Flood compensation highest in KP

Flood compensation highest in KP

By Tahir Ali
2nd April, 2012
UNDER the damage compensation programme for citizens, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has so far disbursed the high amount as compared to other provinces.

KP has benefited from its experience in providing relief to affectees in militancy-hit areas.

Out of the total of Rs18.61 billion distributed in the country by March 20 at the rate of Rs20,000 per tranche, KP has distributed Rs8.48 billion, followed by Punjab Rs7.16 billion, Sindh 2.66 billion, AJK Rs0.1 billion, Gilgit Baltistan Rs0.12 billion and Balochistan Rs0.052 million. Total sum allocated for the country is Rs48 billion.

While KP accounts for 46 per cent, Punjab 39 and Sindh 14 per cent of the cash disbursed, the rest of the areas each account for less than one per cent.

KP is ahead of other provinces in the processing of Watan Cards too. Out of a total 0.79mn flood affected people in the country, Watan Cards for 0.72mn have been processed. While in Sindh cards of 0.13mn out of 0.164mn or 84 per cent and in Punjab, 0.31mn of the 0.338mn or 92 per cent have been activated. KP, however, has processed 0.261mn cards off the total 0.276mn or over 94 per cent. Balochistan has processed 3,271 out of the total 3,732 applications.

According to an official of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), for flood compensation house damage was made a criterion but it was only flood support and not house compensation as given in Malakand as it required an enormous fund which was beyond KP’s resources.

“The strategy was approved in the Council of Common Interest meeting following the floods. While Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan went for blanket coverage of the affected districts, KP could not do so for its limited resources and instead argued for limited payment after verification on the basis of complete or partial damage to houses,” said the official.

Despite remarkable achievements, there are allegations of political based registration of the flood-affected people and corrupt practices. According to allegations, elected peoples’ representatives and political parties gave the lists of their blue-eyed, not necessarily deserving ones. “Some areas which had not been affected by floods were also included in the compensation regime,” he said.

The PDMA official rejected the allegations and said the World Bank’s third party validation had termed it fair and unbiased and that’s the reason that they were able to start the second and the third phase in the province.

“The affected people were selected by a committee in each union council, comprising Patwari, teacher, elected public representative, army personnel (where necessary as in Swat) and local elders. Later, after verification of the data by Nadra, the affectees were given compensation through Watan Card. Later after third party validation by the World Bank on the basis of Phase-I survey, a list of 0.27mn affectees was prepared for the payment of second and third tranches under the CDCP- Phase-II,” he said.

“The government and donors have tried their best to ensure an accurate data, exclusion of the well-off and inclusion of legitimate affected people, but even then if any legitimate affectee has been left out during phase-I and Phase-II, he/she may submit appeal at the Nadra grievances cell at Watan Card nominated centres in each district of KP,” he added.

As far the allegation of registering affectees from areas not affected during floods, the official explained the compensation was not meant only for flood-affected houses but for any house that was damaged during the torrential rains and floods in the last week of July and first week of August, 2010. People have mostly ignored this fact.

Though official data put the number of affected entitled to compensation at 0.789mn and 0.275mn in the country and KP respectively, the IOM worker said actual flood affectees are fewer — around 0.080-0.090mn at the most.

Though the government had earlier resolved to provide Rs0.1mn as floods compensation, it had to slash it to Rs0.06mn later for shortage of funds.

Floods inflicted a loss of around $10bn on Pakistan. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa suffered $1.2 billion losses and required $2.2 billion for the flood reconstruction.

However, foreign donors’ support hasn’t arrived in promised quantities as expected. It seems the issues of transparency, fiscal incompetence, poor planning, donor fatigue and indifference of local leaders to provide their due in donations has kept the world from it.

There are complaints of difficulties in the receipt of money from banks. To offset this, in October 07, 2011, the state bank of Pakistan directed all commercial banks to make special arrangements to ensure that their ATMs were operational and cash was replenished in a timely manner and that no service charges were recovered on the use of Watan Cards.

Growing mushroom in tobacco barns

Author: Jose A. Fadul. I took this picture of ...

Image via Wikipedia

Growing mushroom in tobacco barns

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn May 2, 2011

MUSHROOM can be cultivated anywhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but it is more convenient to sow it in areas where tobacco is grown.

