IMPROVING FARMERS' LIVES
DR. SM ALAM
July 05 - 11, 2010
Agriculture sector of Pakistan can produce enough foods and fiber to feed and clothe every person all around the country.
Farmers' community is the backbone of agriculture sector. Famers face many problems in making the fields lush and green. They make many decisions and use different strategies to protect themselves from the unpredictability of farming. They determine the best time to plant, fertilise, harvest and market their products.
A day for farmer usually begins early in the morning and 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.
Farmers are responsible for converting the growing awareness and knowledge into everyday practices. Large farms usually employ farm mangers but fewer farms mean less jobs.
Aquaculture is a new opportunity because of 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. Farm managers usually have a bachelor's degree and many years of work experience. So as you make your decision remember these key facts: 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 lands which are equal to 30 million acres and 7.1 million acres of land are under the control of 3000 landlords. Governments failed to eradicate feudalism and build an infrastructure capable of revolutionising agricultural production.
There are about 4.5 million landless farmers working on the land of the landlords and they work on the basis that they get back only a 30 percent share of the total production.
The prices of fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, agricultural machinery have risen by up to 200 per cent in the last forty years. 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 the repayment of the debt becomes impossible. Hence, they and their families are bonded to the landlords. These farmers are forced to vegetate lives in 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 turn 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 education. These agricultural workers and their families are deprived of medical treatment or health facilities. The children are malnourished and access to clean water and sanitation are 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 depends primarily on 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 over exploitation of natural resources, including marginal lands.
The key to the successful implementation of development 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.
The following objectives are proposed: (a) to encourage a decentralised decision-making process through the creation and strengthening of local and village organisations 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 internalise 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 organisations, (g) to 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.