Archive for June, 2010

Grain storages for food security

Post Source: DAWN economic & business review

By Saleem Shaikh

IN the absence of planning for maximisation of crops and low spending of allocated funds for construction of modern storage facilities, Sindh faces a threat of becoming a food insecure province. The present population of around 40 million of the province is likely to double by 2030. This rapid increase in population during the next 20 years would need doubling the present production of all crops, particularly wheat, rice and sugarcane to meet the mounting food needs.

Only about 10 per cent of this enormous requirement will come from increase in acreage, while the rest 90 per cent will have to be met by augmenting crop production. This will need an enormous investment for maximisation of per acre yield through provision of good quality seeds, promotion of better land management and improved farm practices and, most importantly, a modern storage infrastructure to protect and save the produce.

A review of different official budgetary and planning documents points to a grim situation and the likelihood of emergence of food insecurity in the province, as the government lacks planning to ensure food availability to people in the coming years.

Given the situation, encouraging farmers to grow more crops will not protect the province against food insecurity. In this regard, investment in building modern storage facilities/silos is equally important.
Agriculturists put post-harvest losses of different crops at 40-45 per cent including those caused by inadequate storage facilities. Tons of grains including wheat and rice are spoiled every year owing to rains and erratic weather conditions as well as sizzling heat wave, which can be avoided by keeping grains protected in silos.

Rain damage: This time again the recent rains in different districts of Sindh have damaged a large quantity of procured wheat as it was lying in the open at different procurement centres and privately-rented godowns, many without roof.

The current province-wide post-rain losses are estimated at around Rs390 million as when it rained in Sindh, more or less six million wheat bags were lying in the open due to inadequate storage facilities, according to food department reports.

The provincial food department achieved the target of 1.5 million tons of wheat (15 million wheat bags) during the current wheat procurement drive. But, only seven million bags could be stored in government and privately-rented godowns while the rest of the stock was left lying in the open at different procurement centres, according to reports from different district food officials. “As many as two million of the seven million wheat bags have been kept in private godowns,” they said.

Although, food department director Aftab Memon puts the figure of damaged wheat bags at 1,80,000, the actual figure is far more in view of the overall number of wheat bags that were lying in the open when it rained heavily.

Badin, Thatta, Hyderabad, Tando Allahyar, Tando Adam, Sanghar, Khairpur, Sukkur Dadu, Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot and Shikarpur received heavy rains, where a large number of wheat bags were lying exposed in the open.

Heavy monsoon rains are expected in July and August in southern part of the country. The tons of recently procured wheat might get lost if measures were not taken for its safe storage.

Despite the prediction, unfortunately there seems to be no action plan in the offing by the provincial food department for the safety of the procured wheat that is lying in the open in many parts of the province.

When this scribe talked to the food department officials whether they had any plan for the protection of wheat bags, they said that they were yet to come up with a contingency plan in this regard.

Risk in polymer bags: On the other hand, another large quantity of wheat stored in privately-rented godowns in different wheat growing districts, has started decomposing and becoming prone to insects and moths attacks as thousands of polymer bags packed with wheat are getting damaged, according to reports collected by this scribe.

Provincial food department’s inaction for safekeeping of wheat stocks still lying in open at different procurement centres is bound to cause huge losses to the provincial exchequer.

Provincial food secretary Naveed K. Baloch claimed that all-out efforts were being made to avoid further damage to the remaining wheat stock. He admitted that polymer bags were not suitable for grain storage and were prone to damage within a month. “Yet, the government was compelled to pack wheat in polymer bags this time, because of serious shortfall of gunny bags,” said Mr Baloch.

A food official said that the food department was provided with less than 50 per cent of its requirement of gunny bags for procurement of wheat. The remaining 50 per cent of the 1.5 million tons of wheat was packed in polymer bags.

The provincial government may incur heavy losses, if the authorities concerned do not act immediately to protect the hitherto safe grain lying in the open, it is feared.

Lack of investment and poor utilisation of allocated funds for proper rehabilitation of the existing storage facilities and building of modern silos, will continue to cause financial losses to the government.

The government pays around Rs40-45 million annually as rent of godowns to private parties for storage of wheat.

Availability of improved and modern silos to store and protect grain always pays off while their absence adds to shortage and increase in cost of grain. Research findings have concluded that better storage facilities help maintain food prices and prevent loss of grain and consequently hunger and famine. Poor storage system is often to be blamed for food insecurity.