Thousands of tobacco barns lie mostly unused from October to June every year which can be used for cultivation of mushroom.

The timing for the use of tobacco barns is ideal for two reasons: first, they are vacant and can be used without any damage to the next crop. Second, the crop requires temperature between 22-27 degrees Celsius and humidity of around 80 per cent, which prevail during that period.

The Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) has also started a project for cul- tivation of mushroom which will be promoted among farmers from next year.

“Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have lagged far behind their counterparts in Punjab. The latter are earning more money from their modernised and efficient farming practices and for utilising their agriculture infrastructure to the maximum. For example tobacco farmers in Punjab grow cucumber and green chillies in winter and earn a lot of money. Unfortunately, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers are either too ignorant or poor and not interested in doing that. They can earn a lot by opting to mushroom cultivation in their barns during the interval,” said a PTB official.

“We will provide technical support, guidance and spawn initially for growing mushroom to tap the potential and enable tobacco growers to increase their income,” he said.

“The PTB will provide seed to the farmers for the first time and then they will be asked to develop the spawns themselves for their use. Farmers will also be provided training and guidance on how to grow the plant, ” he added.

Farmers are generally ignorant about mushroom seeds and know-how to grow oyster or button variety. Guidance on the crop and provision of its spawns (seeds) to farmers could attract multitude of farmers to the sector.

The ingredients needed for the crop are easier to get. Mushroom spawn, two kg quality substrate (wheat straw) and two per cent lime, a plastic bag and clean water are all that is needed for growing mushroom.

Mushroom requires little space, consumes little time, does not need hard work and can be grown even by women and children.

It requires small investment. Its seed in a bag costs around Rs30 which grows in three months. An ordinary barn can provide around 30-50 bags, and with this investment a farmer can earn Rs1000-Rs1500 per bag.

Mushrooms have both nutritional and medicinal values. Being a good food for patients of heart disease, blood pressure and eyesight, mushroom can be used as a diet for common man and in soup.

It can also be marketed to save foreign exchange spent on import of canned mushroom.

Mushroom has been found to have greatly augmented milking capacity of livestock in the province. Its residues are also a major organic fertiliser.

The fungus apart from being a major organic food, is a rich source of protein and can be used as a substitute for protein-providing foods such as meat which is increasingly becoming costlier and unaffordable for the middle-class.

While growing mushrooms, sufficient amount of water, oxygen and darkness is needed. Sterilisation of the compost before spawning is another prerequisite which prevents it from poisoning.

The spawning process completes within 40-45 days. After a week, production starts which continues for three months. In case of button variety, the compost is ready within a month while the oyster`s compost takes a week for germination. This spawning component can also be used as seeds and a spawn bag gives 25 bags of mushroom seeds.

Marketing of the commodity is another problem. The farmers have no access to and information about the buyers. There are many buyers in the market but irregularity in supplies spoils things. Recently a five-star hotel showed interest in mushroom purchase agreement but it wanted regular supplies and good quality.

This can be sorted out by ensuring coordination between growers and purchasers on the one hand and the farmers on the other.

“By developing mushrooms farmers` and buyers` database, the problem of marketing the produce can be solved to the advantage of the stakeholders. We are hopeful that big chain restaurants will themselves contact the producers for the commodity,” the official said.

“Purchase centres can be opened in the districts where information can be provided to the stakeholders on the demand and supply situation of the commodity in the market to facilitate business,” the official added.

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Learning from the calamity

Learning from the catastrophe

By Tahir Ali

It is rare that failures and disasters provide a glimmer of hope, but when they do, they offer opportunities for sound development and reconstruction. If the post-flood scenario is analysed vigilantly and critically, the natural calamity that has wrought devastation in almost all four provinces can be turned into an opportunity for reconstruction of the country’s shabby and fragile infrastructure.

The recent flash floods have inflicted colossal losses on the economy. But rather than projecting fabricated and over exaggerated damage figures to beg for more foreign aid, we need to learn from this crisis and do improved and effectual planning to cope with natural disasters in future. Natural misfortunes such as the earthquake of 2005 and the recent floods cannot be stopped but yes their impact can be minimised by taking some concrete measures.

