks for relief in the budget 2011-2012

By Tahir Ali

Industrialists and traders in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, terming the federal budget as jugglery of words, have rejected it for having no package for the revival of the militancy-hit industrial sector in the province.

Industrialists had hoped the federal government would come to the rescue of sick industrial units in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by announcing province-specific incentives and package, expanding the duration of the relief package and suggesting several mega hydel-power generation projects. They were disappointed.

The only thing they welcomed in the budget was the lowering of sales tax rate from 17 to 16 percent which, according to them, would decrease inflation a bit. The budget, according to them, had no long-term plan and, therefore, lacked the potential to ensure a robust economic and industrial growth.

The industrial sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, mainly comprising the marble, furniture, pharmaceutical, match and cigarette and hospitality industries, has been badly affected by high power/gas tariffs, load-shedding, low voltage, insecurity and insufficient infrastructure besides long distance from seaport which increases cost of production and makes them less competitive.

Factories working in the iron, marble and furniture need latest training for capacity-building of their workers and machinery, marketing, and technical support from the government. The budget failed to provide any workable plan and programme for these problems.

Industries should have been given incentives such as discount in power and gas tariff, rescheduling of loans for two years, or suspension of mark-up thereon, rebate in other taxes and duties, and halting of audit of businesses and industries for two years. New investors should have been given tax exemption for a few years and relief in duties on import of machinery. All these issues have been neglected in the budget.

Soft loans, preferably interest-free ones, and separate industrial estates with modern machinery pool and common facility centres for different clusters and value addition, especially the mineral and furniture, are some steps that should have been taken.

Sharafat Ali Mubarak, president Markazi Tanzeem-e-Tajiran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and former president of KPCCI, says prolonged power/gas load-shedding and terrorism have not only scared new investors away but also forced existing industrialists not to expand their businesses and many have shifted to other provinces.

“The extent of the damage to industrial sector in the province could be judged from the fact that off the 2200-plus total units working here, only 572 are functional these days and the number of industrial labour has decreased from around 200,000 in 1996 to a dismal 20000-plus these days,” he says.

“A couple of years ago Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had declared the province a war-hit zone and announced a relief package for industries but it, unfortunately, was not implemented in a letter and spirit. Bureaucracy continues to create hurdles in its implementation. For example, we had been exempted form general sales tax on electricity but it is being collected in the bills in clear violation of relief package. Industrialists and traders waited for another package or extension of the earlier one for a few more years but there is no roadmap for the revival of sick industrial sector in the province,” he complains.

“The problem of power-shortage, that has been afflicting the sector for quite some time, has been ignored once again and no emergency plan and mega projects have been suggested for the purpose. The target could be easily achieved by public-private partnership schemes in the sector,” Mubarak adds.

According to him, “We have over 40000MW of hydel-power potential which can be utilised by constructing power plants here. The government has unfortunately allocated around Rs50 billions for the Benazir income support programme. If funds form this and other wasteful initiatives are diverted to build power infrastructure, this would boost the economy and generate job opportunities, a requisite for permanent prosperity. Some mega projects for hydel power generation, gas exploration and exploitation, development of human capital and technology transfer must have been included in the budget for long-term sustainable economic growth.”

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces about 4200 mega watt of electricity from Tarbela dam alone and its peak consumption is around 2300MW but it is subjected to 12 hours of loadshedding. Similarly, 341 million cubic feet (MCF) gas is produced here while its total requirement is 227 MCF. If Punjab is not ready to supply its wheat to other provinces unless its own wheat needs are met first, we have also right to demand non-stop and cheaper supply of gas and power before others,” he argues.

Usman Bashir Bilour, president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI), says that being adversely affected, the industrial sector in the province deserves a comprehensive package or at least, the package announced by the prime minister should be extended for another two years.

