Archive for February, 2011

Pakistan floods still claiming lives, six months on

Post Source: BBC

 

ix months after the worst floods in the history of Pakistan, aid agencies say millions are still in dire need of assistance, and there are new warnings about malnutrition in the worst-hit province, Sindh. But money donated to the prime minister’s relief fund has still not been spent. The BBC’s Orla Guerin reports.

The raging torrent that pulverised, devoured and buried so much is, for the most part, a thing of memory. But its impact remains in broken bridges, mud-encrusted fields and devastated communities.

At least 18 million people were affected by the floods. The United Nations says most have returned home to destroyed houses. Six months on, countless numbers don’t even have tents.

In Sindh, some are still hostages of the flood. Stagnant, contaminated flood waters remain in some areas, like a stain on the landscape.

‘Too many problems’

We travelled, on a decrepit boat, to reach a community of about 5,000 marooned on an embankment. The floods consumed their village, Khan Mohammed Mallah. Now they have only straw huts for shelter.

“Start Quote

I wish I could ask the earth to give my child back – we are poor, we eat only once a day”

End Quote Husna Akbar Grieving mother, Khan Jo Ghot

“Our lives are totally shattered,” said Ghulam Nabi, the local schoolteacher. “We’ve lost our homes, we have no transport and no communications. There are too many problems.”

Women in brightly-coloured headscarves, with worried faces, crowded around a medical team from the UN children’s fund, Unicef. The women had brought their children to be checked for signs of an old menace – malnutrition.

A tiny baby called Malika was placed on the scales. At 18 months old, she weighed little more than a healthy newborn, and looked drained of life. Malika was one of 10 severely malnourished children in this village alone. She and her mother were taken to hospital.

Unicef is ringing alarm bells about a malnutrition crisis of epic proportions in Sindh. New figures show that one in five flood-affected children are malnourished. Unicef says the figures are “shockingly bad” and reminiscent of famines in sub-Saharan Africa.

But in spite of the desperate needs across the country, $77m (£47m; 6.5bn rupees) accumulated in the fund established by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani remains unspent. In a BBC interview he admitted it should have been allocated sooner.

“Yes it should have been disbursed quicker,” Mr Gilani told me. “But we are waiting for our assessment. We have to have specific projects. They are already making the feasibility reports, and very soon I’ll decide.”

‘We need blankets and food

But many need emergency assistance now, more than reconstruction projects in the future. Some are still waiting for blankets.

Muhammed Iqbal Memon finds that hard to understand. He is the most senior civilian official in the district of Dadu, where more houses were destroyed than in the Aceh earthquake in 2004.

“Everyone knows what we need,” he says. “We have given lists in writing. We’ve been talking and talking. The people must be frustrated. They are asking for clothes and blankets, and I am saddened when I don’t have them to give.”

Mr Memon needs 500,000 blankets. So far the government has given him only 13,000, and the international community about half that.

We joined him as he handed out blankets and winter clothing in one small camp. At first there were orderly queues – women on one side, men on the other. But when the aid ran out, chaos erupted. There were fistfights, and frenzied tug-of-wars.

This fight broke out after blankets ran out at a camp for the displaced

With too little aid to go round, Mr Memon has to decide who gets help, and who doesn’t. He admits that representatives from the ruling PPP party have a say. “We complement each other,” he said, stressing that opposition politicians and other stakeholders are also consulted.

A few hours drive away, the people of Khan Jo Ghot believe they are victims of both the flood and the ruling party. Their village is a broken jigsaw of rubble and bricks, with only a handful of buildings left standing.

“We have a firm belief that we are not getting aid because we support the opposition,” said Adbul Majid, the local teacher.

The villagers say there’s been only one food distribution since the flood. It was two months ago, and it was just enough for 50 families for 10 days.

“We received only 100 blankets,” said Zulfiqar Ali, a tall, bearded man who guided us around the village. “But there are 350 families living here. We were told we would get more but nothing came.”

Before the flood, the villagers were rice farmers. Now they survive by selling whatever they can salvage from their homes, and by borrowing.

Most people are under canvas – living, and in some cases dying, in tents. The villagers say there have been nine deaths this winter. They blame the rough conditions, and the cold.

Dreams dead

A grieving father and mother, Husna and Ali Akbar, sit on a traditional rope bed in front of their flimsy hut, with five children gathered around them. There used to be six.

