Archive for April, 2009

NWFP, Fata, Balochistan most ‘food insecure’

4/29/2009

nwfp-fata-balochistan-most-food-insecure

Post by pukhtunkhwatimes
ISLAMABAD: The NWFP, Fata and Balochistan are the most ‘food insecure region’ in the country while northern Punjab is the least.

Food accounts for about 60 per cent of total expenditure for an average farming household in Pakistan.

According to the findings of a baseline survey conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and released here on Tuesday, there are a number of constraints to crop production, such as inadequate access to affordable credit, high cost of agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, unreliability of water supply and low returns on investments.

The survey was conducted between January and June last year in 1,012 villages in the four provinces as well as in AJK, Fata and the Northern Areas in collaboration with the Ministry of Food, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council and the Agriculture Policy Institute.

The focus of the survey was on household food security conditions, scope for enhancing crop productivity and opportunities to increase income for poor farmers of small and medium resource.

‘The data of the study confirms that education is a major determining factor in reducing household vulnerability and improving food security as educated family members are more likely to have higher incomes,’ said Wolfgang Herbinger, WFP’s country representative in Pakistan.

According to the survey, a majority of farmers use local non-improved seeds and the use of fertiliser is much less than the recommended levels.

The overall productivity levels are low in the country, except for northern Punjab.

Commenting on the survey report, Food Secretary Mohammad Ziaur Rehman said there was an urgent need to increase the supply of improved seeds. ‘Empowering small farmers and building their knowledge base through farmers field schools along with easy access to credit are basic requirements for increasing agricultural output,’ he added.

The survey said that 64 per cent of farm households in Sindh relied on off-farm employment, compared to the national average of 28 per cent.

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Peace Rally in Lahore

LAHORE: Civil society activists posting letters to President Asif Ali Zardari during protest against Taliban at GPO Chowk.–Online Photo

 

peace-rally-in-lahore1peace-2 

 

 

 

 

Staff Report Dailytimes

LAHORE: A large number of people gathered on The Mall on Tuesday to protest against Talibanisation and posted a letter to the president, prime minister (PM), chief of army staff (COAS), and chief justice (CJ), demanding action against the spread of Taliban power. Protesters included human rights activists, artists, students, journalists, teachers and representatives of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Participants of the protest said the citizens were concerned about the state of their homeland.

Demands: They said the protest was aimed at sending a clear message to all state institutions – ‘Say no to Talibanisation’. They said the country’s sovereignty could not be compromised under any circumstances, adding that the democratically elected government must fulfil its responsibility by following the will of the people. Protesters demanded the government enforce the writ of the state in all provinces of the country. They said the citizens were willing to take a stand against the Taliban. Several protesters quoted Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as saying “Islam stands for justice, equality, fair play, tolerance, and generosity toward non-Muslims”. Joint Action Committee Convener Shahtaj Qizalbash said it was time the government decided on how it wants to deal with the Taliban. He said the government first fought the Taliban, then signed a deal with them, and will soon take action against those challenging the writ of the government. He said the government should not play a confusing role.

Protest: Protesters gathered at GPO Chowk outside the Lahore High Court (LHC) and walked towards the General Post Office (GPO). The Friday Times Publisher Jugnu Mohsin was among those leading the procession. She urged the government to adopt a clear-cut policy to combat terrorism. She said the military should play its role against Talibanisation to save the country. Upon reaching the GPO, hundreds of people signed and posted letters to the president, the PM, COAS and CJ.

Marketing constraints limiting sunflower production

April 29, 2009

‘Pakistan Times’ Business & Commerce Desk

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is producing about one third of its edible oil requirements and the rest is met through import at a cost of billions of rupees each year.

Around 187.1 million tones of edible oil at a cost of Rs. 109 billion was imported during 2007-08, while oil seeds costing Rs. 28 billion were also imported during the same period.
Substantial amount of our valued foreign exchange is spent on importing edible oil which not only brings hardship for the people but also burdened the national economy. The need is to find other means and ways to reduce the import edible oil bill including promotion of sunflower and oilseed cultivation in the country.