There is an urgent need to plan for building modern silos to help reduce province’s post-harvest losses and it is only possible through hefty allocations for the construction of modern storage facilities.

Farming neglected in K-Pakhtunkhwa

Post Source: DAWN economic and business review

By Tahir Ali

WITH the provincial revenue going up enormously following the landmark Seventh NFC Award, it was believed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province would allocate sufficient funds for the development of farming sector, but no step was taken in this direction. The meagre allocations to agriculture and its related sectors in fiscal budget 2010-11 indicate that development of agriculture lies far below in the list of priorities of the provincial government.

The annual development programme has been doubled and the provincial share in the ADP increased from Rs32 billion to Rs58 billion. Allocations for education, health and communication sectors have been increased by about 67, 80 and 64 per cent respectively as against previous year’s 17, 11 and 14 per cent of the ADP, the agriculture and its related sectors have not been given their due share in the budget.

Though allocation for agriculture in the provincial budget has been increased by about 45 per cent to Rs1.11 billion this year from Rs796 million in the outgoing fiscal, it has virtually come down if compared with the percentage to the total outlay of ADP.

Whereas the outgoing year’s allocation was 2.4 per cent of the core provincial ADP, it makes 1.9 per cent of this year’s total core ADP of Rs58 billion.

Irrigation budget was Rs1.4 billion or 4.3 per cent of the core provincial ADP in the outgoing year. Though its share in ADP has been increased by about 70 per cent to Rs2.4 billion, it has decreased by about 4.1 per cent of the ADP this year.

The budget for irrigation sector has been increased by about 70 per cent but it is insufficient considering the fact that the province needs to increase its irrigation infrastructure which at present cannot utilise the three million acre feet of water of its share that flows into, and is used by other provinces free of cost.

This year’s budget aims at economic revival and growth, according to the white paper, but the allocations do not reflect the ambitions.

Promotion of agriculture is the most effective tool for eradication of poverty and terrorism. This necessitates more funds for this sector. But the budgetary outlay for this sector reflects lack of vision and commitment on the part of the government.

Traditional methods, paltry allocations and weak commitments would do no good to the sector. The government will have to opt for out of box solutions and enthusiastic pursuit to develop it.

About 80 per cent farmers have no access to quality seeds, modern farm technology and increase in acreage and per acre yield which is necessary in the present circumstances, but the budget has either dealt the issues marginally or neglected them altogether.

The budget speech disclosed that the government would establish model farm services centres but there were no details. Obviously, financial constraints and small membership of the bodies have restricted their efficacy.

The most positive news for farmers in the provincial budget is the revival of cooperative bank and its subservient bodies from this fiscal year. According to Humayun Khan, the government would provide on billion rupees as seed money to the bank to give easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women to increase their income.

Another positive point is the Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme. The BKPAP has the potential to solve some basic problems of farmers but a meagre allocation, limited outreach and the political-orientation may reduce its impact.

According to Khan, under the programme, 1700 village organisations were formed, 1567 farmers were provided quality seeds free of cost, another 3,500 were trained and 1,535 model demonstrations plots were arranged in the outgoing fiscal.

The government wants to form 1,800 new village organisations, 2,600 farmers would be provided loans and another 4,000 with seeds this year. A sum of Rs501 million have been earmarked for these purposes.

Livestock accounts for 50 per cent of provincial gross domestic product but it continues to be provided a meagre budget and is still being administered by the agriculture secretary.

According to Khan, this year’s budget is the outcome of the comprehensive development strategy, the first ever developmental roadmap of the province for the next seven years.

The CDS requires about Rs583 billion of which Rs346 billion are to come from foreign loans. The government wants to spend billions on agriculture under the CDS but the finance minister didn’t mention from where the funds would come.

There is neither any special plan for livestock farmers in rural areas nor any for horizontal and vertical crop maximization. Decreasing the role and impact of the middlemen in agri-businesses has also gone unnoticed.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA have over 30 million wild olive trees. By making these trees productive, the province can produce about 75,000 tons of olive oil worth $1.5 billion annually. But this sector has remained untouched.

The province has introduced several high yielding research based seeds but their faulty distribution and delayed availability are causing problem. The budget speech didn’t address this issue at all.