On the first day of the new year, they lost their daughter Salma. They say she went blue with the cold and died a few hours later.

“I wish I could ask the earth to give my child back,” Husna says. “We are poor. We eat only once a day. Our happiness comes from our children.” Then she covers her face with her scarf, and weeps. Through her tears she tells us she is worried for the lives of her other children.

Salma was six years old, and dreamt of being a doctor. She lies buried a short distance away, in the shade of a tree.

Somehow her parents are supposed to rebuild their lives, but like many of Pakistan’s flood victims, they fear they’ve been forgotten.

They wonder how they’ll survive the coming months, and the next monsoon season, which begins in July.

Wretched of the earth

Post Source: The News International – By Ghazi Salahuddin

In the midst of all these flaming headlines about conflicts and disorder as well as revolutionary conflagrations, I was shocked by one that relates to a forlorn territory far from the reach of television cameras and satellite beams. I read it on Thursday on The Guardian website. And what was this headline? It said: “Pakistan flood crisis as bad as African famines, UN says”. There was a sub-heading: “Unicef survey shows almost a quarter of children under five are malnourished in Sindh province six months after floods”. Incidentally, the report was sent by Declan Walsh, the Pakistan correspondent of The Guardian and it noted that a “humanitarian crisis of epic proportions” is unfolding in flood-hit areas of southern Pakistan where malnutrition rates rival those of African countries affected by famine, according to the United Nations.

It quotes deputy head of Unicef in Pakistan, Karen Allen, as saying: “I haven’t seen malnutrition this bad since the worst of the famine in Ethiopia, Darfur and Chad. It’s shockingly bad”. Dorothy Blane of Concern said: “This sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight. It indicates deep, slow-grinding poverty”.

Though there have been some other news items about the Unicef survey, it was this report that highlighted a situation that many of us are vaguely aware of. I had some premonition of this disaster on the basis of eye-witness accounts I had from my wife, Sadiqa, who works with marginalised communities in some rural areas of Sindh in her association with an NGO that mainly promotes education of girls. But the floods came as a massive distraction, necessitating urgent attention to relief operations.

Last week, Sadiqa had an occasion to visit a number of flood-affected villages of Shahdad Kot near Larkana. What she told me about the state of poverty and helplessness of the people was unbelievable. I was particularly surprised because I had thought that the floods had really brought into focus the monumental deprivations of the landless farmers of the area and that it would certainly oblige the provincial officials and the local feudal lords to come to the rescue of their own people.

This expectation was also based on the fact that the floods had generated unprecedented private and organisational assistance, including from international donors. I had expressed my optimism that the entire experience would be instructive for those who exercise their power in the affected areas. In fact, I was waiting for some indications of a progressive social change in rural Sindh.

Alas, that silver lining was swallowed up by the enveloping darkness. One wonders: what would it take to rouse our obscenely rich rulers from their deep slumber? As for the accounts of poverty and utter helplessness of the farmers of Shahdad Kot’s villages, you should know that this is the constituency of the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party. We know about the spoils system and how activists, when the PPP is in power, grapple for privileges. Be that as it may, the dreary lives of the poor in Sindh’s villages have not really changed.

This does not, however, mean that the level of poverty across the land is not equally depressing. Indeed, the central theme of the national discourse is the plight of the citizens of Pakistan. They are afflicted not just by poverty but also by social injustice and insecurity. Mere survival for millions and millions of them has become an awful challenge and they do not seem to have sufficient resources, including in an emotional or intellectual context, to meet this challenge.

Meanwhile, our electronic media is awash with other emergencies that are political and administrative in nature. It does have some justification for dealing with the ‘breaking news’ that unfailingly keeps popping up. Take, for instance, the gruesome incident that took place in Lahore on Thursday in which a functionary of the US Consulate shot and killed two young men who were alleged to have pointed a gun at him. A third was crushed to death by a vehicle that came to rescue the American citizen.

This dramatic episode in the present highly-charged environment is bound to raise a storm and its implications are likely to be grave. Already, popular emotions about America are very strong, sometimes lapsing into irrational excitement. This, surely, is a serious matter and we can expect a lot of protest and angry outbursts. We do not know if this may lead to any serious consequences, given the crises that are brewing at different levels.

At one level, stories of corruption involving billions or rupees are unfolding at a baffling pace. The political situation, in spite of the respite that is provided by Nawaz Sharif’s deadline to the government to initiate action on his 10-point agenda, remains alarming. Some observers see the economy tottering at the edge of a collapse.

Finally, the tumult in Egypt during this weekend, as a response to the overthrow of the Tunisian regime after popular revolt, has become a global focus. The entire Arab world is gripped by unrest and dark apprehensions. Would this surge of turbulence in the Arab world also affect the mood in other Muslim countries, including Pakistan? Well, Pakistan is disturbed for its own reasons and we have had stray incidents of protests on our streets.

Against this blazing perspective, where do the poor of some parts of Sindh, who are faced with the prospect of a famine, really belong? Do we have time to think about them? Are some emergency steps in the offing to prevent this crisis from becoming a major catastrophe?

This brings me back to The Guardian report. It said that the Unicef survey was done in early November but “Pakistan’s government, reluctant to publish the figures, delayed their publication, according to several aid officials”. We are told that figures for southern Punjab, which was also badly hit by the floods, have yet to be finalised.

The report said: “Sindh is Pakistan’s third largest province and home to some of the deepest inequalities. Karachi is a bustling business hub of more than 16 million people. But in the countryside, feudal traditions are strong, illiteracy is rife and government services are often non-existent”.

Ah, but do we need a Unicef survey or foreign aid workers to discover a reality that has always been present to us? Besides, it will never be enough to provide immediate relief to the affected people and to feed them and give them shelter. They deserve to lead a life of dignity and promise.

Let me quote the last two sentences of the report: “A majority of children in flood-affected areas suffer from anxiety, depression and phobias, according to a study by Save the Children. Of the children surveyed, 70 per cent expressed fear of ‘people, water, open spaces and darkness’, it found”.

The writer is a staff member. Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail.com

Export potential of potatoes

Post Source: DailyTimes – By Ismat Sabir

The demand for potato in Russia is increasing and Pakistan may export 120,000 to 125,000 metric tonnes potato to Russia that would bring millions of dollars in the country. Presently, the international market price ranges $ 500 per metric tonnes. Pakistan exports potatoes to Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and Iran. Total export of fresh or chilled potatoes were 245.329 million kg in 2009-10 fetched $ 50.267 million whereas $ 41.635 million were earned by exporting 315.321 kg in 2008-09. To fulfill the Russia’s terms of importing potatoes from Pakistan, a private sector company has installed the country’s first automated state of the art potato cleaning plant in Karachi. The locally assembled plant was set up at a cost of about Rs 5 million. It would be utilised for value addition in potato and making them acceptable in the international market. It would not only do sand washing but would also help in grading process.

The total domestic production was around 1.8 million metric tones in 1988-99, of which 280,000 metric tones was used as seed and 1.5 million metric tones was available for consumption, after post harvest losses. The production increased to 2.94 million metric tonnes in 2008-09. During this period the area increased from 110 thousand hectares to 145 thousand hectares.

The domestic demand of potato is about 1.5 million tonnes, including for keeping seeds for new crop leaving a surplus quantity of 1.4 million metric tonnes. Minfal said it has encouraged the private sector to export potato or by it’s processing into chips and other forms of snacks.

For the Rabi season 2010-11 the government has set potato production target of 2.64 million tonnes showing a 4 percent lower target. Last year, the target for potato crop was 2.749 million tonnes over a sowing area of 0.160 million hectors whereas the production exceeded the target and reached 3.008 million tonnes.

For 2010-11, province-wise potato production targets are: Punjab will grow 2.483 million tonnes potato over an area of 147.68 thousand hectares. The Punjab’s share in total production is about 85 percent that comes from autumn and spring crops. Total production in Punjab was estimated to increase at the rate 9.82 percent per annum due to increases of 4.88 and 4.74 percent in area and yield, respectively.

Sindh production target was fixed at 2.70 thousand tonnes with an area of 0.31 thousand hectares. The area and yield of potatoes in Sindh have increased by 2.38 and 1.50 percent resulting in production increase of 4 percent per annum.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa target was 121.89 thousand ton over an area of 9.26 thousand hectare. Climatic conditions are favourable in KP to grow all three crops of potatoes. Total production from these crops has increased at the rate of 4 percent due to 2 percent expansion in area and 2 percent rise in yield.

The target for Balochistan was set up at 32.97 thousand ton on a sowing area of 3.22 thousand ton. In Balochistan, only summer crop is cultivated and the production has reduced at the rate of 1.70 percent per annum because the area under the crop has reduced at the rate of 2 percent.

Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochistan accounts for 83, 1, 10 and 6 percent of the total area and 83, 1, 9 and 7 percent of the production of potatoes in the country. The shares of autumn, spring and summer crops in the annual production are estimated at 75, 10 and 15 percent, respectively. Potato ranks third among food crops, after wheat and rice and fifth in total crop Pakistan produces high energy and nutritional value per unit than wheat, rice and maize. Although potato production in Pakistan has increased manifolds but it’s per acre yield is far below than the other countries of the world. The most important factor for the low yield per acre was diseases. More than 18 potato diseases are reported in the country, of which 13 are of common occurrence.

Main Potato Producing Areas: Okara, Sahiwal, Kasur, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Jhang, Lahore, Narowal, Pakpattan, Gujranwala, TobaTek Singh, Dibalpur, and Khanewal in Punjab, Nowshera, Dir and Mansehra in KP and Pishin, Killa Saifulla and Kalat in Balochistan are important potato growing areas, accounting for 78 percent of the total production of the crop.

Kinds of potatoes: Table potato, fresh sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes and d dried potatoes.

The floodwaters have washed away the bulk of country’s kharif crops that were also included potato. Therefore, Pakistan has to import potatoes from India arrived in Lahore via the Wagah boarder. Due to shortage potato prices increased to an unprecedented level of Rs 45 to Rs 60 per kg. It was available at Rs 8 per kg up to 2008.

It is the fourth most important crop by volume of production; high yielding and having a high nutritive value and gives high returns to farmers.

The percentage of the potato crop used for processing has steadily increased. Pakistan is self sufficient in potatoes for household consumption and depends more than 99 percent on locally produced potatoes.

Although Pakistan is a large potato producing country yet it has very limited storage and processing facilities. For enhancing potato production farmers must have the proper variety and availability of virus free seed stock is essential. The seed contributes to about 35 to 40 percent of the total cost of production. The certified seed production is limited and faces technical, economical and managerial skills, which is not available in the country.

Besides, low purchasing power of the farmers compels them to rely on seed sources of low quality or from own production. Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC) has started the sale of virus free potato seed prepared through modern tissue culture technology (TCT). The limited quantities of Caroda, Santee, Burna and Easterx are also available in addition to red varieties of desiries, cardinal and white variety Diamante. The farmers are facing many problems such as diseases and pests and majority of farmers are lacking knowledge of the right cultivation technique. The lack of credit facilities are one of the main hurdles creates problem in purchasing inputs particularly for small farmers.

Poor post harvest handling, lack of transport and storage facilities, causes losses and reduction in quality and quantity. Although cold storage space is available but handling of potatoes is not satisfactory. Moreover, the farmers and consumers always face severed cyclical shortage that results big fluctuations in price, sometimes there is surplus production and at another time acute shortage. This situation results in an unreliable income and inhibiting the consumers to include potato in their regular diet.

‘Country fast heading towards worst water shortage’

Post Source: DailyTimes – By Razi Syed

* Water experts say efforts should be made on war footing to take up water issues
KARACHI: The country is going to face the worst water shortage in the next couple of years due to insufficient water management practices and storage capacity, agriculture and water experts said Saturday. A report by the Washington DC based Woodrow Wilson Center described Pakistan’s water shortage as “deeply troubling.” It quotes South Asia scholar Anatol Lieven as saying that water shortages pose the greatest future threat to the viability of Pakistan as a state and a society. Most independent analysts inclduing experts said all Pakistanis agree that Pakistan is facing a severe water shortage and that some form of water management should be implemented soon. According to WAPDA with increased population, Pakistan is fast heading towards a situation of water shortage. Per capita surface water availability was 5260 cubic meters in 1951, when population was 34 million, which has been reduced to 1038 cubic meters in 2010 when the estimated population is 172 million.

Pakistan has to decide now to appoint patriotic and real water management experts to take up its case before International Court of Arbitration (COA) against India over construction of Kishanganga Hydropower project on river Neelum in violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.

Pakistan has the right to oppose the Kishanganga project because its diversion will reduce by 16 percent the power generation capacity of the 969-MW Neelum-Jhelum power project on the same river downstream Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir.

Patron in chief Sindh Agriculture Forum, Shakeel Ahmad said due to the poor handling of case with India as well as at COA, Pakistan could not gain points in favour of its case, only because of a team of jurists, not sincere from the start.

He said Neelum-Jhelum power project in case of losing the case in COA, will face a loss of energy more than Rs 6 billion every year. He said, “The government should select pure people for pleading its case as the time has come and any delay would help only India,” official said.

The COA would soon take up Pakistan’s case against India over construction of Kishanganga Hydropower project on river Neelum in violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. “The Indus Water Treaty with Indians remained just on papers. India had diverted Pakistani water and construction more dams which would further worsen the water situation in Pakistan,” Ahmad maintained.

Under the treaty, three Western rivers—Chenab, Jehlum and Indus are allocated to Pakistan and India is not allowed to build storages on them.

“The conventional engineering view is that a diversion barrage or a run of the river hydro-electric generation project does not create any storage.” The Baglihar dam is a run of the river hydro-electric project and it is India’s responsibility to establish that it will neither reduce the flow of water in Pakistan nor divert the flow of water in Indian territory.

Overall, about 200 kilometres of riverbed in Azad Kashmir will be affected by the Kishanganga project. The river will turn dry over 40 km — a negation of international environmental laws. Under the law, at least 70 percent of river flows are to be protected in case any project is taken in hand. It is a fact that underground water in Punjab province was going down due to Indian conspiracy through provision of free electricity to Indian Punjab province for tube wells. The farmers were excessively taking water through tube wells, which resulted in a downward trend of water in Pakistan Punjab province. If the process on Indian side continued then the underground water situation in Pakistan Punjab would further worsen that would badly affected main crops producing province of the country.

The underground water level went down from about 70-100 feet to up to 1000 feet and termed it worsen situation. The main crops of the country required 94 million acres feet (MAF) water but usually 76 MAF water available in the country. Bhurban Ramasawamy R Iyer, an Indian water management expert and well-known scholar, has conceded many of Pakistan’s concerns on the Baglihar dam in occupied Kashmir are “legitimate and carry weight”.

Olive: its medicinal qualities and some religious connotations

 

Post Source: Weekly Business & Finance – The News International
By Alauddin Masood

Pakistan can earn about $10 bn by bringing its cultivable potential waste lands under olive cultivation besides converting eight million wild olive trees, present in different regions, into productive trees through grafting. Over 800,000 hectares of land, in 28 districts of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has already been identified, after completion of a one-year project (Promotion, Production and Commercialisation of olive oil in Pakistan) with the Italian government’s help for growing olives. If exploited, olive can considerably reduce the country’s import bill for edible oils. The new plantation, according to experts, may earn for the nation $9 bn annually whereas the grafting of wild olive groves can yield an income of $1 bn annually.

An integral part of diet in the Mediterranean region, olive is believed to be one of the earliest trees cultivated by man. Native to Asia, olive belongs to oleaceae family and comprises 30 genera with 600 species. Olive oil is widely used in countries where fats are scarce. In South Asia, wild olive (olea Cuspida) is found within the northwest Himalayas and other adjoining hills, but cultivated olive (olea Europea) is not grown anywhere on commercial scale. In Pakistan, olive is known as Zytoon in Urdu, Showan in Pushtu, Khat in Brahavi and Kow in Punjabi, Sindhi and Saraiki.

Mentioned seven times in the Holy Quran, the health benefits of olive have been propounded in Tibb-e-Nabvi (The Holy Prophet’s system of medicine). According to Hazrath Abu Hurairah, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Eat olive oil and apply it (locally), since there is cure for 70 diseases in it, one of them is leprosy.” Hazrat Alqama Bin Amir quotes the Holy Prophet (PBUH), as saying: “There is olive oil for you, eat it, massage over your body, since it is effective in Heamorrhoids (Piles).”

The secret of the olive tree is in two things: its fruit – the olive itself, and its over 20 feet massive underground root system, which enables the tree to withstand droughts.

The Vitamin E contained in olives is the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant, which helps to strengthen the digestion and body’s immune system; reducing cholesterol level, severity of asthma, cancer, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and premature ageing as well as delaying the effects of ageing, including wrinkles.

Olives contain compounds called polyphenols that appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Used as balm, olive fortifies limbs and hair, keeping the later shiny and dandruff free. When applied to body, it fortifies and moisturises the skin, softening it, combating inflammation and dry skin. It combats against acne, aches and pains from tired muscles.

Tea prepared from olive leaves helps against high blood pressure; while decoction of olive leaves in water is effective against mouth and lip ulcers and allergic dermatitis. The concentrated aqueous extract of olive leaves and fruits is effective against dental cavities and its application shows good effects on leukoplaquea in mouth. When this solution is applied with vinegar on alopecia, it grows the hair and removes alopecia. Local application of this extract removes scars of small pox and boils.

The oil procured by burning of olive wood is effective against fungal infections,. The application of olive oil in eyes relieves inflammation, while its massage tones up the body muscles/ organs and relieves muscular pains. Some physicians also advocate olive oil massage for epilepsy.

The ointments prepared from olive oil are good healing agents, which quickly heal sinus and fistula. A conventional regimen, comprising of olive oil and herbal rugs, dissolves and expels gallbladder stones.

The best olive production and fruit quality occurs in areas having mild winter and long warm dry summer. Olive trees can be planted during spring and fall. However, fall is best if there is no likelihood of frost during winter. Although olive is a hardy tree, it requires timely irrigation during the early two years. If it does not rain, trees should be irrigated twice or thrice in a year, preferably before flowering, after flowering and 30-45 days before fruit maturing.

Currently Pakistan meets some 73per cent of its edible oil requirements of around 2.8 million tons from imports entailing an annual expenditure of US$ 1.7 to 2.2 billion. To lessen dependence on edible oil imports, the government launched a programme, in 2001, envisaging increasing domestic production of sunflower, oil palm, canola and extra-virgin olive oil. 

Adopting a two-pronged approach of grafting and new plantation, the government has converted most of the olive trees into oil-bearing species of the European type olive at a cost of about Rs. 186.370 million.

Under new plantation, olive orchards have already been established over 955 acres of land in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (at Tarnab-Peshawar, Sangbhatti, Khawoo, Kandare and Toru Kas in Mardan district and Pirsabak in Nowshera district), Punjab (Potohar) and Balochistan. Launched in 2005, the project, which envisaged an expenditure of Rs. 39.185 million, aimed at cultivating over 300,000 olive saplings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan.

Now, the government is mulling a Rs. 382 million project – ‘Commercialisation and Promotion of olive and olive products for economic development and poverty alleviation’ – with Italy’s help and assistance, aimed at utilising cultureable wastelands, forest lands and sub-mountainous areas for massive cultivation of olive. According to experts, one ton of oil can be extracted from olive trees spreading over one hectare of land. 

The Italians have also provided training to 1,500 workers in olive cultivation/harvesting and provided an oil extraction plant, having a capacity of 400 kilogram per hour; under the earlier agreement. Meanwhile, the government has itself purchased four oil extraction units having a capacity of 50 kilogram per hour.

Govt urged to retrieve NICL scam land

Post Source: The News International

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LAHORE

THE Pakistan Muttahida Kisan Mahaz (PMKM) has urged the Punjab government to take immediate steps for retrieving agriculture land of the poor farmers of Toor Warraich, situated in Lahore Cantt, which had been grabbed by some influential people.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, PMKM Coordinator Lahore Division Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf and Mehroon Toor along with victims of the NICL scam alleged that institutions investigating the corruption in the NICL had totally ignored the thousands of kanals of land of the village which was grabbed by the influential fraudulently to sell it to the NICL. They alleged that Sakhi Sarwar (Gardawar) and Zulfikar (Patwari), involved in the scam, had not been included in the interrogation while the revenue officer concerned also was not probed. They said both the Parwari and Gardawar should immediately be suspended from service and all the documents related to their land be recovered from their possession.

They warned that affectees and PMKM workers would stage a sit-in at the Chief Ministerís Secretariat and Chief Ministerís House if their demands were not met.

Development of agri-sector for sustainable growth and food security

 Post Source: Business & Finance Review of The News International
By Hashim Abro

Pakistan has, indeed, a tremendous potential for irrigated agriculture, with fresh water from the River Indus and other rivers, rain water if harvested, and fossil water that can be drilled. It also has a weather pattern that is suitable for almost all production but unfortunately agricultural sector still is being placed n the list of the most neglected sectors. However, population growth, urbanization, gender inequalities, climate change and access to markets are just some of the factors that affect Pakistan’s ability to produce desirable quantity of food. Despite impressive paper work, even the present government is doing nothing to invest in our people’s skills and agricultural technology. We have a plethora of federal and provincial agriculture institutions especially set up for the research and agricultural extension purpose but whatever research is being conducted therein and whatever benefit their research has given to the poor farmers who spiritually attached with this sector and have  been still relying on old traditional methods, is anybody’s guess. No any investment has been made in the human development in the agriculture where it is needed, women empowerment, extension services, technological innovation, trade etc.

The recent rise in global food prices caused by the severe shortages presents an opportunity to boost local food production and increase the country’s self-sufficiency level. Since the governments around the globe are pursuing policies of good governance, infrastructure, and private sector development, internal resource mobilization, creating an appropriate agricultural business environment that could help give their economies grassroots lease of life or resilience but unfortunately it is not being done in Pakistan. The government needs to push the agricultural sector in this direction through food security strategies that are already bearing fruit in different agro-economy based countries.  An innovative step should be the local cultivation of rice with the aim of supplying the domestic market and for export. Furthermore, development of the agribusiness sector should be very high on the agenda of the Board of Investment ( BoI) and it needs to devise planning to attract further foreign investment in areas such as  Horticulture: Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers, Field crops, Cereal grains, Grain legumes, Root crops, oil plants and tress and others.

However for sustainable Agricultural growth and Food Security, interalia, our planners and policy makers need to be able to link energy requirements with specific objectives of agricultural and rural development, such as food security, agro-industry development, and sustainable farming practices. This requires data indicating the energy intensiveness of different farming techniques for important food and other crops. Second, in order to promote food security strategies with the necessary energy inputs, policies and methodologies should consider the critical linkages between agricultural production, agricultural-based industries (food, beverage, tobacco, and textiles), distribution and commercialization, and the rest of the economy. Since agricultural growth is the most important contributor to manufacturing and service activity in the country, not only stimulating agro-industries, but the rest of the economy as well. In this context, energy from biomass is an added benefit. Third, the goal of food security would require an increase in agricultural energy requirements, particularly if emphasis is made on improving yield through conventional high-input techniques. Agro-industry would become the fastest growing sector, in terms of energy requirements, with the agricultural sector the next fastest growth sector. Fourth, Low-input farming techniques, such as integrated pest management, low-tillage cultivation, use of residues, green manures, and other organic fertilizers, may play an important role in sustainable agricultural development. There are several local success stories and new initiatives in low-input, high-yield agriculture. However, the energy implications of these techniques have yet to be systematically documented. More research is needed to enable clear comparisons with well established high-input methods. Fifth, the design and implementation of almost all sustainable agriculture and rural development field activities will require some form and amount of energy input. In many cases, this energy input is not considered, leading to unsatisfactory solutions from both the environmental and energy efficiency standpoints. It is necessary to “energize” agricultural practices with the same sustainability and environmental criteria as the practice itself.

At present, one of the most tremendous challenges we have in rural Pakistan particularly in the province of Sindh, is that the agricultural population is ageing and there are no programmes to entice the youth into agriculture. The government must call conferences to address this problem. If the youth in Pakistan have some sustained assistance programmes, many of them would rather prefer to live in their rural environments than hustle in other urban areas for in existent jobs. This is the time to begin to find solutions to the problem. The objective of this programme is to provide a regular source of income to the young prospective farmers and to lure the youth back into farming. It sounds easy but for sure its implementation will be difficult. It stands to reason that one has to take the risk to start somewhere. Agriculture experts say that one of the most economical ways to diminish rural poverty and hunger is through the support of smallholder farmers.

The FAO says that about 85 percent of the world’s farms are smaller than two hectares and smallholder farmers and their families represent one-third of the world’s population, or two billion people. Our government should also encourage the smallholder farmers so that they can play their role vigorously for sustainable agricultural growth and food security in the country.

In sum, since Pakistan holds enormous potential for boosting the yield of food crops and other agricultural commodities and it could have a better chance of feeding its people with improved governance, more effective agricultural policies, better training and other measures what is needed the most it is continued, focused action on the agricultural sector and that will also lead Pakistan to vibrant agricultural growth and food self-sufficiency in this age of food prices hike and food items paucity.