By Abdul Ali
Economy of any state or region depends on three sectors; agriculture, industry and commerce. These three are
interrelated with each other, progress or retrogress in one sector effects the other two. Practically in currency our country is living with Antonio Gramsci axiom when talking about agriculture-the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear. The land lorded politicians in power corridor are least interested in genuine land reform. Pakistan being an agrarian country is still enmeshed in vicious marshland when speaking about its agriculture produce, that is marred by various impediments-some man-made and some natural. Farmers have low yield and do not harvest what they desire or deserve. Peasants and tenants are being pissed off at low incentive while landlords and feudal-lords live in posh urban areas. The state’s stalemate is because of limited cultivable area, slow growth of allied products, inadequate infrastructure, old methods of production; inadequate supply of agricultural inputs, land reforms against the will of people et al. Due to these various factors, per acre yield is very low in Pakistan as compared to other developed countries, even Nepal and Bangladesh have adopted machinations in agriculture.
Statistically 45% of labor force is engaged out of the 70 % of the rural population. The state earns 45% of its export income from merchandise by cultivating only 28% of its area. It contributes 26% of GDP and 52% of the total populace is getting its livelihood from it. Though 67% population are involved in it compared to less than 5% in developed countries, but its contribution to our national economy is very less. But, other countries of world are getting higher yield per hectare due to use of modern technology and trained labor.
What bedevils the mountainous vast land of GB? To literate their selves, a group of 27 farmers from Ghulkin village paid tour to the Jaglot Nursery Gilgit, funded by AKRSP, led by the village organization’s (VO) president and secretary; Shoukat Ali and Sher Ahmed, with the motive to get the farmers to the root of plantation process and cycle , mechanism and mechanization used. Which they concluded at Serena Hotel Gilgit with briefing from youth activists Shah Zaman, Nisar Karim, Wali Ahmed Shah about the GYAG’s engagements for productive youth activism.
In broader the touring farming delegation found the same overlapping issues; rural infrastructure like, roads (non-metal), storage facilities, transport, electricity, education, lack of credit facility, instability in market prices and poor financial position of farmers, uneconomic land holdings, lack of irrigation facilities, inadequate agricultural research, subsistence farming, low cropping intensity, underutilization of land. Though, they openly admitted that there are no socio-economic problems, when it comes to women involvement in agriculture activities. Albeit lack of financing, credit facility, research work and natural problems can be attributed to not meeting the requirement of growth of agriculture.
They also opined that improper crop rotation (constant cultivation of one crop or two) exhausts the fertility of the soil. Proper turning round of crops is essential to re-establish and restore the fertility of the land. There are natural problems like various plant and pest diseases, which reduce the annual productivity of agriculture. Natural calamities like too much unnecessary rain reduce the productivity. There is 20% reduction in productivity due to rain and unfavorable climatic situations. They complained about scarcity of high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, if seed is available they cannot be purchased due to low income. Agricultural production is badly affected because of inferior quality of seeds and non-availability of fertilizers.
They also suggested though supply of agriculture credit can be enhanced through ZTBL on easy terms; like on profit and loss sharing basis. PARC can suggest provision of best variety seeds to our area at suitable price. NGOs can help mechanization of sowing, cultivation and harvesting of crops, increasing crop production qualitatively and quantitatively. AKRSP intervention in Chitral’s economy has improved their living standard by 28 %, students of KIU through their statistical chi-square test research came up with. Agricultural research is compulsory to remove the backwardness in agriculture sector. GB government should increase the agriculture research by funding KIU and collaborating with PARC. Government should start special education programme for farmers and give them training about farming, they concurred.
Northern Areas can prosper by improving the agricultural based industries-poultry; fisheries, dairy and livestock, and these industries indirectly will lead to improve their economy and health. Government should put in place effective price policy setting reasonable prices of agricultural production to develop the living standard of farmers. Importance of this sector is manifold as it feeds people, provides raw material for industry and is a base for foreign trade. The region’s gain will be much if it is given importance and bottlenecks are removed. Otherwise the burgeoning population will be tethering on the brink of starvation if it looked other way round.
The writer is media person of Ghulkin Youth Association, Gilgit (GYAG)