Each time any deadly disaster strikes the nation, they underline and bring to the public eye our structural weaknesses on how to cope with such upheavals. Absence of administrative bodies and technical know-how to deal with and thrive in crisis situations leaves the country always relying upon international help in rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations.

Dearth of funds, modernised equipments, personnel and resources to rescue the marooned people, of an organisational setup, which automatically springs into action at times of need, are some of the ailments that our emergency programme has been plagued with since a long time.

Extremely hesitant as the incumbent elite leadership is to plunge their routine non-development expenditure, the shortage of funds in the wake of lackluster international donations leaves little room with the government other than to either slash development budget or seek expensive foreign debts, as has been the case in the country habitually. While the former harms the prospects for advancement and enlargement as less development budget means fewer facilities for the people, the latter spurges the foreign debt burden and the budget deficit, which in turn distorts the balance of payments position.

The lack of any credible, autonomous and stable calamity-dealing body leads to another frailty- that of trust deficit on part of the international donors who decline to donate as much as required. People do not give generously because they are not certain if their funds would be spent honestly.

Problems are also compounded by a lack of any flood reconstruction and rehabilitation authority at the national level. The national and provincial disaster management authorities, federal flood commission, and provincial reconstruction and rehabilitation authorities, inter alia, are prevailing but there is still a dire need for a competent organisation at the national level for the purpose.

The association should have branches both at the provincial and district levels. Working in close coordination with national and foreign bodies, it will be responsible for rescue and relocation, relief and rehabilitation of the people hit by any disaster in future.

If the body is established, led by individuals of repute and integrity, given sufficient amount of funds and independence are transferred to its account by the government, it will go a long way to diminish the apprehensions of local as well as foreign donors.

The inability of the government to come to the rescue of the countless number of people stranded by fiercely gushing waters leaves the ground open to the army or the religious aid groups that are accused of having relations with the militants.

It also leaves the armed forces to obtain the foremost role in relief and rehabilitation operations that overextends their resources and attention from being focused on tackling pivotal security-related issues.

Another core issue is the paucity of appropriate infrastructure that could accommodate the displaced persons. The result is that they are either sheltered in educational institutions which affects the academic year or are accommodated in make-shift homes or on roadsides where there is no protection against the vagaries of weather.

The lack of coordination and understanding among government departments in crisis situations leads to several other complexities like dubious figures, failure to disseminate information, accountability weaknesses and the like.

Had a unified political leadership made an appeal for local and foreign donations, the situation would have been quite different. Leaders are role models for the people. But the leadership has failed itself by not only distancing itself from the core issues faced by the people but also indulging in activities that are counter productive and incompatible with the tragedy.

It was deplorable and irrational that the government continued its war against a section of the media and mud-slinging between opposition and ruling groups continued even during the calamity.

It seems by our continued anti-west rhetoric, we seem to have exhausted the reservoir of good-will in the comity of nations and we should not expect too much from the outside in this backdrop.

Relatively low-key or negative coverage in the international media has spoiled chances for robust funding. This warrants hard work on part of the government’s media managers. All this explains the lackluster response by donor agencies and the international community towards the aid appeals.

This lack of trust in the government’s ability to spend aid money effectively and honestly should not keep it from helping millions of affectees.

Reconstruction and rehabilitation of the flood-affected individuals and areas is a massive challenge. This can hardly be successfully tackled by the government alone. Every segment of the society must play its role in addressing the disaster. The international donors and relief organisations should also help the country rehabilitate the flood victims in the earliest.

It is high time that the government should build houses in every district to accommodate displaced or calamity-hit people. It will save the future of millions of students studying in the public sector schools whose education suffers as affectees are sheltered in these schools.

The flood zoning policy must be strictly implemented. Construction of houses, hotels and shops near or on banks of the rivers should not be allowed. A machinery pool should be established in all the four provinces. The pool, inter alia, should have plenty of helicopters, rescue boats, tents, heavy-duty machinery for lifting, digging and breaking purposes, excavators, tractors, bulldozers, vehicles, ready-made houses and bridges that can be used in similar emergencies in future.

Pakistan should also open a permanent endowment calamity fund where annual allocations must be made. The funds would be used for emergency rescue and relief activities and for long-term recovery and reconstruction endeavours.