“The State Bank reports that industrial growth rate has been as dismal as 0.01 percent this year. The government should ascertain why most of the industries are closing one after the other. We have sent to the government a detailed strategy paper for the revival of industries but no one has bothered to contact us so far. We need to sit together to chalk out a 10-15 years’ plan for revival of industries in the province,” he says.

According to him, their businesses are ruined and the government is contemplating the imposition of reform general sales tax. “We would never tolerate it as it would increase inflation and overburden the people. The government had announced it will expand direct taxation base but it has once again reneged on this commitment. Special relief orders are regularly announced that exempt certain industries from taxes while other industries are subjected to additional tax burdens intermittently. This should be avoided and all those who earn money be brought into the tax net — there should be minimum tax but maximum taxpayers,” Bilour says.

“Credit is the basic requirement of industrialists but it has been made difficult for us as all leading banks have shifted their head offices to Islamabad. One will have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get a loan of even Rs10 million. How can we modernise our industries in this backdrop,” he asks.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is rich in oil and gas reserves. Official estimates suggest it has one billion barrel oil and four trillion cubic feet gas reserves, which, if utilised, will meet energy requirements of industries for a long time and give fillip to provincial and national economy.

Marble reservoirs in the province are estimated to be at four billion tons found in 30 varieties in the province. But most of the 2000 marble factories in the province and tribal belt, besides the factors cited above, suffer from use of outdated techniques, inconsistent supplies of raw material, lack of proper infrastructure, absence of value addition and of public-private cooperation.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is an ideal place for summer and winter tourism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, culture/heritage tourism, spiritual tourism and sports and commercial tourism. This sector also needs hefty funds and public-private coordination to build tourism infrastructure and strong media campaign to attract tourists but no such thing has been announced despite promises in the 2009 tourism policy draft.

Low priority to farm modernization

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...

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KP’s low priority to farm modernisation

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/13/kp%E2%80%99s-low-priority-to-farm-modernisation.html

THE majority of farmers in Khyber Paktunkhwa is using the age-old technique — a pair of bullocks — for ploughing its fields, instead of tractors.

Only about 20 per cent farmers use modern agriculture technology in the province. This is because either most of them have no resources to buy the services or have no knowledge or inclination to use the modern farming techniques.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous transformation and latest technologies are used for ploughing fields and sowing, harvesting and crop packing but KP farmers, especially the majority poor/small ones, still continue with outdated ways, resulting in low crop yields, and wastage of agriculture assets like water and low incomes.

Farmers usually don’t benefit from provincial government’s research endeavours and innovative technology for lack of coordination between the line departments, and the growers and the line departments.

A senior official in the Agriculture Department agrees that problems such as lack of mechanised farming, low per acre yield, inputs availability constraints etc., are also suffering from weak agriculture extension for lack of coordination between farmers and the government.

“Our researchers need to develop seeds varieties for the different climatic zones in the province that could increase both under-cultivation land and production. But there are two challenges in this connection. One is for the research scientists to develop new varieties and techniques and the second is how that is to be made available to farmers so that they could use them,” he said.

“Even if researchers fulfil their responsibilities but their products are not available to farmers or they are not inclined to use them, the problem will remain unresolved. Extension department needs to make latest research and development products and farming techniques available to farmers as soon as possible,” he added.

“It is strange the farmers still prefer outdating farming techniques that result in poor per acre yield and therefore the incidence of poverty is increasing amongst small farmers,” he said.

Mechanised farming is urgently needed to increase per acre yield but the small landholding is the hurdle. The research directorate in collaboration with local industry could solve this problem by evolving miniature engineering machinery and technology. To facilitate the directorates of agricultural research and agricultural extension in their endeavours to benefit the farmers and to bridge the gap between farmers and research, the government should revive the erstwhile outreach directorate in the ministry of agriculture.

The outreach directorate will surely reach out to the farmers with new technologies. It had done pretty good job till 1995 when it was wrapped up. Its revival is necessary to address the critical problem of coordination between farmers and agriculture researchers.

