FARMERS in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa have demanded of the government to provide them with easy and timely access to agriculture inputs so that they may sow the next crop.
“With thousands of tons of wheat and maize seeds having been washed away by recent floods, there is an urgent need to procure and store substantial amount of the commodities in advance. We would like the government to provide these two basic inputs to growers free of costs as they are hardly hit,” said Murad Ali Khan, president of the Kissan Board Pakistan.
For this to happen, village-based agriculture inputs/services provision centres (AIPCs) should be set up.
“Agricultural inputs are the main headache of farmers. In times of need, they either disappear from the market or are too costly and unaffordable for the poor growers. With the wheat sowing season not far away, there could no better time than now to advocate the village-based setup,” said Khan.
According to Niamat Shah, general secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, farmers’ income can be substantially increased if quality seeds, fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and other services are provided to them in time and on cheaper rates.
“These AIPCs would be like agriculture utility stores which also would serve as store houses/marketing centres for all agricultural inputs. They will provide inputs, soft loans, guidance and training and other services to farmers at 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,” he argued.
These centres should be established on the basis of union council, Patwar Halqa or villages and should comprise all stakeholders in agriculture, i.e. farmers, livestock owners, agriculture department field assistants, patwaris, veterinary doctors, seeds/fertiliser industry and bank representatives.
To minimise the chances of corruption, there should be oversight bodies over these local chapters at district and provincial levels with membership on the same pattern, he added.
“The government should open a centre at each of the 986 union councils in the province. Then these bodies should be organised on Patwar halqa and ultimately on village basis to cover the entire or most of the farmers the province. These centres must function under the supervision of the provincial agriculture department,” said Shah.
Every AIPC should have certified seed, fertiliser, pesticides and farm machinery, repair workshop, veterinary hospital, the latest information about various aspects of farming, branch of Zari Traqqiati 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 issue. “But the issue could be tackled. Farmers should contribute a membership fee of at least Rs200 per head 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 when invested in agriculture inputs and services that earns money. Farmers could 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, should also fund these entities once these start functioning. Banks could also be asked to be a share-holder in the business,” Shah added.
According to Khan, the seeds research farms in the province 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. This explains the rampant low per acre crop yield in the province.”
“So far the government has failed to streamline the seeds’ distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on substandard seeds in the market,” Shah said.
In villages, he said, the government needs not invest that huge amounts on buildings for the purpose. Rather Hujras or empty houses, available in plenty there, can be utilised.
“The AIPCs will surely modernise and commercialise the subsistence and outdated farming when expert advice, machinery and marketing support is provided to growers,” said Israr Bacha, a farmer. [dawn]