ROLE OF FARMERS IN AGRICULTURE

DR. S.M. ALAM AND MR. M.A. KHAN
June 11 - 17, 2007

The farmers in Pakistan produce enough food to feed all of the Pakistan and for export. The aim of farmers is to efficiently improve the quality of agricultural products. They make many decisions and use different strategies to protect themselves from the unpredictability of farming. They determine the best time to plant, fertilize, harvest and market their products. The farmers day usually begins early, is strenuous and long. During the planting and harvest seasons, there are very few days off. The day is spent mostly outdoors in any kind of weather and farmers are constantly on-call. Most farmers are self-employed, the work can be hazardous and the market unpredictable. Tasks can include caring for livestock, operating machinery and maintaining equipment along with administrative duties such as record keeping.

Now we need to know about the different kinds of farming. Crop farms grow grains, cotton, fibers, fruit and vegetables. The crop farmer plants, tills, fertilizes, sprays, harvests, packages and stores their produce. Livestock farmers' plan, feed and care for animals. Horticultural farmers produce ornamental plants and nursery products. Aqua-cultural farmers raise fish and shellfish.

Farming employment is predicted to decline in the future because of increasing productivity and the combining of smaller farms. Large farms usually employ farm mangers but fewer farms means less jobs. Aquaculture has the most new job opportunities because of over-fishing and the high demand for seafood. Smaller farms will survive by establishing market niches such as organic farming with direct customer contact. Farming today combines formal education and work experience. Pakistani universities usually have a school of agriculture where one can get a bachelor's degree. Some experienced farmers have apprenticeship programs where you can train on the job. Farm managers usually have a bachelor's degree and many years of work experience. So as you make your decision remember these key facts: modern farming combines formal education and work experience employment is predicted to decline because of increasing productivity and the combing of farms new developments in marketing and organic farming are making small-scale farming viable

Pakistan has 197 million acres of land, but only 52.21 million acres of this is available for cultivation. Besides these, 9.04 million acres of forest are spread over the country. According to the Pakistan Land Commission's 1972 report, 600 feudal families own land which is equal to 30 million acres and peasants while 7.1 million acres of land are under the control of 3000 landlords. This shows the historical failure of the Pakistani ruling class to develop Pakistani society. Its vital economic base, agriculture has failed to eradicate feudalism and build an infrastructure capable of revolutionizing agricultural production.

There are about 4.5 million landless farmers working on the land of the landlords and they work it on the basis that they get back only a 30 percent share of the total production. The prices of fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, agricultural machinery have risen by up to 200 percent in the last forty years. So these poor farmers are suffering terribly due to the atrocities of their landlords. These landlords, like the industrialists, put all the burden of their losses onto the shoulders of the small farmers and poor peasants. Most of these agricultural workers live below the poverty line. In lower Sindh, there are more than one million agricultural laborers working on a casual basis. These poor farmers get loans from the landlords. These accumulate over time as they have high interest rates and after generations of this the repayment of the debt becomes impossible. Hence they and their families are bonded to the landlords. These farmers are therefore living a life chained up and kept in their own private jails. These millions of agricultural workers are very poor, they earn less than half a dollar per day per family, and hence these agricultural workers are turning into beggars. These workers are deprived of basic facilities like health, food, clothes, education, water and homes etc. Their women are tortured by the landlords and their thugs. Their children have no access to any education. These agricultural workers and their families are deprived of any medical treatment or health facilities. The children are malnourished and access to clean water and sanitation beyond the dreams of these poor souls.

A farmer-centered approach is the key to the attainment of sustainability in both developed and developing countries and many of the programme areas. A significant number of the rural population in developing countries depend primarily upon small-scale, subsistence-oriented agriculture based on family labor. However, they have limited access to resources, technology, alternative livelihood and means of production. As a result, they are engaged in the overexploitation of natural resources, including marginal lands. The sustainable development of people in marginal and fragile ecosystems is also addressed in Agenda 21. The key to the successful implementation of these programmes lies in the motivation and attitudes of individual farmers and government policies that would provide incentives to farmers to manage their natural resources efficiently and in a sustainable way. Farmers, particularly women, face a high degree of economic, legal and institutional uncertainties when investing in their land and other resources.

The following objectives are proposed: (a) To encourage a decentralized decision-making process through the creation and strengthening of local and village organizations that would delegate power and responsibility to primary users of natural resources; (b) To support and enhance the legal capacity of women and vulnerable groups with regard to access, use and tenure of land; (c) To promote and encourage sustainable farming practices and technologies; (d) To introduce or strengthen policies that would encourage self-sufficiency in low-input and low-energy technologies, including indigenous practices, and pricing mechanisms that internalize environmental costs; (e) To develop a policy framework that provides incentives and motivation among farmers for sustainable and efficient farming practices; (f) To enhance the participation of farmers, men and women, in the design and implementation of policies directed towards these ends through their representative organizations,(g) Ensure the implementation of the programmes on sustainable livelihoods, agriculture and rural development, managing fragile ecosystems, water use in agriculture, and integrated management of natural resources; (h) Promote pricing mechanisms, trade policies, fiscal incentives and other policy instruments that positively affect individual farmer's decisions about an efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, and take full account of the impact of these decisions on household food security, farm incomes, employment and the environment; (i) to involve farmers and their representative organizations in the formulation of policy; (j) to protect, recognize and formalize women's access to tenure and use of land, as well as rights to land, access to credit, technology, inputs and training; (k) to support the formation of farmers' organizations by providing adequate legal and social conditions. Support for farmers' organizations could be arranged as follows:

(l) National and international research centres should cooperate with farmers' organizations in developing location-specific environment-friendly farming techniques; (m) National Governments, multilateral and bilateral development agencies and non-governmental organizations should collaborate with farmers' organizations in formulating agricultural development project to specific agro-ecological zones. Governments and farmers' organizations should: (n) to establish networks for the exchange of experiences with regard to farming that help to conserve land, water and forest resources, minimize the use of chemicals and reduce or reutilize farm wastes;(o) to develop pilot projects and extension services that would seek to build on the needs and knowledge base of women farmers (p) International and regional cooperation-FAO, IFAD, WFP, the World Bank, the regional development banks and other international organizations involved in rural development should involve farmers and their representatives in their deliberations, as appropriate.

Farmers' first priority is to be able to stay in business and to keep the farm running. They cannot risk going bankrupt. Thus, we can expect to react defensively to demand for radical changes in their established modes of production. It should also be noted that farmers are not a homogenous group of people. Depending on production orientation, geographical location, and the way farm production is organized etc., the farmer will respond differently on incentives and demands on environmental and quality improvements. Thus, we have to understand farmers' behavior and include the meaning farmers' themselves attach to farming and their own description of how to organize the complex activity.

Farmers are at the core in the process of changing agriculture towards sustainability. They are the ones who are responsible for converting the growing awareness and knowledge into everyday practices. By the same token they will probably experience great changes in their every day life and in their work and business objectives. The challenges are many, and it is obvious that the way forward is through a participatory and truly democratic approach. Through inclusive processes farmers' local knowledge and site specific experience can be taken into account . As a response to all these notions social learning, collaboration, and local decision making has been advocated as approaches to be used. To identify incentives for constrains against and hindrances to farmers applying sustainable modes of production.