According to Khan, the agriculture budget is meant for 84 projects worth Rs813 million for 57 on-going and Rs361 million for 27 new schemes in the sector.

The department would bring another 535 acres under cultivation this year. Sprinkler irrigation would be introduced in 9,000 acres. While another 5,000 hectares would be leveled through laser technology.

In irrigation sector, 64 projects- 42 ongoing and 21 new- will be completed which include construction of six small and medium dams, improvement of irrigation channel, construction of small ponds etc., which will help irrigate and bring around 50,000 acres under cultivation, but the question is are these goals realistic.

In the agriculture sector, only seven of the 64 projects and in the irrigation sector 11 out of 52 projects were completed in the outgoing fiscal.

Pakistanis seeks Answers to Water Supply Problems

Post Source: PBS NEWSHOUR

 

BY ALEXIS MATSUI AND RIA MISRA

 

Pakistan’s aging irrigation infrastructure and years of little rain are adding up to major problems for farmers, prompting the government to subsidize a new drip-style irrigation system. But some farmers still find it too costly to install.

 

 

ISLAMABAD — On a small patch of farmland just outside of Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, Karmran Ali Kiyania is warily looking at the sky, scanning for clouds. A wheat and corn farmer, Kiyania has no water source on his land and is dependent on the rain to keep his crop alive.

When water is scarce, like in the past year, he explains, he has nothing to harvest. The situation on Kiyania’s farm is also playing out on a national scale.

With shrinking rainfalls, depleting reserves, a growing population, aging infrastructure, and an economy that depends largely on agriculture,the water shortage is raising alarms all over Pakistan and forcing the government to act.

More than 90 percent of the country’s water supply is dedicated to agriculture — and much of it ends up going down the drain due to poor infrastructure and storage capabilities.

Pakistan only stores 9 percent of its annual water flow, while the world average is 40 percent, said Muhammad Ashraf of Pakistan’s International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. Further, he added, 60 percent of Pakistan’s water is lost due to a decades-old canal system and dams that are constantly building up silt, which can’t be filtered and makes water undrinkable.

“In 1947, we were at 5,600 cubic meters per person,” he said. “Now, we are at 1,000 per person.” The World Bank measures water scarcity as levels that drop below 1,000 cubic meters per person.

Many small farms depend on rain or use a form of irrigation that entails flooding their fields, which critics say wastes water because much of it evaporates.

As a result, said Shahid Ahmad of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, farmers have little flexibility to accommodate weather change.

“The farmer, he needs money every time at the time of planting, and he pays back only at harvest,” he said, adding that when water is unavailable, “farmers will turn into beggars.”

Much of Pakistan’s water supply comes from glacial reserves in the Himalayas, which are shrinking. This limited supply of water, combined with a growing demand from a burgeoning population, has raised fears that the problem will only become worse.

“The resources are not going to increase,” said Ahmad.

The water shortage is also being painted as an international political problem. A treaty between Pakistan and neighboring India has governed water rights between the two countries since 1960. But as supplies dwindle, Pakistan is accusing India of unfairly controlling the flow.

“The water issue is probably the most politicized issue between the countries,” said Michael Kugelman, editor of a report on Pakistan’s water supply for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, “and a major reason for that is the Kashmir issue. The water that flows into Pakistan flows through India controlled Kashmir. I think it’s important to be mindful that India has its own water crisis, too. Both sides have a lot at stake.”

Since so much of the water is wasted or unavailable through human error or unrepaired infrastructure, the role of governance becomes more important, Kugelman said.

A Pakistani government program is taking aim at the problem with what it calls “high efficiency irrigation systems” that use less water. Ahmad said the goal is to implement 250,000 acres of the systems over the next five years.

The new irrigation program, modeled off those that have proven successful in Israel and Germany, allows the government to subsidize the installation of sprinkler, drip and bubble irrigation systems throughout the country.

Shahnawaz Khan heads a company that manufactures the systems — the first of which he installed on his own 3,000 acre farm in Pakistan’s Punjab province to cut down on water waste. He says he is using half the water he would have if he used flood irrigation.

“Farmers are getting 40 percent of the water they used to get,” said Khan. “It is as precious as gold.”

Two years into a five year program, encouraged by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, officials have installed systems across farms of all sizes in all four provinces of Pakistan.

The new system works with small private businesses to manufacture, install and maintain the machines on each farm.

Khan said the improved water supply systems yield 70-90 percent more crops.

