According to National Nutrition Survey 2018-19, 40 percent of children up to five years of age in Pakistan have different physical and mental health issues, and according to the survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Pakistan ranks third in this menace. The government has launched ‘Backyard poultry initiative’ under the Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Program under which five million pre-vaccinated desi (local) chickens will be distributed among public across the country at subsidized rates which aims to provide adequate animal protein to undernourished population and alleviate poverty. The total cost of the project is Rs 1,635.471 million. Of the total cost, 30 percent would be borne by the federal and provincial governments while 70 percent would be the beneficiary’s share.
Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) government has decided to start an ambitious agriculture emergency program from next month by implementing projects of water conservation and augmentation, increasing production of cereal crops and oil seeds, facilitate enterprises of livestock and poultry farming. The province is dependent on supplies of wheat flour, rice, pulses, fruits and vegetables from Punjab and Sindh. But development of agriculture has always remained at the bottom of priorities. Because of water scarcity 1.8 million acres cultivable land is yet to be brought under extensive cultivation of crops and fruit orchards.
The launching of big water conservation projects like Chashma Right Bank Canal Project (CRBC) and KurranmTangi dam can serve as big leap forward in bringing vast tracts of fertile agriculture land in the rain-fed areas of southern districts. In the southern districts of the province there are dozens of potential sites of such small dams each of which can cost less than 5 million rupees but can store water for thousands of acres of land. It would have also brought up water table which is going down in these areas.
Installation of solar tube wells is another most economical method of water availability for agriculture lands. Majority of farmers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa own small and subsistence land holdings. They cannot afford purchase of genetically modified hybrid seeds that are imported from advanced countries. Funding to the agriculture research centers has greatly squeezed and high yield hybrid varieties of seeds are not evolved in the province despite the existence of research centers and know how available there. The agriculture and fruits research centers need to be made fully functional to ensure production of better varieties of seeds for different crops and sapling of fruit trees. Livestock and poultry farming are non-existent in the province due to lack of monetary and marketing incentives. The price of chicken has abnormally gone up due to sharp decline in supply. Poultry farming needs encouragement both at micro and macro levels by providing easy credit to the interested entrepreneurs who are keen to invest in this economical but at the same time profitable enterprise.
Khyber Pukhtunkhwa can get an edge in the production of delicious varieties of fish. The agriculture package which has been approved by the federal government include fisheries one of the major components. Both the federal and provincial government can agree on a viable plan of fisheries promotion. Hopefully during the tenure of present provincial government, agriculture development will get top priority to make the province self-reliant in the production of wheat, rice and other food commodities.
[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan[/box]