The next provincial Annual Development Programme has a new project for strengthening of outreach activities, but meagre allocation is a cause of concern.

The project was allocated Rs50 million but only Rs15 would be spent under the ADP. It means there cannot be any meaningful practical changes at least for some years to come.

Agriculture cannot be developed in the province by taking half-hearted routine measures. It, instead, requires some innovative, out of box, targeted and emergency plans to develop the sector on which around 70 per cent of provincial population depends.

An official informed that the provincial government intended to revive the outreach directorate. “The terms of reference of the directorate have been prepared and necessary allocations have been made in the next budget for this purpose,” he informed.

“This would surely expedite services, improve coordination between the stakeholders and bridge the gap between farmers and research thereby facilitating and benefiting the farmers enormously. It will regularly update the policy makers on the requirements of the farmers and will also inform the latter on any invented/imported technology or technique sooner rather than later,” he hoped.

Besides the above shortcomings, some other problems are also hampering agriculture development in the province.

In the recent past the agriculture extension directorate was being run without a full-time head.

Also, there is an acute shortage of research personnel in the directorate. The shortage of senior research officers is particularly serious.

“Many researchers are performing their duties under compulsion but waste no time when they get an offer from private companies which pay them hefty amounts. 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.”

“Most of the officers are performing their duties in the same scales for 30 years despite being qualified. In a situation when the officers and officials retire in the same scale they were inducted in and they are paid comparatively far less than their research counterparts in the private sector, it is not strange if most of the existing officials too are opting for retirement, ex-Pakistan leave or leaving their service in search of better future,” conceded the official.

The government should offer incentives to attract competent people to the sector and should also announce a service structure and comprehensive relief package for the existing ones to arrest the trend of flight of human capital from the directorate.

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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New dams for agriculture

Level basin flood irrigation on wheat

Image via Wikipedia

Issue

Water onservation

Pakistan needs a revamped water policy before it’s too late

By Tahir Ali

The prevalent drought has more forcefully reminded the policy makers in Pakistan what has been earlier established by this July’s devastating floods: that the country should build more water reservoirs to accommodate the rain/floods water sooner rather than later.

It has also underscored the need for utilising the waste-water resources for irrigation purposes to guard against the danger of having rain-fed areas without crops in case of drought as is being witnessed.

The devastating flash floods have inflicted huge losses of about $10bn to the national economy. But if we learn from this calamity and become vigilant to volatile climate hazards by taking some measures, the calamity will be turned into an opportunity for development and prosperity.

The situation is even dismal for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where non-irrigated land accounts for over 50 percent of wheat acreage. The irrigated wheat area there is usually is around 0.8 million acres and the rain-fed area is over 1 MA.

With only a few days left in wheat sowing season, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is likely to miss its wheat sowing target of around 1.8mn acres this year.

Gul Nawaz Khatak, the chief planning officer of ministry of agriculture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said most of the wheat-specific southern districts like Laki Marwat, Tank, Bannu and Dera Ismail waited for rains, saying the rain-fed areas could have been cultivated had there been rain.

“Even if it rains till 20th of December, it will make sowing possible. Otherwise the area will be left without wheat this year. As of now only those areas in non-irrigated lands have gone under wheat cultivation that had some moisture in it. If there is no rain, wheat target will be affected by about 10 to 12 per cent,” he said.

This inability to sow wheat due to lack of water at the provincial and national level, means farmers’ poverty, debt cycle for them, food inflation and food security problems. But it will also have serious financial repercussions for the cash-strapped provincial and national kitties.

A loss of one million tons of wheat cost a whooping Rs24bn of exchequer. The province is expected to lose around 0.5 million tonnes and its woes would be further increased by this loss. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has already sustained a loss of around Rs200bn for floods and another Rs300bn for militancy shocks.

