The rural population, directly or indirectly is linked to agriculture for its livelihood. And agricultural development is linked to rural development, water resources, industries, poverty alleviation and the environment. Its high growth rate helps in poverty alleviation through employment and development.
Improved farm output also helps in the diversification of rural economy toward agro-based industries and non-farm activities such as livestock, fisheries and poultry. Thus, agricultural development is critically important for poverty alleviation since 65.9 per cent of the population live in rural areas.
According to official figures, in 2004-05 poverty was 28.10 per cent in rural areas, 14.90 per cent in urban areas and 23.90 on an overall basis. Despite efforts of the successive governments to mitigate poverty, it is still burgeoning and expanding.
The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) scientists conducted a survey to analyze income sources, agricultural productivity and poverty status of farm families in the rice/wheat and (Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Kasur, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin and Hafizabad) and mix cropping zones (Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Faisalabad/Toba Tek Singh & Okara) of Punjab during 2004-05.
According to survey results, crop income accounted for about two-third (66.41 per cent) of the total income of farm families. It contributes 71 per cent in the total income in rice/wheat zone and 59 per cent in the mix-cropping zone. In the rice/wheat zone, major crops (rice and wheat) contribute 97 per cent of the crop income of poor farmers and 94 per cent of the crop income of not-poor farmers.
Similarly, in the mix-cropping zone share of major crops (sugarcane and wheat) in the income of poor farmer is greater than the “not poor”; 82 and 71 per cent, respectively, meaning the share of minor crops in the crop income of latter is greater than the former.
Livestock sector’s contribution is 5.12 per cent in the rice/wheat zone and 11.5 per cent in the mix-cropping zone. Thus, agriculture sector contributes 73.87 per cent in the income of rural farm families in the study area: 76.12 per cent in rice/wheat zone and 70.50 per cent in mix cropping zone. Therefore, it is apparent that an increase in agricultural productivity results in an increase in per capita income of rural farm people and thus a decrease in poverty in rural areas.
Wages and salaries are also significant income sources for peasants. They contribute about one-fifth (20.38 per cent) of the total income of farm workers families. Rental and transfer incomes are minor sources of income for farm families; these sources contribute 5.75 per cent in their income.
According to latest official inflation-adjusted poverty line, 31 percent per cent of farm population in the survey area is poor. The incidence of poverty is more in the mix-cropping zone than in the rice-wheat zone.
Poverty estimates depict that in the mix cropping zone about 34 per cent of the members of rural families are poor as compared to 28 per cent in the rice/wheat zone. Mean income of poor farm households is less then the established poverty line by 0.37.
Aggregate poverty deficit of the poor in the mix cropping zone is more than in the rice wheat zone. The income inequality amongst poor in the mix-cropping zone is more than in the rice/wheat zone and overall study area. Thus, poverty is more severe in mix cropping zone than the rice/wheat zone.
The yield of major crops in the study area is low than their potential yield. The yield of major crops is still 25-50 per cent below the demonstrated potential; the gap between actual and potential yield of rice is 50 per cent, wheat 40 per cent, sugarcane 35 per cent and maize 28 per cent.
The low yield of major crops may be attributed to poor quality seed, low seed rate, conventional sowing method, and inefficient use of fertilizers, poor management practices and low level of farm mechanization.
The crop-specific reasons of low yield revealed that low seed rate, use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of the farmers, very low use of nitrogen and phosphatic fertilizers and negligible use of potash fertilizer were the main factors responsible for low sugarcane yield.
While, the major reasons of the low yield of rice crop are low plant population, use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of the farmers, low use of nitrogen fertilizer, very low phosphatic use and negligible use of potash fertilizers.
The use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of the farmers, low use of nitrogen fertilizers, very low use of phosphatic and negligible use potash fertilizers were the main reasons for low yield of wheat.
Whereas, the major reasons of the low yield of maize crop are low use of nitrogen fertilizer, very low use phosphatic and no use potash fertilizers.
The Indian sugarcane variety (CO-1148) and Tritran are major cane varieties planted by the farmers of study area. Super Basmati and Basmati-386 are major rice varieties and occupy more than 85 percent acreages of the total rice area. Inqlab-91 and Wattan are the main wheat varieties planted by the farmers. Farmers of the area planted Desi and Neelam varieties of Maize and CIM-499 and Desi varieties of cotton.
On the input side, black marketing/ higher prices of agricultural inputs and low quality/adulterated pesticides are problems faced by the farming community in the study area. On the output side, low output prices, lack of transportation and storage facilities are main problems.
In the livestock sector, more than 42 percent of the total milk produced is consumed domestically and the remaining amount is sold to different marketing intermediaries. The inter-cropping zone comparison shows that milk prices are relatively higher in rice zone as compared to mixed cropping zone in both summer and winter seasons.
In the study area, male young stocks of large and small ruminants are usually sold before reaching maturity and few farmers keep breeding bulls for buffalo and cattle.
However, 93 percent of farmers practice natural breeding method in livestock and artificial insemination of livestock is practiced only by seven per cent.
One animal out of average livestock holding per farm of nine fell ill over a period of one year. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (HS), Red Water, Dysentery, Runeinal Impaction and Paralysis are the common livestock diseases. Vaccination of animals against diseases is not encouraging as only 36.2 per cent and 18.8 per cent of farmers vaccinated their adult buffaloes and cattle, respectively.
In case of young stock, the percentage of farmers who vaccinated their buffalo and cattle young stock is 11.7 and 8.1 per cent, respectively. Similarly, de-worming of livestock is not encouraged and that of young stock is even low.
The growers are cultivating non-recommended varieties of all the major crops which suggest that either they are unaware of the approved varieties, or there exist flaws in the delivery system of approved seed. Thus, to increase agricultural productivity, it is suggested that growers should be educated to use the recommended seed rate of approved varieties and apply recommended doses of fertilizers to crops. The flaws in the delivery system of approved seed and fertilizers should also be removed.
To increase livestock productivity introduction of highly nutritive fodders such as Mott grass and hybrid sorghum fodder (Sada Bahar) de-worming according to a fixed schedule, vaccination against contagious diseases and promotion of artificial insemination are suggested.
The report was published in 12th October, 2018 edition of The Daily Patriot. A leading English newspaper in Pakistan.