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EDUCATING FARMERS TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

  1. Educating farmers to increase productivity
  2. Promotion of quality culture

By NIZAM A. KHAN
Jan 31 - Feb 06, 2000 

Pakistan is an agricultural country. 25% of G.D.P. is contributed by agriculture and the productivity of land here is one of the poorest in the world. A little education of farmers can do wonders for the national economy. Imagine just a 20% increase in agricultural productivity means about 5% increase in G.D.P. which is not a mean achievement by any standard. Whereas according to experts a potential exists in Pakistan to almost double the productivity of land. Educating farmers in a systematically organised, concerted effort in some "good agronomic practices" is the panacea for all economic ills of Pakistan. Dramatic results can be achieved without making any significant capital investments.

Long term plan: requires introduction of "basic principals of agronomic science and practices" as a subject in school syllabi of rural areas. Moving Government bureaucracy to bring about this change will take some time and effort. In the mean time what we can do is to get some good textbooks written on this subject; get them printed in large quantities and distribute them free of cost to farmers and all those schools, madrassas, institutions etc. who are prepared to teach this subject: Cost of printing about 20,000, books in the first instance at an average cost of Rs.50/each comes to about Rupees one million only. Not much for such an important national cause.

Short term plan: using video based training modules would be an ideal method for imparting such education to farmers on a wide scale. This is a modern training technique. It can produce the desired results in a comparatively shorter period at much lower cost. A module consists of a video presentation of 20 - 25 minutes, divided into 3 or 4 parts. Each part is followed by reading a programmed text and a question answer session. The whole session concludes in about 2 to 3 hours. At the end of the session a booklet and a pocket card containing all necessary information is given to participants as an additional capsule of knowledge in their hands for ready reference at all times. Medium of instruction for these training modules will be Urdu and/or local languages.

Main advantage of such training modules is that the course conductor or instructor; you may call him a facilitator, a change agent, a champion of reform or whatever you like; does not have to be an expert on the subject. He is there just to facilitate and help participants to absorb the knowledge contained in the modules. If at any time he comes across a difficult question from a participant, he can always provide it to him after consulting an expert on the subject.

The quality of instruction provided by these training modules is another big advantage. It is not only very high but also consistently the same given to each group and individual, quite Independent of the abilities of the instructor. Retention percentage is also very high as compared to a lecture by an expert on the subject.

Other advantages are: The knowledge contained in the modules is specifically tailored to meet the requirements of the farmer and suited to the crop and the area. No more and no less.

The knowledge is provided to him at his doorsteps; at an appropriate time of the season.

The instructors do not have to be full time employees for this job. They will be regular employees of the sponsor companies for this project i.e. agro and pharma industries and banks, who will be the major beneficiaries of this green revolution. They will be carefully selected, highly motivated individuals and work on part time basis for this campaign. They will be suitably compensated on the basis of No. of sessions conducted or the No. of farmers trained. Plus a suitable travelling allowance calculated on the basis of actual mileage covered. But their main incentive will be a very lucrative bonus to be given in direct proportion to the percentage increase of the land productivity they achieve within the area of their responsibility. For this purpose the areas allotted to each instructor/ team should be such that reliable production figures and statistics must be regularly available for it. For example clearly demarcated districts or divisions etc.

The campaign to educate the farmers for each cash crop will be quite separate and independent of the other. It will be based on a set of about 5 or 6 training modules. The subjects will be something like this.

—Preparation of land.

—Seeds and sowing.

—Land, water and crop management. Fertilizers.

—Pesticides

—Bank loans.

The total number of modules thus required for the entire campaign will he around 24 or say at the most 30.

The cost of producing one module, including the video and the print material etc. is estimated to be around Rupees one lac. The average cost of running a campaign for one crop in one season throughout the country, if properly organised and prudently conducted should not go beyond Rupees one million. One time investment required in the shape of vehicles, video recorders, T V. sets etc. should not exceed Rupees one million per team. This is only in case when the sponsor companies are not able to share their vehicles and equipments for this national cause. The cost estimates are given just to give you an idea to facilitate taking the decisions. As a matter of fact these costs are nothing as compared to expected benefits and its importance to national economy.

The success of the whole scheme will depend on quality of leadership for this project and the resources made available to them. It would be a folly to leave it in the hands of the Govt. and its bureaucracy. The total amount required can easily be subscribed by a few prosperous agro and pharma industries of Pakistan and some big banks, who will not mind diverting a portion of their promotional budget towards this project in their own interest. Because the resulting agricultural revolution will help expand the market for their products.

Action plan: If the basic idea presented in this paper is considered feasible and practical then the following action plan can be adopted.

Step-1, find the sponsors: Since the total amount required for this project is not much it should not be difficult to mobilise the sponsorship of just a few multinational companies and banks for it.

Step-2, set up the project organisation: in the same meeting wherein sponsor companies commit financial resources they also name individuals from their regular employer who will run this project. Their compensation, incentives, responsibilities, targets etc. will be clearly defined as per guidelines mentioned above.

Step-3, prepare the training modules: Responsibility for preparing the script for each module will be given to a team of 2 individuals, one agronomist of an agro/pharma industry and another one, an expert from an agricultural university. The same team will get the training modules made through a laid down procedure, which must be free from bureaucratic complexities.

Step-4, run the campaign: Set up an organisation to run it. Select instructor/teams of carefully selected highly motivated individuals from among the sponsors' organisations. Allot clearly demarcated areas to each instructor /team for which reliable production figures can be obtained to monitor the results. Provide them with necessary equipment and facilities. And then let them go.

Step-5. Monitor the results, publicise it widely, create an atmosphere of competition and keep on modifying and improving the modules and the campaign based on feedback. The results are bound to surprise every one.

Finally, let me say that it is not necessary to start big and take up the entire project in one go. It can be started for any one crop for a smaller area so that big finances are not required at the first instance. The project can later be expanded to cover larger areas and other corps after carefully evaluating cost benefit ratios actually achieved in sample cases.