Secretary irrigation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Ashfaq Khan said the irrigation sector has suffered a loss of Rs11bn in floods. “As international donors and the federal government has not provided us the funds for reconstruction so far, we have decided to suspend our annual development programme and diverted funds to reconstruction efforts,” he says.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for lack of infrastructure, is unable to utilise 3.28MAF of its share of water as per the 1991 accord. This is why new dams and canals are required in the province,” he adds.

An official said due to droughts the provincial seeds industry could sell only three of the target of six thousand tonnes seeds to farmers. “The situation is indeed very dismal this year. You know wheat can be sown till January but delay from December onward brings per hectare yield down considerably. The per hectare yield in the province already lower than rest of the country, it is not a good omen for the food deficient province,” he said.

He says the government would give around 1600 metric tonnes of the left over seeds to farmers free of cost now. The cost will be borne by a Kuwait based NGO.

 

“By giving this residue of seeds to farmers, not only the farmers will get relief but if utilised, its expected production will be around 42000 metric tonnes. This will help reduce the gap between the wheat target and actual acreage,” the official says.

The land under wheat cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1/5th of the 2.75 million hectare total cultivable land in the province. This needs to be increased.

“The government must increase per acre yield, bring more land under cultivation and ensure mechanised farming and bigger land-holdings,” Shah says.

“This is why province badly needs the construction of promised but delayed/denied Chashma right bank canal’s lift scheme. This will irrigate 0.3MA of land. This will make the province food sufficient but it will also be in a position to export wheat,” Shah argues.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is dependent for 3/4th of its annual wheat requirements of 3.73 million tonnes on Pasco, Punjab’s government or imports.

Ghulam hussain, a farmer said first they faced shortage of seeds at the beginning of the sowing season and also DAP went out of the market. Later prices of fertilizers surged. How can we achieve the target when each and every input is scarce or costly,” he says.

“The climate change scenario was an established phenomenon for which the researchers and the government should try to introduce air/drought/ high temperature and excessive rainfall-resistant varieties that could resist the vagaries of the weather and yielded more grain,” Shah says. “The yield per hectare has reached to over 5000kg in China, but we still have about 2400kg per hectare in the country and still lower in the province,” he adds.

 

The provincial government has prepared detailed designs, feasibility study, pre-feasibility report of around 100 new small dams. The federal government should finance these and the Kurram Tangi dam, Munda dam and some other dams and rivers advocated by the provincial irrigation department. Reservoirs for rainwater should also be built. This is vital for Khyber pakhtunkhwa as 49% of cultivated area is rain-fed.

Jamal Garhi’s Buddha site

Buddha’s footsteps

The sites of Jamal Garhi and Sawal Dher in NWFP are an archaeological treasure that needs more attention

By Tahir Ali

After crossing the Rashakai Bridge on Nowshera-Mardan road, you enter Mardan with a billboard saying ‘Welcome to Mardan: The land of Gandhara.’ Mardan has been the heart of ancient Gandhara and has a huge presence of the remains of Buddhist Civilization at Takht Bai, Jamal Garhi, Shahbaz Garhi, Therelli (Sawal Dher), Mekha Sanda, Chanakai Dheri, Aziz Dheri, Sehri Bahlol and so on. Sculptures excavated from here are displayed in various museums of Pakistan and around the world.

The archaeological site at Jamal Garhi lies to the northeast of Mardan City at a distance of 15 kilometres on the Mardan-Katlang road. This road has been renamed as Rahimullah Yousafzai’s Route after the great son of the soil who has achieved worldwide fame in journalism. Located between the villages of Jamal Garhi and Shikray Baba on top of a hill at an elevation of 122 metres, this site is called ‘The Jamal Garhi Kandarat’ by the locals. The remains at the site are traced back from 1st to 5th century A.D. It is said that Kushans, Little Kushans and Hindu Parthians had inhabited the place. With the end of the Kushan rule in 225 A.D., the Gandhara civilization gradually declined. The invasion of White Huns around 450-500 A.D. put an end to this era. The Huns virtually destroyed monasteries and killed its inhabitants. Little is known about this period. But a Chinese Pilgrim Fa Hsein, who travelled through the Peshawar valley in 400 A.D. said that the Gandhara region was flourishing then. When his successor Sung Yen came to the region in 520 A.D. he reported that the Huns had destroyed the country.

