OVERLOOKED AGRICULTURE RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
FOZIA AROOJ (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mar 16 - 22, 2009
Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy and deserves attention in all areas and dimensions. In today's competitive environment survival is only possible with innovation and efficiency which can only be attained by research activities.
Pakistan has many agricultural universities, agricultural colleges, and government and semi-government research-oriented organizations. But agricultural research, whether it is in the area of fiber, fodder, food, fruit or vegetables, is still run of the mill and its results are not remarkable.
Extension wings that are responsible for taking the fruits of research to the field are also not very satisfactory due to lack of facilities. There are no periodical orientation programs for them leading to inadequacy of awareness regarding state-of-the-art technologies in the international arena.
Although, the country is an agrarian economy its investment in agricultural research declined 31% between 1991 and 2000. Pakistan is currently facing many agricultural crises, only due to slackness of agricultural investment in the 1990s. The low budget during this decade hindered recruitment, research and the building of new institutes. This resulted in the loss of many experts, including researchers holding PhDs, which hampered ongoing projects and research. Agricultural development and the plight of agriculturists have never been a priority issue of government's policy. The decline in agricultural research investment is very unfortunate because, in Pakistan, agriculture is the key to prosperity, development, exports and industrial foundation. Main problems facing the research and development are as follows:
1-Research institutes are not autonomous in raising and utilizing funds and in collaborating with other organizations.
2- There are many structural weaknesses in agricultural research area for instance the environment is not investment prone as the sector-level outputs are not clear.
3-There exists no mechanism to find and prioritize emerging issues to be resolved through research. Instead all the research priorities are decided at the scientist's level.
4- No involvement of stakeholders is poured in research combined with a poor research-extension-farmer linkage. In addition there is a little international exposure or interaction.
5- Management weaknesses are also rampant in agricultural research. There is a little incentive for innovation. Lack of collaboration between institutes and disciplines is aggravating the whole system. There is a little scientific monitoring and evaluation. Pakistan actually has some good institutions and knowledge but lacks the mechanisms to disseminate this information to its farmers. India and China are far ahead of Pakistan in this field.
As a matter of fact, government needs to invest in agricultural research because tight supplies of food grains persist due to low yields and high population growth. Multidisciplinary agricultural research is to be conducted with particular emphasis on removing the snags hampering the extension service channel. A strong coordination is required between agricultural research and the extension wing services to pass on the research findings to the end-users. Agricultural scientists should be given due place and recognition for their onerous and time-consuming research pursuits.
It is appropriate that Pakistan should support research efforts in biotechnology genomics and proteomics. It has enormous potential in agricultural both in cropping and livestock sectors. Combined with genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, biotechnology can greatly aid our ability to confront the challenges of production, management, and sustainability of agriculture and economic development. There is a need to fill actual productivity and potential productivity gap by adopting appropriate strategies and modern technologies to meet such problems such as low resource use efficiency in agriculture, land degradation, water-logging, salinity, low organic matter, and low level of technology.
The agriculturists should incorporate views of farmers in their research programs, as the basic purpose of agriculture research is to solve their problems. In order to improve efficiency, performance, coordination, autonomy, and service conditions and for provision of adequate resources to improve quality of agricultural research the corporate mode in agriculture has been successful in some areas and is also practiced in some other countries like China and Australia.
In order to improve agricultural research, demand driven research should be the basic objective. Scientists have to develop high yielding varieties of wheat, rice and sugarcane. More research work is required in vegetables, pulses, and horticulture and value addition technology. The need for improving extension services can not be ignored so that benefit of research could be passed on to the farmers. Pay scales of lower cadre officials of extension wing are to be improved in order to improve their efficiency and performance.
In Pakistan, there are hundreds of scientists working at more than 29 centers conducting biotech research in different areas. These institutions have, to their credit, a number of major achievements in modern biotechnology. A few of them have developed plant expression vectors for the introduction of foreign genes into crops like Bt pesticidal genes used in cotton and rice against bollworm.
Following areas are the most important for R& D emphasis:
• Acquisition, exchange, distribution, and improvement of genetic stocks of crops, forest species, live stock, and fish using conventional and biotechnology applications.
• Production and distribution of improved seed and livestock to meet international needs.
• Development of diagnostics to detect diseases in crops, animals, and fish.
• Production of pesticides and pesticide application within the context of chemical control or integrated pest management.
• Development of strategies to ensure responsible deployment of resistance genes in crops that will optimize durability of the genes.
• Development and production of vaccines and other disease control agents for animal diseases.
• Processing, storage, and use of food and feed products, including control of post harvest losses.
In future, it is imperative that the government invests significantly more public sector funds in agricultural R&D and also encourages the local and international private sectors to participate in activities where they have comparative advantages.