18th Amendement: Sindh, Balochistan still without agriculture policies


KARACHI: “After passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment, Sindh and Balochistan are running without agriculture policies due to bureaucracy lethargy and failure. This negligence and slackness of authorities have caused food insecurity and low crop production. If immediate agriculture policies in both the provinces are not introduced and implemented immediately, there will be more food insecurity and socio-economic slowdown,” said Parveen Naz, Program Officer at ActionAid Pakistan in an interview to PPI on the condition of agriculture sector in Sindh and Balochistan.

“It is irony that Sindh government is reluctant to adopt agriculture policies depite a set of recommendations and suggestions had been provided to it, while Balochistan has drafted the policy but it could still not pass it from its assembly, which is harming farmers. It is great unfortunate that farmers even could not grow crops with their favorite seeds. They have been compelled to grow crops with hybrid seeds. The farmers’ privilege is a enormous issue because the seed industry wants to control agriculture sector and its growing market,” she said.

Parveen said that Sindh and Balochistan need effective agriculture policies so as to provide relief to farmers, growers and labour for their livelihood. Spurious fertilisers, pesticides and uncertified seeds are being used in Sindh and Balochistan, which have badly affected the agricultural sector. Sindh and Balochistan needs sustainable agricultural policies in order to enhance livelihood for farmers and alleviate poverty.

She said agriculture in the country accounted for 20.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014-15 and is a source of livelihood of 43.5 percent of rural population. Increased agricultural production and high crops yield is essential for foodsecurity which make the farming systems less vulnerable to climate change. To make agriculture more effective and beneficial in supporting sustainable higher economic growth trajectory and reducing poverty in Pakistan, sustainable agriculture policies needs to be adopted through Balochistan and Sindh Assemblies coupled with favourable socio political climate, adequate governance, farmers say, experts views, and sound macroeconomic fundamentals. The prime focus of the government is on high value agriculture including horticulture, livestock and fisheries.

Parveen said agricultural performance in Pakistan remained subdued. Major factors underlying this slow performance include slow rate of technological innovation, limited adoption of progressive farming techniques, problems with quality, quantity and timeliness of input supply, limited investment in construction and maintenance of infrastructure; marketing and trade restrictions, pest and livestock disease problems, and limited amounts of credit for agricultural production, processing and the lack of agriculture-specific financing.

She said: “At ActionAid, we are tackling the root causes of hunger and supporting the poorest and most marginalised people to ensure they have rights to land and enough food to eat. Land, water and forests are the key to providing food, decent livelihoods and a sustainable future for everybody. Yet environmental pressures and increasing competition for these resources means that rural communities the world over are being forced off their land. ActionAid stands up for rural women and smallholder farmers by helping them hold governments, international organisations and corporations to account.

Furthermore, ActionAid works with landless women and men, including smallholder farmers, to help them secure control over their land so they can feed themselves, their families and their communities. We also help farmers withstand climate change across the world by promoting new, sustainable farming methods.”

ActionAid empowers smallholder farmers, particularly women. We are also advocating for increased and improved public financing for agriculture, especially for women smallholder farmers, so as to close the gender gap, Parveen said.

She said that drought is frequently hitting several areas of Balochistan, including parts of Noshki, Awaran, Khuzdar and Bolan districts, the farmers need immediate subsidies and low rates of agriculture inputs. The people are facing acute water shortage due to low rains. The government needs to boost agriculture sector of Balochistan by adopting new agriculture policy.

According to a repot, agriculture sector is life blood of Pakistan’s economy. This sector has dire need of potential and consistent policies. The development of agriculture has been ignored time and again in spite of the fact that the agricultural sector is the largest contributor to the GDP. It employed 80% of the population directly or indirectly, accounted 73% of the foreign exchanges, provided raw material to the industrial sector and served as a market for industrial products.

Parveen said that farmers should be paid the minimum support price for their crop productions in Sindh and Balochistan so that they could be saved from extreme financial hardships. The agriculture departments of both the provinces need to helpg the poor and small farmers so that they can grow their crops peace of mind.

“The main reason for the decline of agriculture sector is acute water shortage. A large portion of the land is dependent on rain water coming from hills through natural channels, which has decline to an alarming level. There is need to install tube-wells with facility of electricity free of cost,” she concluded.