A company ‘Sappers and Miners’ explored this site first in 1873. As told by Yasir Ali, the site attendant, a statue of Buddha — known as the Fasting Buddha — recovered from here in 1907 was taken to the Lahore Museum where it is kept with the information that it was excavated from a village near the site. The Chinese Pilgrims say nothing about this important place. A Kharoshti inscription discovered from the excavation conducted during 1907-08 revealed Samavat 359, which corresponds to 275 A.D. In 1836 Sikh General made it Gandaparas. The site was excavated in 1876 and later on in 1910-11, it was again excavated.

The site comprises a main round stupa, circumscribed by chapels that are closely packed together. According to Sir John Marshal, a famous archaeologist, the round stupa at Jamal Garhi is one of the oldest from the Gandhara period. There are many votive stupas which were built by votaries who had got their wishes fulfilled here at the main round stupa. The Kitchens, courtyards, meditation rooms, secret wall, a meeting hall, general and guests’ dining hall and monks’ quarters are some of the important constructions at this complex. A distinctive feature of the site is the separate quarters, probably meant for the visiting scholars and monks. All the constructions are stone-made and are still intact in some of the cases. Another salient feature of the complex is the path in the middle.

The Jamal Garhi’s archaeological site is situated in the middle of Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi — the two other important Buddhist centres — at an equal distance of 12 kilometres from each side. The site is some eight kilometres away from another historical place of Therrelli (Sawal Dher) which is situated to its east and which also has many archaeological remains though they are in a very dilapidated condition and seem to have been forgotten. The Theralli Establishment was excavated by Japanese and Pakistani experts in three sessions — in 1964, 1966 and 1967. This is a large complex comprising main stupa, many surrounding votive stupas, residential rooms and other sections. This site also dates back to 1st to 5th century AD. and many of the remains have been destroyed by illegal excavators.

This monastery is easily accessible from each side. From Shahbaz Garhi you may approach it via Charguli to Sawal Dher to Katlang road. If you are at Takht Bhai, it is better you take up the Takht Bhai to Jamal Garhi route to reach here; and if you want to come straight to Jamal Garhi from Mardan, take up the Katlang-Mardan road. Here you will enjoy an easy drive right up to the site as Department of Archaeology and Museum, Government of Pakistan, has constructed a beautiful zigzagging passage with the help of Japanese engineers.

The Jamal Garhi and the Sawal Dher sites are not as yet on the world’s heritage list of UNESCO, which must be ensured. Visitors in the site told The News on Sunday that a tuck-shop, a police-post, a park, lavatories and seating arrangements with sun-cover are the immediate requirements of the place. They also urged an awareness campaign on the media about the site. Sajjad Haider, a visitor, called upon the department of Archaeology and Museums to expedite the repair work and save many of the remains from further damage. “It is our heritage. We must join hands with the government to preserve and develop the historical sites,” said a man Qayyum Khan. Bakht Raziq from Katlang suggested that power and water must necessarily be provided at the site without any further delay.

The Jamal Garhi’s site is ideally located for a picnic. It has a stream of fresh water flowing below on its northern side while the famous Lower Swat Canal and one of its subsidiaries flows close to it in the east. Despite the hot weather, cool breeze makes the weather pleasant throughout the summer.

The site affords an impressive view of the picturesque district of Mardan. Stand anywhere in the site and you will get a handsome panoramic view of Mardan and its surrounding areas. An excursion here especially at the time of sunrise and sunset is an excellent idea.

The hill on which the structures stand is part of a vast mountainous range and many tiers of mountains can be seen. Far in the west and east, the hills that house the Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi’s archaeological remains are visible if the sky is blue and clear. Looking down below at the plain in the south is refreshing. But no less amusing and wonderful is the sight of the vast mountainous range in the north, east and west.

(The News, 18-05-08)

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: opportunities and challenges

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: opportunities and challenges

By Tahir Ali

(The News 03-05-10)

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one of the poorest and most backward provinces of the country. There is general belief that this province should go for its own comparative advantages instead of waiting for others to help it out. Any development strategy, experts point out, should be prepared in the light of major challenges, constraints and opportunities of the provincial economy.

The reasons for its less developed economy are many. The main resource-generating sectors of its economy have been badly affected by the negative effects of terrorism inside and outside its borders. There is a sluggish economic growth. Natural disinclination of local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to growing insecurity and the inflow of millions of refugees has harmed its prospects. Sales, investment, and credit-transactions have decreased. Factories are either mostly closed or have reduced their outputs. The increased joblessness has caused a surge in poverty.

Prime Minister Gilani unveiled a package for the insurgency-hit province and tribal belt which was praised but was, literally speaking, a drop in the ocean.

The province possesses over 70,000 mega watt potential for hydro-power generation, as per Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) figures but it could not be utilised thus far.

As there is no freight equalisation in Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s long distance from seaports makes its products less competitive and costlier due to high transport costs. The provincial growth strategy should focus on production of products that can be made from local raw materials like marble, furniture and gemstones.

The province often faces an economic crunch and 93 per cent of its revenue needs are dependant on federal transfers. The provincial GDP is almost $16 billion. However, the informal economy of the province is believed to be three times bigger than the formal economy.

The trade terms between the province and Afghanistan are unfavourable. Smuggling has been on the rise. The parallel economy having its roots in the Afghan transit trade is depriving the fund-deficient province of billions.

Joblessness is on the increase in the province. Many of the erstwhile industrial zones are wearing a deserted look as industries have been transferred to other provinces. Due to the law and order situation, rather than concentrating on developmental expenditures the province is overwhelmed by security related issues.

The province has a bulky and cheap workforce available, which can be an asset. But the workforce mostly comprises of illiterate and unskilled persons and therefore results in low productivity. A huge number of them work overseas, but remittances are also considerably lower as most of them work on low-paid unskilled jobs. Around 82 per cent of the youth are either unemployed, under employed or self employed. High literacy ratio and skill training centres can tackle the problem.

Furthermore, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not been provided its constitutional right of net hydel profit. According to financial experts, Wapda owes around Rs700 billion to the province as per estimates. The arbitration tribunal head had fixed the amount at Rs110 billion, but the province is yet to get its due, despite repeated promises.

The agriculture sector has also been neglected. Land under cultivation and yield per hectare in the province are less than the national average.

What needs to be done?

As the province is expected to get huge sums of money in the near future, the ANP-led provincial government should chalk out a detailed development strategy to revitalise the province’s economy. Some suggestions are made below:

(1) To get the province out of its current economic turmoil, development programs are vital. Importance of a clear vision, sustained growth strategy and political will cannot be overemphasised.

(2) A proactive public-private relationship and robust private sector’s role is a must.

(3) There are plenty of commercial lands available in several major cities across the province, which can be better utilised by the private sector.

(4) To ensure industrial growth, the provincial government should build as many hydro-power generation units as possible.

(5) Investment in technical and higher education is the key to development.

(6) Subsidised electricity and gas facilities for industrial units are the need of the hour.

(7)The province should be authorised to enter into trade pacts with it neighbours.

(8) The provincial government should be provided with enhanced inflows for handling the ever increasing security expenditures.

(9) The province should have labour and energy intensive industries. Value addition in all, especially the mineral and furniture sectors will do wonders for the province.

(10)Advanced technology and infrastructure development are needed.

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

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