devolution of agriculture: impact on KP

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/mar2012-weekly/nos-04-03-2012/pol1.htm#9

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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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.

 

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.”

Low priority to farm modernization

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

KP`s lacklustre wheat procurement

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s lacklustre wheat procurement drive

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn, 23-05-11

KP`s lacklustre wheat procurement.

FARMERS in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are not satisfied with the lacklustre wheat procurement exercise and want it to be stepped up. The province has recorded around 10 to 15 per cent increase in wheat production this year.

According to Abdur Rahim Khan, general secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Agriculture, the list of wheat procurement centres and its procurement mechanism has not yet been announced. “The government should open procurement centres at tehsil and union council levels at the earliest,” he said.

He said the farmers would benefit only if the government purchased their produce directly from the growers rather than leaving them at the mercy of the middlemen.

Khan alleged that the food department purchases wheat mainly from the middlemen. “The officials purchase the commodity from the middlemen for minting money. When growers go to sell their produce to it, numerous defects are pointed out in their crop; they are discouraged and compelled to approach the agents and sell their output at rates lower than the procurement price of Rs950 per 40kg,” he added.

“Farmers have to take their grains to procurement centres at their own expense. They also have to wait for quite some time for an opportunity to get their crop assessed. After 2 pm the officials leave for their home and the farmers have to arrange a watchman to guard their produce against theft.

Their grain usually lies in the open unsafe from rains and pests. It is in this backdrop that the farmers often prefer to sell their produce to private buyers for easy and swift deal at rates four to five per cent lower than the procurement price,” he said.

“I fail to understand why officials do not purchase wheat from growers at their doorstep when they cannot provide speedy procurement services to them at the centres,” he argued.

Talking to this scribe, provincial agriculture minister Arbab Ayub Jan said his department was not involved in the drive and therefore he didn`t know much about the process. “But during my recent visit to DIK, I found the growers complaining a lot about the wheat procurement mechanism. I noted their complaints and have sent a note to the chief minister about this,” he said.

Ironically procurement drive is the work of the food department in all provinces, and the agriculture department has nothing to do with it directly.

According to Murad Ali Khan, president of the KP Kissan Board, there should be more procurement centres. “The mechanism for wheat procurement should be made easy. The agriculture department should enter into contracts with farmers as in the case of tobacco crop. Farmers` bodies should be involved in the process,” he said.

Haji Nimat Shah, another farmer leader, said that lack of transparency and accountability in procurement has certainly exposed the farmers to profiteers.

The province needs about Rs9.5 billion for its total wheat procurement target of 0.4 million tons. It usually faces financing problems. On May 5, the Bank of Khyber signed a memorandum of understanding with the provincial food department and agreed to provide Rs7.5 billion for wheat procurement for the current season as compared to Rs5 billion sanctioned last year.

The provincial government has never been able to achieve its wheat procurement target due to a small number of procurement centres, financing problems and extensive role of the middlemen in the wheat market.

“The shortage of public procurement centres and storage facilities hamper attempts to meet annual wheat procurement targets,” an official agreed.

In 2008-09, the provincial government had slashed the target from 0.3 million tons to 0.1million tons and had actually procured about 0.090 million tons.

The support price system does not benefit the poor farmers as they cannot carry their produce to sell at the procurement centres. They either sell their crop at prices lower than the support price or consume it themselves.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa usually depends for over 3/4th of its annual wheat requirements (over three million tons) on Passco, the Punjab government or imports.

Insufficient production and lesser direct procurement exert huge financial burden on the provincial exchequer on purchase, transportation and subsidy of wheat.

The province usually has a yield of about one million tons a year.It needs about 2.5mn tons at an estimated cost of about Rs59 billion while the incidentals alone for cost around Rs16bn, reveal official documents.

Direct procurement can save around Rs6,000 per ton. This year the direct procurement will help save over Rs2 billion for the cash-strapped province. It had saved Rs540 million in 2008-09 by purchasing around 90,000 tons directly from farmers.

Inadequate storage capacity also hampers meeting the procurement target. The food department has a storage capacity of about 0.38mn tons. About 80 per cent of procured wheat will be stored in open godowns or in rented warehouses.

The government hires private godowns but not many is ready to let warehouse for meagre rent.

The standing committee on food of the KP assembly had last year asked the government to construct wheat storages in all the districts of the province, but. Apparently with no results.

The government must construct modern silos and build godowns to augment the existing storage capacity. With the construction of more godowns and modern silos, waste of grains will considerably come down and procurement will become easy.