A localised flood warning system and calamity reporting system is also the call of the hour. Some foreign governments are ready to do the needful.

Rather than waiting for foreign donations, the federal government should divert at least 30 per cent of development and 50 per cent of non-development expenditures to the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people.

Resource shortages must be overcome through personal sacrifices and smart management. The military leadership has been spearheading the campaign which has won it great laurels. Political leadership should not be lagging behind any more.

The government can also save billions by bringing down its current expenditure by unifying several overlapping departments, restructuring public sector enterprises, rationalising the size of government, curtailing foreign visits and unnecessary expenses on public offices.

Growers fear Wheat seeds

KP growers fear severe wheat seed shortage
By Tahir Ali
Monday, 20 Sep, 2010

WITH the wheat sowing season to commence next month, farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa anticipate an acute shortage of seeds. They fear that if the issue is not tackled soon, it will severely damage the crop prospects.

They want the federal and provincial governments and the international community to come to the rescue of the badly hit growers for whom the coming Rabi crop constitutes a first step towards their ultimate rehabilitation.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also warned that farmers in KP may not be able to plant wheat because of non-availability of quality seed and other needed inputs. Failure to provide time-critical inputs could reduce wheat yields, it fears.

Realising the potential seed shortage, the government has asked district agriculture officials to buy even the wheat meant for food.

“Normally wheat food grain is not utilised for sowing. But as seed shortage is feared, the director-general agricultural extension, KP, has asked all districts to buy as much of the commodity as possible,” says an official.

Though officials are confident there would be no shortage of seed, farmers fear its scarcity in coming weeks.

“Enough quantity and a robust system of distribution must be arranged in emergency,” said Niamat Shah Sawal Dher, general secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Shah feared that millions of acres of irrigated land may be left barren if seed was not arranged in time. “With the Pirsabaq’s seeds research farm, public seeds industry and private seed stocks having been mostly destroyed by floods, KP is almost certain to face wheat seed shortage. The government should quickly import standard certified seeds to fill the gap,” he said.

“There are also reports that the government wants to utilise food standard wheat as seeds in wake of shortage. This is not a right choice,” Shah added.

Murad Ali Khan, the president of the Kissan Board Pakistan, said “We will like the government to provide seed free of cost to flood-hit farmers.”

Muhammad Zahir Khan, a farmers’ leader, said Charsadda farmers have lost wheat seed stored in their homes. “The government and farmers organisations should sit together to chalk out a strategy as to what should be done to ensure a bumper wheat crop. Wheat sowing is at hand, but there is neither any compensation nor free seed or other inputs for the growers despite promises. I am worried how will farmers pay their agricultural debts, buy inputs and feed their families when they won’t be able to sow wheat,” she said.

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of Kissan Board, Swat, also asked for relief . “While we know Swat is not the only place to have been hit by flood but we do deserve more attention as we have been devastated first by militancy and then by floods. Swat farmers are mostly poor who own an acre of land and have no money to buy inputs. We deserve to be compensated for our losses and must be given free seed and money to buy farm inputs and reclaim our fields,” he said.

A senior official said: “We will shortly take up the issue with the federal government. The provincial food department has also enough wheat stock that can be used as seed. Private seed companies will also be procuring the commodity. We also intend to buy seed from Punjab and have already bought 2,000 tons of it. Though at present we have only a small quantity of the required seed, it is hoped that by the start of the wheat sowing season, the problem will be solved,” he added. But this, others fear, may not be the case.

The KP uses about 1.9 million acres for wheat cultivation. The provincial seeds industry provides 10 per cent of the total wheat seeds requirement of 80,000 metric tons to farmers.

This year the demand for wheat seed has increased. In the past, 70 per cent of the KP farmers used their own stock while the rest bought seeds. Now as floods have destroyed wheat stocks in Charasadda, Nowshera and the DIK and Lakki Marwat, the government will have to provide seeds to more farmers.

Recent flash floods have dealt severe blows to agriculture in Peshawar valley, Malakand division and southern parts of the province.

The FAO, provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority and some local and international non-governmental organisations are planning to provide farm inputs to farmers on a limited scale. It means a large number of affected farmers will not benefit from the plan and will be left out.

Losses to agriculture in KP

Khyber Pkhtunkhwa
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.

%d bloggers like this: