Role of agriculture in poverty alleviation
By Abid Hussain & A.D. Sheikh
RURAL population, directly or indirectly is linked to
agriculture for its livelihood. And agricultural development
is linked to rural development, water resources, industries,
poverty alleviation and environment. Its high growth rate
helps in poverty alleviation through employment and
farm output also helps in diversification of rural economy
toward agro-based industries and non-farm activities such as
livestock, fisheries and poultry. Thus,
agricultural development is critically important for poverty
alleviation since 65.9 per cent of the population live in
According to official figures, in 2004-05 poverty was 28.10
per cent in rural areas, 14.90 per cent in urban areas and
23.90 on an overall basis. Despite efforts of the
successive governments to mitigate poverty, it is still
burgeoning and expanding.
The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) scientists
conducted a survey to analyze income sources, agricultural
productivity and poverty status of farm families in
the rice/wheat and (Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura,
Lahore, Kasur, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin and Hafizabad) and
mix cropping zones (Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang,
Faisalabad/Toba Tek Singh & Okara) of Punjab during 2004-05.
According to survey results, crop income accounted for about
two-third (66.41 per cent) of the total income of farm
families. It contributes 71 per cent in the total income in
rice/wheat zone and 59 per cent in the mix-cropping zone. In
the rice/wheat zone, major crops (rice and wheat) contribute
97 per cent of the crop income of poor farmers and
94 per cent of the crop income of not-poor farmers.
Similarly, in the mix-cropping zone share of major crops
(sugarcane and wheat) in the income of poor farmer is
greater than the “not poor”; 82 and 71 per cent,
meaning the share of minor crops in the crop income of
latter is greater than the former.
Livestock sector’s contribution is 5.12 per cent in the
rice/wheat zone and 11.5 per cent in the mix-cropping zone.
Thus, agriculture sector contributes 73.87 per cent in the
income of rural farm families in the study area: 76.12 per
cent in rice/wheat zone and 70.50 per cent in mix cropping
zone. Therefore, it is apparent that an increase in
agricultural productivity results in an increase in per
capita income of rural farm people and thus a decrease in
poverty in rural areas.
Wages and salaries are also significant income sources for
peasants. They contribute about one-fifth (20.38 per cent)
of the total income of farm workers families. Rental
and transfer incomes are minor sources of income for farm
families; these sources contribute 5.75 per cent in their
According to latest official inflation-adjusted poverty
line, 31 per cent per cent of farm population in the survey
area is poor. The incidence of poverty is more in the
mix-cropping zone than in the rice-wheat zone.
Poverty estimates depict that in the mix cropping zone about
34 per cent of the members of rural families are poor as
compared to 28 per cent in the rice/wheat zone. Mean
income of poor farm households is less then the established
poverty line by 0.37.
Aggregate poverty deficit of the poor in the mix cropping
zone is more than in the rice wheat zone. The income
inequality amongst poor in the mix-cropping zone is more
than in the rice/wheat zone and overall study area. Thus,
poverty is more severe in mix cropping zone than the
The yield of major crops in the study area is low than their
potential yield. The yield of major crops is still 25-50 per
cent below the demonstrated potential; the gap between
actual and potential yield of rice is 50 per cent, wheat 40
per cent, sugarcane 35 per cent and maize 28 per cent.
The low yield of major crops may be attributed to poor
quality seed, low seed rate, conventional sowing method, and
inefficient use of fertilizers, poor management practices
and low level of farm mechanisation.
The crop specific reasons of low yield revealed that low
seed rate, use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of
the farmers, very low use of nitrogen and phosphatic
fertilisers and negligible use of potash fertiliser were the
main factors responsible for low sugarcane yield.
While, the major reasons of low yield of rice crop are low
plant population, use of previous year’s produce as seed by
most of the farmers, low use of nitrogen fertilizer, very
low phosphatic use and negligible use of potash fertilizers.
The use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of the
farmers, low use of nitrogen fertilisers, very low use of
phosphatic and negligible use potash fertilizers were the
main reasons of low yield of wheat.
Whereas, the major reasons of low yield of maize crop are
low use of nitrogen fertilizer, very low use phosphatic and
no use potash fertilizers.
The Indian sugarcane variety (CO-1148) and Tritran are major
cane varieties planted by the farmers of study area. Super
Basmati and Basmati-386 are major rice varieties
and occupy more than 85 per cent acreages of the total rice
area. Inqlab-91 and Wattan are the main wheat varieties
planted by the farmers. Farmers of the area planted
Desi and Neelam varieties of Maize and CIM-499 and Desi
varieties of cotton.
On the input side, black marketing/ higher prices of
agricultural inputs and low quality/adulterated pesticides
are problems faced by the farming community in the study
On the output side, low output prices, lack of
transportation and storage facilities are main problems.
In the livestock sector, more than 42 per cent of the total
milk produce is consumed domestically and the remaining
amount is sold to different marketing intermediaries. The
inter-cropping zone comparison shows that milk prices are
relatively higher in rice zone as compared to mixed cropping
zone in both summer and winter seasons.
In the study area, male young stocks of large and small
ruminants are usually sold before reaching maturity and few
farmers keep breeding bulls for buffalo and cattle.
However, 93 per cent farmers practice natural breeding
method in livestock and artificial insemination of livestock
is practiced only by seven per cent.
One animal out of average livestock holding per farm of nine
fell ill over a period of one year. Foot and Mouth Disease
(FMD), Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (HS), Red Water,
Dysentery, Runeinal Impaction and Paralysis are the common
livestock diseases. Vaccination of animals against diseases
is not encouraging as only 36.2 per cent and
18.8 per cent of farmers vaccinated their adult buffaloes
and cattle, respectively.
In case of young stock, the percentage of farmers who
vaccinated their buffalo and cattle young stock is 11.7 and
8.1 per cent, respectively. Similarly, de-worming of
livestock is not encouraged and that of young stock is even
The growers are cultivating non-recommended varieties of all
the major crops which suggest that either they are unaware
of the approved varieties, or there exist flaws in the
delivery system of approved seed. Thus, to increase
agricultural productivity, it is suggested that growers
should be educated to use recommended seed rate of approved
varieties and apply recommended doses of fertilizers to
crops. The flaws in the delivery system of approved seed and
fertilizers should also be removed.
To increase livestock productivity introduction of highly
nutritive fodders such as Mott grass and hybrid sorghum
fodder (Sada Bahar) de-worming according to fixed
schedule, vaccination against contagious diseases and
promotion of artificial insemination are suggested.
Courtesy: The DAWN