According to an official Ministry of Food and Agriculture here on Tuesday, the government was spending on sunflower research and motivating the farmers community to make the country self-sufficient in edible oil through increase in cultivation of this crop. Around 9,000 acres of land will be brought under sunflower cultivation in Sialkot, Daska, Pasrur and Sambrial tehsils this year.

He said sunflower, a non-traditional oilseed has the potential to bridge the gap that exists between the domestic demand and supply due to its high oil and protein contents. The official said certain marketing and production methods associated with this crop were being adopted to achieve the desired results and at the same time area and production of sunflower was being increased.

Sunflower seeds contain about 42 percent high quality edible oil and this crop is grown on an area of 2,56,000 hectares in Pakistan with a production of 3,59,000 tons sunflower seed and 1402 kg per hectare yield, he said.

This is low as compared to major sunflower growing countries like China, United States and Argentina but our per acre production is better than the developing countries, he said and added, the crop duration is such that it can be sandwiched between two cotton, rice or potato crops. So it has a great potential to make the country self sufficient in edible oil.

Due to rapid increase in population, the import of edible oil was increasing every year for fulfilling the domestic requirements.  Meanwhile, some growers said that small farmers were hesitating to cultivate the sunflower crop because of poor supporting price of their crop and this area is also needed immediate attention.

ASF helps chilli growers install solar dryers

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
By The News correspondent

LAHORE: Chilli farmers of Sindh have installed or are planning to install 588 small units of solar dryers for chilli drying on an experimental basis at an approx cost of Rs6.4 million. These farmers collectively produce approx 1,000 tonnes of chillies.

Agribusiness Support Fund (ASF) in partnership with Sindh Agriculture & Forestry Workers Coordination Organization (SAFWCO) Sindh Rural Support Program (SRSP) and local farmers has formed 29 Farmers Enterprise Groups consisting of 294 farmers to start the use of solar dryers for chillies.

ASF, SAFWCO and local farmers have laid the path for the successful resolution of the long-standing issues of chilli growers of Sindh.

Chilli is an important cash crop of the Sindh province, particularly in Kunri located in Umer Kot District. Production of red chilli in the province is 80,000 tonnes per annum, which accounts for around 86 per cent of the total red chilli production of Pakistan. Until fairly recently, this area was known as the chillies capital of the world.

However, the region is losing its importance as a chilli hub ever since its produce has started facing sanctions in the international markets. The imposition of sanctions is a result of poor harvest and post harvest practices which lead to contamination of the product and loss of colour due to the long duration (10 to 12 days) required for drying, which is carried out in the open fields.

Rainfall further exacerbates the problem since it results in the destruction of the harvested crop and also helps spur a fungal disease (the cancerous Aflotoxin) considered as one of the most serious food related health hazards.

In order to address the situation ASF entered into a dialogue with the local stakeholders, including growers, traders, processors and local NGOs. Subsequently ASF in partnership with SAFWCO, SRSP (Sindh Rural Support Program) and local farmers has formed 29 Farmers Enterprise Groups consisting of 294 Farmers. These farmers have installed or are planning to install 588 small units of solar dryers for chilli drying on an experimental basis at an approx cost of Rs6.4 million. These farmers collectively produce approx 1,000 tonnes of chillies.

The two participating farmers, Haji Ayub of village Khan Mohammad Kheskhilli and Ali shah of village Haji Matal Dharaijo revealed that they have full confidence in the performance of the solar dryers and have termed it a great success.

According to them the quality of the solar dried chillies has improved tremendously, especially after adopting technical advice of the ASF team, with respect to harvest and post harvest practices including washing of the produce before drying. The farmers were delighted to realize a 50 per cent increase in the price of their produce from Rs1800 per 40 kg to Rs2800 per 40 kg in the open market. Moreover, the drying time of the chillies has also been reduced from 12 days to five days resulting in substantial reduction in labour costs.

ASF is continuing efforts in collaboration with SAFWCO, local growers and research and educational institutions to scale-up the model and install larger units for the benefit of the farming community at large. It is pertinent to mention that these solar dryers have the potential to become a model simple and low-cost appropriate technology that may easily be replicated by small farmers of Sindh on a sustainable basis.

Khaskhelis: victims of feudalism

By Zubeida Mustafa (DAWN)
Wednesday, 29 Apr, 2009

protest-in-karachi

 The Khaskhelis have failed to get their 12 acres of land regularised.

 

An Afghan proverb holds that zar, zan and zameen (gold, woman and land) are linked to a man’s honour. It is no different in Pakistan’s tribal and feudal tradition.  While women are fighting back and wealth is no longer the exclusive preserve of a handful, land continues to be the most coveted element in the lexicon of male honour. Land hunger lies at the root of many evils. Civilised societies have another perspective. They regard housing, ‘the crucible for human well-being’, as the fundamental right of man to enable him to live in peace and dignity. For that he needs land.

A demonstration of this conflict between the rich man’s greed and the poor man’s needs has been taking place outside the Karachi Press Club since mid-March. On display is the confrontation between the evils of avarice, violence, corruption and brute power, and the children of a lesser god who are backed by civil society. Nearly 40 — the number rises and falls — men, women and children, residents of Goth Mohammad Essa Khaskheli (Sanghar district), have encamped on the pavement to draw public attention to their plight.

Theirs is a story quite familiar in Pakistan. It is said to be the usual tale of the powerful out to grab land and evict the weak from their homes. The scene of action is a small goth spread over 12 acres. The 150 families who claim to have been settled there for over 40 years now fear for their lives.

They say their powerful neighbour, landlord Waryam Faqir, who reportedly owns 10,000 acres (a big jump from the 100 he possessed in 1985) has been eyeing the little goth. He has all that is required here to have things going his way — political muscle, economic clout and connections. (He was convicted of corruption by the accountability court in 2002 and sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs2m.

But he managed to procure his release much before he completed his term.) As is not unusual, the landlord appears to have drawn on the might of the state to promote his designs. A tacit alliance with others of his class and that cuts across party lines may have helped. The conventional strategy adopted is to get state land transferred illegally to fictitious names. If there are people living there, too bad. They can be evicted since they are poor and their title to the land is at best tenuous.

Take the case of Mr Waryam Faqir’s tussle with the Khaskhelis. The 250 acres of fertile land where the village is located belongs to the irrigation department. The Khaskhelis have been trying to get their 12 acres regularised but in vain. Mr Faqir has apparently enlisted the cooperation of friends in the right places in his bid to gain control over these 12 acres. In October 2007, he got the mukhtiarkar to certify ‘no any (sic) village in the name of Muhammad Essa Khaskheli is located in Deh Bitoor’.

All this happened at a time when the residents of the goth were in possession of documents to prove that they have been settled there for decades — their welfare society was registered with the Directorate of Social Welfare in 1987, they have had electricity connections for 25 years and telephone facilities since 2000. A number of residents hold NICs, PRCs and other documents giving their address in the goth. On the Sindh High Court’s instructions the deputy district officer Sinjhoro ordered an enquiry in July 2008 which verified the existence of the village.

The latest round has indeed become vicious. It is alleged that the village has come under attack, false FIRs have been registered and other methods of intimidation have been resorted to. Despairing of obtaining justice, Walidad, the elder of the clan, decided to come to Karachi to make his voice heard.

Initially the Khaskhelis’ presence remained unnoticed until they discovered a benefactor in Najma Sadeque of Shirkat Gah who mobilised support to provide the villagers food for sustenance and shelter for the night. They could not be left to starve to death. The turning point came on April 12 when Walidad under severe stress because of the threats he was receiving had a heart attack and passed away.

He accomplished in his death the mission that had brought him to Karachi. Piler, the Labour Party and Justice (retd) Rashid Rizvi also came to the rescue of the villagers. The scene changed dramatically. Eight dignitaries, including ministers, advisers and parliamentarians, visited the protesting villagers promising them police protection, financial compensation and justice. The Khaskhelis returned home to bury Walidad. But the promises remain unfulfilled. A week later, they have returned to the Press Club.

