Investing in innovative farm
Tahir Ali Khan
June 06, 2011: THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will
present its first budget this week after the devolution of
the federal agricultural departments to the provinces. The
question arises: what difference will it make?
Though officials of the provincial agriculture department
are confident that their development strategy reflects out
of the box thinking, farmers have very little hope that it
would be any different from the past. Thy say the
traditional approach will prevail.
Minister for Agriculture Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Arbab Ayub Jan
declined to share any details about the allocations and
targets for the next year’s ADP for agriculture but said the
budget would be non-conventional in its priorities and
“Several new interventions have been proposed. Allocations
have been approved for all of the schemes we had suggested.
This has been done for the first time and we hope it would
help develop farming in the province,” he said.
Ahmad Said, Chief Planning
Officer of the agriculture department, said “We have
suggested various innovative schemes, the details of which,
I cannot share as yet. I am hopeful this year’s
comprehensive ADP with several innovative steps would ensure
expansion and development of agriculture. The special focus
is on revival of farming in the 12 flood-hit districts,” he
Farmers have their own concerns. “The problems are so huge
that only a revolutionary ADP, with innovative steps and
enormous investments can tackle them. But there is little
likelihood that any such plan will be included in the annual
agriculture roadmap,” opines Naimat Shah Roghani, a farmers’
leader from Mardan.
High prices of various farm inputs have increased cost of
“The government should extend direct subsidies on the farm
inputs like seeds, fertiliser, tractors, power, diesel and
tube-wells,” he said.
The agriculture sector has received meagre funds in
successive ADPs despite its huge significance as the primary
source of livelihood for around 70 per cent provincial
While the allocation for agriculture sector was increased by
about 45 per cent this fiscal year over the preceding year,
it came down from 2.4 per cent of last year’s core ADP to
1.9 per cent of this year’s total core ADP of Rs58bn.
Irrigation budget was 4.3 per cent of the core provincial
ADP last year. Though its allocation went up by about 70 per
cent, it decreased to about 4.1 per cent of the ADP this
Roghani said at least five per cent of the ADP should be
allocated for agricultural development, which should be
gradually increased to 10 per cent in the coming years.
Only about 20 per cent farmers use quality seeds and modern
agriculture technology, for which agricultural research,
engineering and extension directorates should be
“For better coordination between the farmers and government
and to facilitate the directorates of agricultural research
and agricultural extension and to bridge the gap between
farmers and research, the government should revive the
erstwhile outreach directorate in the department of
agriculture,” said Muhammad Khalid, an agronomist from
“The outreach directorate reached out to the farmers at
their doorstep with new farming technologies and improved
seed varieties, but became dormant in 1995. Its revival is
necessary to address the critical problem of coordination
between farmers and agriculture researchers,” he said.
“Soil testing laboratories should be opened in all the
districts and tehsils. If modern farming technology and
techniques are provided to farmers, it will change their
farming from subsistence to commercial/modernised one,” he
KP needs to bring under cultivation about 1.6 million acres
of cultivable wasteland. If possible, it should distribute
the state-lands at nominal rates amongst landless farmers.
This requires water for irrigation which can be met by
building small dams for conserving floods/rain water for
future use. Wastage of water can be minimised by lining the
water-courses and canals and its efficiency increased by
adopting the sprinkle and drip irrigation.
And fruit orchards could be set up in areas not suitable for
food or cash crops.
Backyard or household farming can also increase people’s
incomes. The government, however, will have to provide seeds
of vegetable, fruit plants and animal progeny to the poor
Tunnel farming technique needs to be extended. For this, the
government should provide the technology along with guidance
and financial support to the poor farmers.
As prices of chemical fertiliser are gradually becoming
unaffordable, the government can support the use of
green-manure or other organic fertiliser.
According to Roghani, access to market and improved
marketing is vital for increasing the incomes of farmers. At
present these markets function only in two districts. More
markets should be set up across the province.
Livestock sector continues to be provided with meagre
budget. There should be some special programme for the
livestock farmers, especially women, who should be given
free animal offsprings and poultry initially.
Around 60 per cent area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is suitable
for olive cultivation. If an olive plantation project is
launched and farmers get plants and technical support from
the government, oil import bill could be reduced.
Modern laser technology could be used for land levelling.
Mechanised farming is vital to increase per acre yield; for
small landholdings, common facilities need to be provided.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa needs more farm credit facilities. It
accounted for only 3.4 per cent of the country’s agriculture
credit of Rs233bn in 2009. Only six per cent farmers here
have access to farm credit against 21 per cent in rest of
“Interest on agriculture loans needs to be decreased and its
process simplified,” Roghani said.
The government and private sector should establish
agricultural machinery pools and input centres at villages
where farmers could get these things on subsidy and deferred
payment, apart from guidance.
Courtesy: The DAWN