The agriculture sector has not received the priority it deserves, despite the fact it accounts for over 20 per cent of provincial gross domestic product, accounts for 45 per cent of total labour force and about 80 per cent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa population is dependent on it for its survival.

KP reshaping agriculture policy

KP reshaping agriculture policy.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Low Sugarcane to mills

Raw (unrefined, unbleached) sugar, bought at t...

Image via Wikipedia

Mills facing cane shortage

Dec 13 2010

By Tahir Ali

IT is not a good sight that the yard of Asia’s biggest sugar mill –the Premier Sugar Mill, Mardan— and roads surrounding it, that would have mile-long queue of cane-carrying trolleys and trucks a few years ago, has only a few of them. The mill is  getting a paltry supply of cane.

Officials at the PSM say they increased the price of cane and ensured prompt payment, expecting that the two measures would improve cane supply position to the mill but the growers did not respond.

They maintain that the PSM increased cane price from support price of Rs125 to Rs240 per 40kg to receive better supplies.

Masood Khan, cane manager at the PSM, said increase in cane price had not boosted supply of cane to the mill as expected. “Farmers wanted prompt payment and good returns on the crop. We have increased the price and are paying them within three days. But still the supply is not enough to run the mill.

He said: “We are running the mill intermittently for 8-10 hours a day or even after a break of a day so that enough stock is accumulated for crushing.”

“Our cost of production per kilo has increased to Rs75-78, which means sugar should be sold at Rs80-85 per kg. However, the prices are coming down, making the position of mills unstable,” he added.

According to him, less supply of cane means intermittent running of mills, which increases cost of production, especially in the event of higher prices to farmers, high wages offered to employees, burgeoning fuel prices and various taxes.

“Conversely, gur has no such taxes and burdens. Why won’t it compete with us? Its prices have increased tremendously and it is sold around Rs80-90 a kilo. To enable us to compete with it, we must be given subsidised fuel, power and relief in taxes. Or else gur making should be banned altogether,” he argued.

Haji Niamat Shah, senior vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, Khyber Paktunkhwa, also said the government should announce a relief package and a rebate in taxes for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sugar industry.

Abdur Rasheed, another official at the PSM, said the mill would daily crush around 100,000 maunds of cane five years ago but it was crushing only 20 per cent of the quantity these days.

Welcoming increase in cane price, Shah hoped farmers would grow more cane next year. Increased price would ensure the pledged and continuous crushing at the mills producing more sugar, save jobs of thousands of mill employees, who are laid-off when mills are closed, and help reduce prices of sugar in the country,” he said.

The new price would appeal farmers who make gur through rented gur-ganees. “But I think those with their own gur-ganees will still feel like making gur from their crop,” he opined.

“The new price may not improve cane supply to mills but it speaks volumes of the government’s indifference and lack of information on the ground situation. Look at the price fixed by the government and the one offered by the mills,” said a farmer.

The estimated production of sugarcane in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1.3 million tons. It can produce up to 100,000 tons of sugar if farmers start bringing their crop to mills for crushing instead of making gur.

Ban on movement of gur to seven federally-administered tribal areas and their six provincial counter parts have caused a fall in its demand and as a result the prices have come down by about 20-30 per cent, but farmers are still going for it.

The gur-makers are alleged to have purchased standing crops from farmers and made advance payments to them for the gur they produce, according to a source. According to him, generator-run modern gur-ganees are consuming cane faster than in the past.

To get adequate supplies, the sugar millers will have to enter into contracts with farmers for purchasing their crop at fixed/better price, and a surety for prompt even advance payments before or after cultivation, but much earlier than harvesting.

There should also be a minimum price for certain fixed sugar-content, but farmers should receive a premium price for more sugar-content in their crop.

Investment in research for better varieties of sugarcane and improvement in per acre yield with better sugar recoveries is also required.

Pakistan is the sixth biggest sugarcane producer in the world but is ranks 15th both in cane and sugar yield.

Farm inputs provsion

The missing ingredient

Substandard agricultural inputs, or sheer absence of standard ones, have greatly damaged productivity

By Tahir Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/nov2010-weekly/nos-21-11-2010/pol1.htm#5

Costliness and non-availability of farm-inputs are two main reasons for low agricultural productivity and farmers’ poverty in Pakistan. With wheat-sowing season underway, it is high time the government introduces a sound mechanism for easy, timely and cheaper provision of agriculture inputs to farmers, if it wants to ensure food security and develop agriculture in the country.

