Improving agriculture sector


Fatima Khalid
If a country’s backbone breaks, it is not possible for a country to stand upright or lift its burden, it is a pretty simple logic yet most of the influential people in Pakistan fail to comprehend it. Agriculture, considered to be the backbone of Pakistan, has seen a gradual downfall over the last decade. The annual agricultural growth rate averaged just 2.8 per cent in recent years signifying drop from growth rates than the previous two decades. It accounts for over 21 per cent of GDP, 45 per cent of total labour force engaged with this sector. Around 63 per cent of country population live in rural areas is indirectly or directly linked with this sector for their livelihood. Agriculture sector has strong linkage with the rest of the economy that is unnoticed in statistics. While on the other hand, it is the primary supplier of raw material to downstream industry, that contributing significantly to Pakistan’s exports; it is the largest market for industrial manufactured goods such as pesticides, fertilizers, tractors and agriculture equipment.
I would start my discussion with what Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (South African politician) said, “We need to transform our rural areas, restore the land to its rightful owners and significantly grow our agricultural output” but unfortunately Pakistan did not live up to this quote! Throughout the world, the first step to solve any issue is to identify the problem otherwise failure loves to greet everyone at their doorsteps. If issues are identified, then only quality can be implemented and wonders can be witnessed. In the past few decades, agriculture has seen a dark period without guidance where farmers have acquired nothing in their fate except exploitation. There are various factors behind the breakage of backbone of Pakistan. Some of them take us back to history and other roots are planted in today’s technological advances. The issue I have analyzed that are in the way of quality culture is inequitable unjust distribution of Resources and Power, farmers are denied of their basic rights, landlords get their share and farmers are left with nothing other than sweat and some pennies because no defined procedures are there and some of them which are there are manipulated by landowners and middlemen. Though growth in population could have led to an improvement in yield and enhanced productivity but illiteracy has held their feet with ropes leading to burden only. As the Prime Minister of Pakistan says, corruption is the root cause of everything and that is what occurred here too. Government has played a major role in poor governance, rampant corruption, rapid deterioration in ethical norms, poor policy, non-existent analyses, poorer data, rapidly diminishing domestic capacity to formulate or implement reform, false bravado, increasing reliance on donors for analysis and support, circumstances out of our control, domestic terrorism and misuse of power. This does not end here when natural calamities hit farmers as well, water crisis is looming around the corner, earthquakes, floods and an attitude of ‘Waiting for Allah’ to do everything – Manna from heaven or from Kerry Lugar or from the IMF? No independent foresight and action these constraints have driven the Economy to Precipice – And Agriculture functions as a neglected sector in this depressing scenario.
The subsidies and other farmer based incentives given by the successive governments are enjoyed by the landlords and the farmer with small land holding suffers in the end (Smith, & Franklin nd.). Our farmers are living in an unknown world far away from technology. Traditional practices are more common in the developing countries like Pakistan and these practices are mainly due to the smaller farm size as the small level peasant is unable to bear the farm expenses and result in low yield per unit area (Project, B. 2017). They are resisting in investing in new technologies mainly because of illiteracy, lack of finances and no interest of government to take practical steps to educate and encourage them. A buried factor that is swept underground along with data is most important factor is the “Middleman”. This does not only prove to be a hurdle to improve the status of farmers but also hinders the farmers’ potential to produce quality products and creates doubt on the procedure as well (Khan, 2010). Small peasants are unable to access the market and get the rate that is the original price of the commodity that is neither the farmers are satisfied nor the consumer.
Quality means customer satisfaction and procedural control. For this the utilization of resources is the crux. In Pakistan, 28% area is used for agricultural purposes with low yield per hectare. But, other countries of world are getting higher yield per hectare due to use of modern technology and trained labour. The supply of modern inputs like high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, mechanized machinery etc. not only costly but also inadequate and irregular in Pakistan. In quality management, continuous improvement and research is the essence of quality management. Unfortunately, in agriculture Pakistan lacks both. In order to raise the potential of agricultural production, there should be progress in research. Total agricultural universities and colleges are only 16 in Pakistan. Quality is also related to training and facilitation, to have the right thing at the right time. Rural infrastructure makes it impossible for farmers to meet the requirement of growth of agriculture. It’s never late to rectify things. The solutions are challenging and complex but bears fruit with it. First of all, the policies should be clear and well defined. The most important is “Documentation” of land and access to data, without it all analysis would fail. Analytic capacity should be increased to provide government, civil society and business the knowledge required to ensure policy reforms and informed decision making. Wise and profitable investment in key agricultural sub-sectors and value chains are made. Strong advocacy and ownership for reform that ensures the necessary conducive regulatory environment is created and sustained so that markets function properly and demand-based agricultural technology innovation institutions thrive; A trained manpower that can handle the requirements of a modernizing agriculture system; ISO implementation for suppliers of seeds, fertilizers and machinery to give a better product; Transparency in buying farmers crops with electronic feed, regulation by government instead of controlling and last but not the least, communication between farmers and authorities can lead to stable system. I would just sum up it into one line: Let the farmers take the lead. I believe that no quality management system can survive without equal participation from the government, farmers, middlemen and all stakeholders involved because quality is all about responsibility and implementation on procedures rather than control on the product as a better procedure can lead to a better quality product.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Karachi.

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