Meanwhile, there are reports that fresh efforts are afoot to show the Khaskhelis as encroachers. In a desperate bid, they have faxed an appeal for help to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. This is no more just a tussle for land. At stake also is human dignity and the integrity of a few. Walidad’s wife wept bitterly pleading for mercy not knowing that this was her right. A revenue officer who has proved to be a friend of the Khaskhelis because of his honesty now faces a case filed by Waryam Faqir.

Sixty years ago, Masud Khadarposh, an ICS officer and deputy commissioner Karachi, penned his famous ‘Note of Dissent’ in the Hari Committee report. In it he wrote, ‘Peasant proprietorship should replace zamindari’ with the goal of ‘creating a class of independent self-respecting farmers with sufficient land to enable them … to better their standards of living’. These words carry no meaning for a state and society as feudalistic in its mindset as ours.

Repeated half-hearted attempts at land reforms in 1959, 1972 and 1977 failed to alleviate the agony of the Khaskhelis and their ilk.

The situation continues to be exactly as described several decades ago by that great peasant leader of Sindh, Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi. He wrote, ‘The hari fears the zamindar’s punishment more than he fears the torture of hell, because he frequently sees the zamindar’s ‘bully’ in action.’Who says feudalism is dead?  zubeidam@gmail.com

 

 

WFP survey shows food insecurity rife in Pakistan

 

By Dawn Correspondent
Tuesday, 28 Apr, 2009

food-insecurity1

 

The report revealed stark differences between the provinces – White Star photo.

 

 

ISLAMABAD: Food accounts for 60 per cent of total expenditures for the average farming households surveyed by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MINFA).

 

The findings of the baseline survey conducted by WFP and MINFA, released on Tuesday said that highest food insecurity in the country was in NWFP, FATA and Balochistan, whereas farming house-holds in Northern Punjab were the least food insecure.

 

The survey report has identified a number of constraints to crop (particularly wheat production), such as the high cost of agriculture inputs (mainly the seeds, fertilizers pesticides etc.) and inadequate access to affordable credit.

 

The unreliability of the water supply and low returns on investments are also among the issues faced by the farmers.

 

The survey was conducted during the period January to June 2008, in 1012 villages in all for provinces as well as in AJK, FATA and northern areas, in collaboration with MINFA and Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) and the Agriculture Policy Institute (API).

 

The focus of the survey was on the house hold food security conditions, scope for enhancing crop productivity and opportunities to increase income of small and medium resource poor farmers.

 

‘The data of the study confirms that education is a major determination factor in reducing household vulnerability and improving food security as educated family members were more likely to have higher incomes,’ said Wolfgang Herbinger, WFP country representative in Pakistan.

 

The report highlights that the majority of farmers use local, non- improved seeds and the fertilizer usage is much less than the recommended levels

 

It said that the productivity levels are well below in the country, however the highest yields are found in Northern Punjab.

 

In his comment over the report Secretary MINFA Muhammad Zia ur Rehman said that there was an urgent need to increase the supply of improved seeds.

 

‘Empowering small farmers and building their knowledge base through farmers field schools along with easy access to credit are the basic requirements for increasing agricultural output.’ He added.

 

The survey sad that off farm employment was most important for farming communities in Sindh, where 64 per cent of farm households rely on off farm employments as compared to the national average of 28 per cent.

 

The survey covered over 12,000 households in 26 districts throughout the country. The sample was randomly selected from four categories of farm households.

 

These categories were the landless, very small (0.5 – five acres), small (5-12) and medium (12-20).

 

The survey said that crop production in the first source of livelihood among the 71 per cent of the samples, followed by salary for eight per cent and livestock for seven per cent.

 

It said that most of the unskilled agriculture belong to the poorest categories of farming households.

 

The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency and the UN’s frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year the WFP plans to feed around 90 million people in 80 countries. The total WFP program in Pakistan during the year 2009 was valued at $130 million to reach more than eight million poor people.