Establishment of village-based agriculture inputs/services centres (AICs) could help ensure vertical and horizontal increase in agricultural output and prosperity of farmers, farmers’ leaders say.

The president of the Kissan Board Pakistan, Murad Ali Khan, says agricultural inputs were the main headache of farmers throughout the year. “In times of need, they either disappear from the market or are too costly and unaffordable for the poor farmers. A robust system of availability and distribution for these is, therefore, the call of the hour. With the wheat sowing season underway, there could not be better time for advocating the set-up,” he says.

“If implemented fully and efficiently, the revolutionary idea could solve all the agriculture related problems. It may provide cheap agriculture inputs and services. It may offer farmers guidance and marketing services for their outputs which in-turn would increase their incomes. What else farmers need,” he asks.

Niamat Shah, the General Secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says farmers’ income could be substantially increased if quality seeds, fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and other services are given to farmers in time and on cheaper rates.

He says the AICs would be like agriculture utility stores which also would serve as store houses/marketing centres. “All agricultural inputs would be made available to the member farmers. The bodies will provide inputs, soft loans, guidance and training and other services to farmers on comparatively cheaper rates and in time. These are vital for capacity-building of farmers and are supposed to create linkages between farmers and public/private line departments and associations. The centres will also develop and fund some demonstration farms. The high yield of these farms will serve as incentives to other farmers,” Shah claims.

AICs can be established on the basis of union councils or villages and will comprise all stakeholders in agriculture, i.e. farmers, livestock owners, agriculture department field assistant, patwaris, veterinary doctors, seeds/fertilizer industry and bank representatives.

To minimise the chances of corruption and wastage of resources, there should be oversight bodies over the local village-based chapters at the district and provincial level with membership in the same pattern.

“It will surely be a long and arduous process and as a first step towards the goal, the government should open a centre at each of the 986 union councils in the province. Then the bodies should be organised on Patwar halqa and ultimately on village basis to cover most of the farmers of the province. These centres must function under the supervision of the provincial agriculture department,” he advocates.

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

Finances for the centres are likely to be the most pressing of problems. But the issue could be talked by taking some steps. Farmers should contribute a membership fee of at least Rs200 and another Rs800 as share money in the revolving funds of the bodies. This should be augmented by a matching grant by the government. This revolving fund will increase with the passage of time as the bodies will invest in agriculture inputs and services and earn money.

Farmers would also be provided training, guidance, credit facility to start businesses locally to earn more money for their families. Revenue collected from agriculture can/should also be spent on its development. Cooperative bank, that has been revived fortunately, should also fund the entities once these are established. Banks could also be asked to be a share-holder in the business.

The seeds research farms have developed high yielding wheat, maize and fruit and vegetable seeds but their timely and easy availability has always been a problem.

When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available to farmers, they have to use substandard, often dangerous, inputs and are thus looted by the profit-hungry agriculture inputs mafia. This explains the low per acre yield in the province.

“How can farmers be blamed when they go for these non-quality seed which is available to them when they need it, while standard seeds are not available in the market or are costlier. The government has failed to streamline seeds distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on substandard seeds in the market,” Shah says.

In villages, the government need not build huge buildings for the purpose. Houses available in plenty therein can be utilised for the purpose. “The AIPCs will surely help develop agriculture in the province. This will solve the farmers’ problem of easy and timely availability of agriculture inputs and services on the one hand. On the other, it will also change their farming from subsistence and outdated farming to commercial and modernised one when expert advices, machinery, and marketing support is provided by the bodies,” says Sajjad Haider Khan, a farmer from Mardan.

The government and farming community seems oblivious of the expected potential shortage of seeds and fertilisers in coming months. As thousands of tonnes of wheat seeds and other inputs have been washed away by recent floods, there is an urgent need to procure and store substantial amount of the commodities in advance. The government should be able to provide these two basic inputs free of cost as farmers are in no position to pay.

It is a tragedy that there is no official mechanism to check the standard and rates of important agricultural inputs like fertilisers, seeds and pesticides. Thousands of employees of the agriculture department should be authorised to check the rates, quality, quantity and weight of different types of inputs.

Massive losses to agriculture

Province-wise
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Extensive losses in agriculture and related sectors

By Tahir Ali

Rehabilitation of farmers and revival of agro economy in post-flood Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is unlikely to start soon as neither KPK itself has the fiscal space available with it nor the federal government and international community have provided it with the necessary funds required for the purpose.

Development and rehabilitation of agriculture is crucial to defeat terrorism and extremism in the region as over 80 per cent of the people depend on the sector directly or indirectly, for their income. Failure to ensure quick damage assessment and provide relief and reconstruction would be exploited by the militants who are always there to capitalize on the weaknesses of the government.

The devastating floods have inflicted losses amounting to billions of dollars on agriculture and its related sectors. According to preliminary estimates, the losses to the agriculture sector in crops, livestock and irrigation systems stand at Rs12 bn, Rs7 bn and Rs10.6 bn respectively.

The inundation of vast agricultural lands, destruction of irrigation channels and thousands of tonnes of ready-to-use seeds would not only impact crop production in the coming season but is likely to lead to food shortages and inflation.

The president of the Kisan Board Pakistan said that the flash-floods not only destroyed standing crops over an estimated 0.46 million acres of land in the province as well as horticulture, they also eroded the fields and made them uncultivable by excessive accumulation of mud and water. This soil erosion is likely to result in boundary feuds and legal fights on the fields causing a ban on farming thereon till the disposal of cases. It also means that the tilled and irrigated land in the province, which is 30 per cent of the cultivable land, might have decreased further which can have detrimental effects on agriculture in KPK. The destruction of irrigation infrastructure such as the Munda Headwork that irrigated around 0.3 mn acres of land is yet another blow.

The disruption in supply of vegetables and fruits to markets has resulted in food inflation. Tomatoes, potatoes, meat, fruit, wheat-flour and other food items have registered an increase of about 30 to 100 per cent. This price-hike will have highly negative fallouts for the majority of the poor if the government does not come to their rescue by increasing or maintaining the level of food subsidies.

An official from the irrigation department said that the losses to irrigation infrastructure in all the ten major canal systems in KPK amount to Rs10.6 bn. He said the department was trying its level best to do the necessary minor repair and cleanliness work to restore water availability within a month.

The secretary general of the KPK Chamber of Agriculture was of the opinion that the farms will have to be cleaned from the mud and leveled. For that the government will have to provide sufficient machinery and resources. That might not be an easy task keeping in view the fact that this would require enormous funds, machinery and personnel.

The floods have also damaged the vital livestock sector. An official said that floods have killed 0.15 million animals worth Rs7 bn. This loss is very troubling as the death of income generating livestock is not only perilous in that the farmers are deprived of their main source of income but it would also lead to shortages and price hike of animal-products like meat and milk.

An official in the KPK’s ministry of agriculture said, “KPK is a food deficient province which relies for over 3/4th of its food needs on Punjab and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) which too is badly hit and may not be in a position to provide us the wheat we need. And the destruction of the maize crop and the expected drop in wheat cultivation will drastically hit the province and farmers financially. Commoners too would be impacted and will have to be saved from the food inflation.”

The wheat subsidy is Rs14.08 bn for this year. But it may have to be increased due to an almost certain drop in local wheat production and surge in the import bill of wheat.

As a short term measure, the government will have to ensure a speedy damage assessment and provide farmers with immediate relief so that they could prepare their fields themselves.

As a medium term measure, it should immediately restore the communication system, address the critical problem of demarcation and rehabilitation of fields and irrigation networks. For this purpose, the government must arrange for tractors and other field leveling machinery to the affected farmers. The escalating debt burden of farmers also needs immediate intervention. They also need to be provided free or subsidized agriculture inputs and fodder for their living animals. Agriculture loans of the farmers should be written off or at least interest thereon should be remitted. Easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers to restart their businesses are also overdue.

As a long term measure, the government needs to better plan for the future, form a permanent and independent flood rehabilitation commission and construct small and large dams to absorb high river flows in future.

Formation of a credible and independent National Rehabilitation Commission to ensure transparency in the collection, management and distribution of relief and rehabilitation funds is the call of the hour.

It is high time that farmers in the flood-ravaged areas are exempted from malia and abiana and other taxes for a couple of years. Farmers in Charasdda, the worst-hit district, also urged the political administration for free provision of agricultural inputs for this year.

To cope with the catastrophe, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has asked for Rs10 bn for the time being from the federal government. The federal government should announce a big compensation and rehabilitation package for the flood-hit people, including farmers.  The government will have to adopt simplicity to save funds for both relief and rehabilitation phases.

The flooding is “well timed” in that it occurred in Ramadan. In this month people whole heartedly support the poor and needy and this opportunity should be utilized to the maximum.

Agriculture neglected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ budget

Farming neglected in K-Pakhtunkhwa

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN, Monday, 28 Jun, 2010)

WITH the provincial revenue going up enormously following the landmark Seventh NFC Award, it was believed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province would allocate sufficient funds for the development of farming sector, but no step was taken in this direction.

The meagre allocations to agriculture and its related sectors in fiscal budget 2010-11 indicate that development of agriculture lies far below in the list of priorities of the provincial government.

The annual development programme has been doubled and the provincial share in the ADP increased from Rs32 billion to Rs58 billion. Allocations for education, health and communication sectors have been increased by about 67, 80 and 64 per cent respectively as against the previous year to 17, 11 and 14 per cent of the ADP, the agriculture and its related sectors have not been given their due share in the budget.

Though allocation for agriculture in the provincial budget has been increased by about 45 per cent to Rs1.11 billion this year from Rs796 million in the outgoing fiscal, it has virtually come down if compared with the percentage to the total outlay of ADP.

Whereas the outgoing year’s allocation was 2.4 per cent of the core provincial ADP, it makes 1.9 per cent of this year’s total core ADP of Rs58 billion.

Irrigation budget was Rs1.4 billion or 4.3 per cent of the core provincial ADP in the outgoing year. Though its share in ADP has been increased by about 70 per cent to Rs2.4 billion, it has decreased by about 4.1 per cent of the ADP this year.

The budget for irrigation sector has been increased by about 70 per cent but it is insufficient considering the fact that the province needs to increase its irrigation infrastructure which at present cannot utilise the three million acre feet of water of its share that flows into, and is used by other provinces free of cost.

This year’s budget aims at economic revival and growth, according to the white paper, but the allocations do not reflect the ambitions.

Promotion of agriculture is the most effective tool for eradication of poverty and terrorism. This necessitates more funds for this sector. But the budgetary outlay for this sector reflects lack of vision and commitment on the part of the government.

Traditional methods, paltry allocations and weak commitments would do no good to the sector. The government will have to opt for out of box solutions and enthusiastic pursuit to develop it.

About 80 per cent farmers have no access to quality seeds, modern farm technology and increase in acreage and per acre yield which is necessary in the present circumstances, but the budget has either dealt the issues marginally or neglected them altogether.

The budget speech disclosed that the government would establish model farm services centres but there were no details. Obviously, financial constraints and small membership of the bodies have restricted their efficacy.

The most positive news for farmers in the provincial budget is the revival of cooperative bank and its subservient bodies from this fiscal year. According to Humayun Khan, the government would provide on billion rupees as seed money to the bank to give easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women to increase their income.

Another positive point is the Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme. The BKPAP has the potential to solve some basic problems of farmers but a meagre allocation, limited outreach and the political-orientation may reduce its impact.

According to Khan, under the programme, 1700 village organisations were formed, 1567 farmers were provided quality seeds free of cost, another 3,500 were trained and 1,535 model demonstrations plots were arranged in the outgoing fiscal.

The government wants to form 1,800 new village organisations, 2,600 farmers would be provided loans and another 4,000 with seeds this year. A sum of Rs501 million have been earmarked for these purposes.

Livestock accounts for 50 per cent of provincial gross domestic product but it continues to be provided a meagre budget and is still being administered by the agriculture secretary.

According to Khan, this year’s budget is the outcome of the comprehensive development strategy, the first ever developmental roadmap of the province for the next seven years.

The CDS requires about Rs583 billion of which Rs346 billion are to come from foreign loans. The government wants to spend billions on agriculture under the CDS but the finance minister didn’t mention from where the funds would come.

There is neither any special plan for livestock farmers in rural areas nor any for horizontal and vertical crop maximization. Decreasing the role and impact of the middlemen in agri-businesses has also gone unnoticed.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA have over 30 million wild olive trees. By making these trees productive, the province can produce about 75,000 tons of olive oil worth $1.5 billion annually. But this sector has remained untouched.

The province has introduced several high yielding research based seeds but their faulty distribution and delayed availability are causing problem. The budget speech didn’t address this issue at all.

According to Khan, the agriculture budget is meant for 84 projects worth Rs813 million for 57 on-going and Rs361 million for 27 new schemes in the sector.

The department would bring another 535 acres under cultivation this year. Sprinkler irrigation would be introduced in 9,000 acres. While another 5,000 hectares would be leveled through laser technology.

In irrigation sector, 64 projects- 42 ongoing and 21 new- will be completed which include construction of six small and medium dams, improvement of irrigation channel, construction of small ponds etc., which will help irrigate and bring around 50,000 acres under cultivation, but the question is are these goals realistic.

In the agriculture sector, only seven of the 64 projects and in the irrigation sector 11 out of 52 projects were completed in the outgoing fiscal.

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