Supporters of the program hope the higher and better quality yield will convince more farmers to implement the system on their land.

Khan feels the government is finally stepping into a much-needed role in the education of farmers and others in the agriculture business about the value of water.

“It’s the responsibility of the government to make (citizens) aware of their social responsibilities,” he said.

But an informal survey of five small farmers, including Kiyania — all with less than five acres of land — showed that they were unaware of the program and even if they knew about it, the price would be prohibitive. Although the government will pay for machine installment, farmers need at least a few hundred dollars to develop private water sources on their land and contribute to the maintenance costs.

Kiyania said he liked the idea of installing machines to help with irrigation, but he just didn’t have the money for it.

Under the program, the government would pay for the first installation of the machinery, which can range from a few hundred dollars to more than US$2,000 depending on the size of the system. Subsequent repairs, parts, and growth would be the farmers’ responsibility.

Because of the economic burden, the government has had most success with middle-class farmers with between 20 and 200 acres of land. Farmers with less land sometimes cannot afford the operational costs, and farmers with large plots have been slower to attempt major change, since they have so much at stake.

Ahmad of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council said the government effort is not enough to change farmer’s actions across the country, but the farmers must communicate among themselves and work together to combat the problem.

“The government alone cannot do it. Farmers in Pakistan are an under-utilized resource,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Reporting for this story was funded by a fellowship from the South Asian Journalists Association.

Irrigation infrastructure in a shambles

Post Source: Dawn economic & business review

 

By Saleem Shaikh

While the irrigation infrastructure in Sindh is in a bad shape, the funds allocated for its rehabilitation in development plans every year remain either unutilised or under-utilised. Harnessing the irrigation system beyond actual design capacities, tampering of control structures, damaged canal banks, and more importantly, inadequate maintenance have resulted in deterioration of the irrigation infrastructure.

While there are reports of an accumulation of deferred maintenance all over the system, smaller irrigation channels (distributaries and minors) are the most neglected. In many cases, small channels operate without control structures (gates, regulators).

Increased incidents of breaches in canals, branches, channels and minors show that the irrigation infrastructure needs to be revamped and rehabilitated on an urgent basis.

Even the maintenance work, wherever undertaken, has been shoddy. For instance, the newly-built walls on left and right banks of Dadu canal were washed away after weeks’ of repair work because of substandard construction material. The walls were constructed in April last by the irrigation department to protect the Dadu city from any possible breach.

According to reports, walls on either side of different gates of the Sukkur Barrage, built in 1923, have developed deep cracks and fissures and cement plaster continues to peel off at different places. It is feared that moderate level flood may damage the barrage and inundate adjoining areas.

The state of Guddu and Kotri barrages, built in 1963 and 1955 respectively, is no better either.Irrigation officials admit that condition of Kotri barrage as compared to that of the Guddu barrage is worse in the absence of major rehabilitation work over the last several years.

The three major barrages together irrigate 10-12 million acres.

A World Bank study on problems of the province’s irrigation system notes that low irrigation delivery and application efficiencies arise from several factors, including excessive lengths of unlined alluvial channels; lack of routine and preventive maintenance; channel erosion and siltation; inadequate control structures, culverts and cattle drinking points; nonstandard outlets for irrigating the fields; poorly levelled farms; and inappropriate scheduling of water in canals not reflecting crop water requirements.

The report points out that the irrigation water losses are particularly high from unlined canals and watercourses, ranging from 25 to 30 per cent of the water entering the watercourse. The high water losses caused due to crumbling irrigation network system/infrastructure not only reduce water availability for crops but also contribute to water logging and salinity.

With reduced water availability, irrigators at the tail-end of watercourses, in particular, are exposed to greater risks of crop failures leaving little incentive for them to invest in non-water inputs. The drought and accompanying canal water shortages during the last four years has aggravated the situation.

Aijaz Qureshi, an irrigation expert, said that although several projects were implemented to address the issues of irrigation infrastructure, their feel-good impact is yet to be felt.

The projects included National Draining Programme, Sindh Water Sector Improvement Project, Sindh On-Farm Water Management Project, Sindh Water Resource Development and Management Investment Programme, Revamping/Rehabilitation of Irrigation and Drainage System in Sindh.

And the objective was augmentation of water resources, conservation of water and strengthening of irrigation infrastructure.

But most of the projects fell prey to official apathy and negligence, or have been left incomplete for want of funds or foreign donors’ objections over modus operandi of implementation.

The slow and under-utilisation of funds for revamp/rehabilitation of irrigation system is a major problem.

Three major federally-funded uplift projects for revamping of the irrigation infrastructure included into PSDP 2010 – were implemented some two years back for which a hefty amount was also released during the outgoing fiscal year. But the provincial irrigation department failed to utilise the funds appropriately.

A sum of Rs500 million was released for continuation of work on the multi-year ‘Rs16.8 billion Revamping/Rehabilitation of Irrigation and Drainage Project’ for 2009-10. But only Rs209 million could be utilised up to May 2010.

An amount of Rs300 million was also released for Rs13.8 billion Lining of distributaries and minors in Sindh, but no amount could be utilised.

For initiation of work a third multi-year Rs2.5 billion Sukkur Barrage Rehabilitation and Improvement Project, an amount of Rs500 million were released in 2009-10 but no amount was spent.

The irrigation officials’ inefficiency to use the uplift funds for rehabilitation of the ailing irrigation infrastructure has dealt a severe blow to the province’s agriculture sector.

Rising temperatures pose threat to farmland

Post Source: Dawn Correspondent – 25 Jun, 2010

THATTA, June 24: Rising temperatures would adversely affect agricultural and social sectors as these would reduce production of wheat and rice, and shrink water reserves. This was the consensus of speakers at a seminar ‘Climate change impacts food security’ organized by the Indus Institute for Research and Education here on Thursday. A delegate of the WWF, Nasir Ali Panhwar said climatic changes impact food availability, its accessibility, utilization and stability. Agriculture, he said, ensures food security by providing provisions and granting primary source of livelihood to people engaged in this sector.

He said recent climatic trend indicates frequency of extreme weathers, such as heavy rains, flash floods, cyclones, heat waves, density and foggy conditions. The trend, if continued, would decrease rainfall by about six per cent and increase net irrigation requirements by 30 per cent, alter growing duration, reduce soil moisture and transform stages of plant growth, he said.

Our economy, Panhwar said, was agriculture-based and climatic variables were posing immediate risk to crops, livestock and fish stocks, water, and productive assets with coastal communities facing onslaught of frequent disasters, sea intrusion and rise in sea level.

Chief Meteorologist Sindh and Balochistan, Mohammad Riaz told the audience that there was two to three feet increase in oceanic level because of increase in global temperatures by 1.3 per cent per annum, while graph of winds was resulting in less rainfall.

Tail-end farm lands of Thatta and Badin districts were at the risk of becoming futile, if environmental degradation continued, he warned.

Another speaker Syed Mohammad Ali Shah said that the union of G-8 countries in connivance with the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank were responsible for environmental degradation as they raced to install maximum industries and now were suggesting smaller countries to avoid industrialization.

Dr Haji Khan Keerio agreeing with others said the developed countries should compensate the loss to lives and properties of poor countries.

He opposed the proposal of installing coal-run projects in Sindh, including power plants rather suggested reliance on solar energy and wind mills to over come power demands.

Question of land reforms in Pakistan

Post Source: Dawn.com

By Zulfiqar Shah

THE rural society and agriculture sector of Pakistan is chained by feudal relationships which has given birth to an evil land-tenure system with a high degree of land concentration, absentee landlordism, insecurity of tenure for share-croppers and low agricultural productivity. According to a report, around ten million children are doing labour in brick kilns, farms, carpet manufacturing workshops and restaurants and another twenty million workers engaged in agriculture and industry work as bonded labour. Feudalism is the real problem and all other problems strem from it. The feudal lords and their allies constitute only five per cent of our agricultural households and own 64 per cent of our farm land. The rest of the 95 per cent are only their political vote-bank.

The total land area of the country is about 803,940 square kilometres. About 48 million hectares, or 60 percent, is classified as unusable for forestry or agriculture and consists mostly of deserts, mountain and demographic settlements. About 21.9 million hectares is being cultivated. Nearly 65 per cent of the cropped area is in Punjab, perhaps 25 per cent in Sindh and 10 per cent in the NWFP and in Balochistan. Farming is Pakistan’s largest economic activity.

In Punjab, tenancies are split more evenly between share and fixed rent contracts. Landlords in Punjab are much smaller than those in Sindh, with a median holding of only seven acres of land, and are more likely to be residing in the same village as their tenants. In Sindh, more than one third of the land is tenanted and about two-thirds of land is under sharecropping, a form of farming where output is shared between the landowner and tenant.

Sharecropping is the predominant form of tenancy in Sindh where the land ownership distribution is particularly skewed. According to a study, a median landlord in Sindh owns 28 acres of land, whereas nearly 80 per cent of the share-tenants are landless farmers. Big landlords in the province often employ kamdars to manage their tenants.

Unlike India, Pakistan did not carry out essential land reforms soon after independence and has, as a result, failed to facilitate the much-needed transition of productive relations from feudal-agrarian stage to industrial one. However, three isolated attempts were made to reduce landholdings at intervals but these could not bring feudal system to an end. In the early 1950s, provincial governments attempted to eliminate some of the absentee landlords or rent collectors, but they had little success in the face of strong opposition.

In January 1959, General Ayub Khan’s government issued land reform regulations that aimed ‘to boost agricultural output, promote social justice, and ensure security of tenure.’ A ceiling of about 200 hectares of irrigated land and 400 hectares of non-irrigated land was placed on individual ownership; compensation was paid to owners for land surrendered. Numerous exemptions, including title transfers to family members, dampened the impact of the ceilings. Slightly fewer than one million hectares of land were surrendered, of which a little more than 250,000 hectares were sold to about 50,000 tenants. The land reforms failed to lessen the power or privileges of the landed elite.

In March 1972, the Z. A. Bhutto government announced further land reform measures, which went into effect in 1973. The landownership ceiling was lowered to about five hectares of irrigated land and about twelve hectares of non-irrigated land; exceptions were limited to an additional 20 per cent of land for owners having tractors and tube wells. The ceiling could also be extended for poor-quality land. The owners of confiscated land received no compensation, and beneficiaries were not charged for land distributed.

Official statistics showed that by 1977 only about 520,000 hectares had been surrendered, and nearly 285,000 hectares had been redistributed among about 71,000 farmers. The 1973 measure required landlords to pay all taxes, water charges, seed costs, and one-half of the cost of fertilizer and other inputs. It prohibited eviction of tenants as long as they cultivated the land, and it gave tenants first rights of purchase. Other regulations increased tenants’ security of tenure and prescribed lower rent rates than had existed.

The ceilings on private ownership of farmland in 1977 were further reduced to about four hectares of irrigated land and about eight hectares of non-irrigated land. Besides, agricultural income became taxable but small farmers owning ten hectares or fewer were exempted. The military regime of Zia ul-Haq did not make efforts to implement these reforms. Governments in the 1980s and early 1990s avoided any significant attempt at strict implementation of the land reform measures, because they got much of their support from landed aristocracy of the country.

Agrarian reforms in Pakistan have never transformed rural society in the context of property structure and production re lations. The limits in reforms were fixed in terms of the individual but not family holdings, which resulted in transfer of land to family members and relatives. In times of the military rule, feudal lords support the ruling junta to protect their system. And the military badly needs them.

Even after three waves of land reforms, 3,529 zamindars have 5,13,114 holdings of more than 100 acres in the irrigated areas, and 3,32,273 holdings exceeding 100 acres in un-irrigated areas. Some 7,94,774 Khatedars have 54,64,771 land holdings of less than 12 acres in irrigated areas. In un-irrigated areas 1,44,098 are reported to have 16,28,826 holdings of less than 24 acres.

Land reforms play an important role in reducing poverty and empowering the poor farmers. In Pakistan, the power of landed aristocracy has acted as a barrier to social and economic progress of the rural society. Genuine land reform can help solve the problems caused by the fact that farmers often use relatively inefficient capital-intensive techniques due to distorted market prices and that small farmers do not have access to the liberal credit subsidies on imported machinery and capital equipment.

Under any scheme of serious reforms, the land ceiling should be fixed at 50 acres irrigated and 100 acres non-irrigated land. The necessary legislation should be done in favour of land reforms and Haq-e-Shifa. All laws and regulations regarding land developed under colonial era need to be abandoned and a judicial commission on land utilisation should be formed to check exceeding commercialization of land. Under Haq-e-shifa, the agriculture land of about 8 acres should be allotted to the landless agriculture workers and peasants families. The agriculture land occupied by or allotted to military forms and government departments should be revoked and distributed among the landless peasants under the principle of Haq-e-shifa.

Corporate forming should not be promoted. Allotment of forest land to the influential persons has to be revoked and re-allotted to the peasants on the condition of re-forestation. The occupied surveyed or un-surveyed lands in Kacho, Kaachho, Kohistan, Kach, Bailpat, Thar, Thal and elsewhere in the country must be re-surveyed and distributed among the landless peasants and agriculture workers families.

Equitable distribution at the tail-end is imperative. It is necessary that all disputed irrigation projects including Kalabagh dam are given up and water requirements of Indus Delta fully met. To avoid water logging and salinity, the canals, branches and watercourses should be lined. The government must draw up an agriculture policy with the consultation of agriculture scientists, peasants, agriculture workers and growers.

The parliament should be persuaded to pass a legislation for protection of the peasant’s rights, allowing them to have their trade unions, ensuring social justice and providing old age benefits to them.

A threat to the world’s wheat

Post Source: www.turlockjournal.com

BY DR. E. KIRSTEN PETERS

If you like eating hotcakes or bread (or my own personal favorite, huckleberry muffins), you might want to pay attention to a problem that’s looming over wheat worldwide. It’s a new type of “stem rust” caused by a fungus that cripples wheat plants. Throughout history, stem rusts have created major famines. Even in the United States, wheat harvests in parts of the country were hit hard by stem rust in 1903, 1905 and 1950-1954. Localized outbreaks affected American wheat as recently as 1985-1986. 

Throughout the 20th century, agronomists bred better wheat to be more resistant to a variety of fungal threats. They were successful – score a big one for science.

But out there in the wheat fields, there’s always an arms race afoot. As the agronomists did their job, fungus was shaped by random mutations and natural selection. When those two natural forces combined to create a fungus that could successfully live on the new wheat varieties, then the fungus came roaring back in the fields. Score one for natural evolutionary forces and stem rust.

In Ethiopia and Uganda in 1998 and 1999, a new type of stem rust was identified, one we can informally call Ug99 although its technical name is a tad longer. The new rust can live on most varieties of wheat grown in the world, and it can bring up to 100 percent crop loss. (That’s not a typo.) 

The rust has spread on the winds to Yemen, north to Sudan, and now quite possibly to Iran. There’s some evidence it’s becoming more virulent as it spreads. Next it’s likely to move to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and from there onwards to China. In time it will cross the Pacific, perhaps on the clothes and shoes of people, perhaps via air currents.

“The good news is that in the developed world farmers can afford to spray fungicide to combat rusts like Ug99,” Dr. Tim Murray of Washington State University said to me recently. “But that’s not true in other parts of the world where farmers rely solely on resistance in the variety of wheat they plant.”

To put it another way, in the developing world, there’s a real risk of famine. Major breadbaskets and population centers of the world, including Pakistan, India and China, could be hit hard.

Breeding in resistance to Ug99 in wheat is, in the long run, the cheapest way to give wheat the upper hand in the current arms race. Scientific crop breeders do exactly that sort of work all the time, working to understand plant disease and improve crop plants. Depending on a variety of factors, crops can be improved via simple selection, hybridization, or through genetic engineering. The total effect of scientific breeding on crop plants is one of the reasons that global agricultural productivity skyrocketed in the 20th century and is still doing so today.

But Ug99 has some advantages over science. Part of its life cycle occurs each year in a bush called barberry – an “alternate host” for the rust. That gives the Ug99 a place to survive and flourish, quite apart from wheat.

And on barberry leaves, the rust spores reproduce sexually, which means they become more varied than in their non-sexual reproduction on wheat. Being more varied is an advantage if you are a population of rust in a life-and-death arms race and a single spore that’s virulent to a strain of wheat will allow your next generation to survive and flourish.

Also to the advantage of the fungus is that, in warm weather, it grows quickly and creates a new generation every ten days or so. That gives the fungus a chance for a new set of mutations, on which natural selection can work.

But scientific wheat breeders have one enormous advantage – their smarts. And they are working diligently to try to resist the rising tide of Ug99 in the fields half way around the world from where I write.

We must hope they will be successful, not for the sake of my own personal huckleberry muffins – but for the very lives of the poor of the world.

— Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. Follow her on the web at rockdoc.wsu.edu and on Twitter @RockDocWSU. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.