 

 

 

WFP, MINFA release baseline survey on food security

Staff Report DailyTimes

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MINFA) on Tuesday released the findings of the baseline survey for the national programme for food security and productivity enhancement of small farmers, known as Crop Maximisation Project Phase II (CMPII).

During January to June 2008, WFP conducted a benchmark survey in 1012 villages in all provinces as well as AJK, FATA and Northern Areas of Pakistan in collaboration with MINFA, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) and Agriculture Policy Institute (API). The focus of this survey was on the households’ food security conditions, scope for enhancing crop productivity, and opportunities to increase income of small and medium resource poor farmers.

“Empowering small farmers and building their knowledge through farmer field schools coupled with easy access to credit and farm inputs are pre-requisites for increasing agricultural production. Similarly, there is an urgent need to increase the supply of improved seeds,” Muhammad Zia-ur-Rehman, Secretary, MINFA said in his inaugural address.

The survey covered over 12,000 households in 26 districts throughout the country. The sample was randomly selected from four categories of farm households, i.e. landless, very small (0.5-5 acres), small (5-12 acres) and medium (12-20 acres).

The survey report identified a number of constraints to crop, particularly wheat production, such as high cost of agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizer, pesticides), inadequate access to affordable credit, unreliability of water supply and low returns on investment.

“The data of the study confirm that education is a major determining factor in reducing household vulnerability and improving food security as educated family members are more likely to have higher incomes, send their children to school and afford improved housing and sanitary conditions”, said Wolfgang Herbinger, WFP Country Representative in Pakistan.

The baseline survey revealed that majority of farmers use local, non-improved seeds.

Fertilizer use is much below recommended levels, productivity levels were well below international standards. The highest yields were found in North Punjab.

Off farm employment was most important for farming communities in Sindh, where 64 percent of farm households rely on off farm employment as compared to a country average of 28 percent. Crop production was the first source of livelihood for 71 percent of the surveyed households, followed by salaries (8 percent) and livestock (7 percent).

Food accounts for 60 percent of total expenditures for the average farming household surveyed.

The highest food insecurity levels were found in NWFP & FATA and Balochistan, whereas farming households in North Punjab were least food insecure. Measured in terms of daily food consumption the number of food insecure households in North Punjab was five times less.

There was a significant correlation between poor food consumption and low literacy rate of households, the survey revealed. Most of the unskilled agricultural workers belong to the poorest category of farming households (64 percent fall within lowest wealth quintile).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Punjab strengthening education, agriculture’

April 28, 2009

 

* Shahbaz says country passing through critical phase
* Directs authorities to set up laboratories to conduct free hepatitis
tests

DailyTimes
Staff Report

LAHORE: The Punjab government is strengthening the sectors of education, agriculture and health on the basis of priority, Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif said on Monday.

He was speaking at a meeting with Federal Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at the CM Secretariat. Matters concerning development projects and alternate sources of energy were discussed during the meeting. The CM said solid steps were being taken to improve the province’s economic situation. He said the annual wheat procurement target had been increased by 6 million tonnes, adding that farmers would be given their due share of the produce.

Critical phase: Separately, Shahbaz said the country was passing through a critical phase of history and national solidarity was the need of the hour. He was attending a meeting with Punjab Rangers Director General Major General Muhammad Yaqub Khan. The CM was given a detailed briefing about the security steps being taken in the province. Shahbaz said the responsibilities of the law enforcement agencies had increased lately, adding that maintenance of law and order was the foremost responsibility of the government. He said a comprehensive strategy had been evolved to eliminate terrorism and extremism from the province.

Health: Separately, Shahbaz directed the authorities concerned to set up the Polymaraise Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratories for diagnosing Hepatitis in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur at a cost of Rs 40 million.

A Health Department spokesman said a PCR laboratory in Jinnah Hospital was already operational, while another was being set up at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. He said PCR laboratories were being set up at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, DHQ Hospital in Rawalpindi, Nishtar Hospital in Multan, Allied Hospital in Faisdalabad, Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan and Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur.