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Globalization and Sustainable Agriculture




  • Globalization in agriculture is an earnest effort to enable the producers and entrepreneurs taking part in sharing the benefit of world trade and economic growth. This provides opportunities for the farmers to be competitive to gain lucrative and to sustain their income from farming. Cost, quality and efficiency of production are imperative for competing in global markets. These features can be realized by improving input use efficiency, enhancing genetic productivity and harnessing complementarities of enterprises.

    Globalization in agriculture is an earnest effort to enable the producers and entrepreneurs taking part in sharing the benefit of world trade and economic growth. This provides opportunities for the farmers to be competitive to gain lucrative and to sustain their income from farming. Cost, quality and efficiency of production are imperative for competing in global markets. These features can be realized by improving input use efficiency, enhancing genetic productivity and harnessing complementarities of enterprises. Pakistan carries the richest plant genetic resources in the world that can be exploited to benefit our farmers.

    Globalization and economic liberalization  initiated during the last decade encourage capital investments on infrastructure facilities especially on seed industry, post harvest storage, processing, value addition, marketing, technological and market knowledge dissemination as well ensure intellectual property rights to individuals, institutions and corporate; thus provide opportunities for the application of frontier technologies for agricultural production. With a large manpower at its resource, Pakistan can hope to produce at cheaper cost for competing, at the now opened, international market. However, the gains are not substantial as yet and have not percolated to the multitudes of millions of rural farmers whose livelihood depends on land and water base operations i.e, agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry, sericulture etc.

    The transgenic technology recalls new dramatic changes in life forms in a short amount of time by altering the gene coding sequences so as to increase the level of certain amino acids followed by their reintroduction into the plant is now feasible. Plants expressing insecticide toxin of Bacillus thuringiensis had already been developed and transfer to other anti-metabolic protein genes conferring widely used herbicide, glyphosate from bacteria to plant; the agricultures’ Nitrogen problem can be solved by the soil and root bacteria. Transgenic crop varieties, which have high degree of pest and disease resistance, tolerance to drought and salinity and nutrition enhancement is now a reality. Technology replaces a conventional chemical input with seeds incorporating insect resistance as in BT varieties. Technologies are faster, more flexible, and more precise and have potential to address some of the externality problems.

    Does this change undermine local livelihoods and impoverish many in the interest of the few? Its seems so, unless the economic uses of basic factors land and water are planned to integrate environmental, economic and social needs and linked, with the existing uses and environmental consideration so that the rural communities will be encouraged to take advantages of opportunities offered by new changes without endangering the natural resources. The blending of frontier technologies with the rich traditional knowledge and technologies is, therefore, warranted to make millions of farmers, avail of these opportunities.

    Globalization and economic liberalization has direct impact on production process, commercialization of agricultural products and social structure. It is capital intensive and offers opportunities for educated youth to participate. To compete with global market, cost reduction and quality improvement in production system will be indispensable; consequently shrinkage in labor and greater expectation on labor productivity.

    As the corporate will play a lead role in Pakistani agriculture, effective partnership building will be warranted to bridge/reduce the severe disparity between rural and urban population. Agribusiness should strike a partnership with farmer for covering his produce to satisfy market needs. This type of interdependence between the farmer-customer-corporate would constitute a socioeconomic matrix. Asset building is essential for economic revival. Equity for farmers in corporate will make it co-operate sector.

    Linkages are to be established between knowledge generators, users and the corporate for the generation of situation specific technologies and dissemination. The virtual academy with linkages with virtual universities, stakeholders and the corporate will help generation and dissemination of appropriate technologies and market intelligence. Farm universities are to share this responsibility to link farmers with corporate.

    Molecular marker technique can half the time needed in producing pest disease control traits, agronomic traits such as tolerance to drought, salinity and post harvest traits such as delayed ripening of fruits and output traits such as specific food qualities.

    Genetically modified crop increases seed cost considerably through shift up the cost backward. The production strategy has to focus from mere higher productivity to market orientation. The small and marginal farmers and landless labor, which still represent 60 percent of rural population, do not have the means to upgrade the technology and turn to commercialization. The lifting of quantitative restrictions on imports, though the Government has the option to control imports through tariff levies, is reflected on low export of many of the commodities (rice, wheat, sugar) and sale in the internal market.

    Pakistan is endowed with a natural wealth of diversified soil types and heterogeneous climatic conditions and biodiversity. This variability together with abundant sunshine and equitable temperature regimes provides conditions for round the year cropping and to adopt diversified farming systems to include livestock, tree crops, horticultural crops and aquaculture to ensure food security and prosperity to the country men.

    We inherited scarcity and poverty from the colonial rule. Through systematic planning to harness natural resources and technological development, Pakistan surged ahead from scarcity to self sufficiency and marginal surplus on the food front, well before the new millennium. The apprehensions of the Thomas Malthus about the human ability to produce food to match the needs of human numbers, fortunately, did not come true.

    Bio fertilizers for soil and site specific symbiotic and free living bacteria, fixing bacteria, algae and ferns; phosphorous nutrient solubilising bacteria, mycorhiza; bio degrading agents for recycling organic wastes; biological pest and disease control; production aids such as mushroom; bioengineering techniques of using vegetation for erosion control, soil and moisture conservation, embankment stabilization, bio remediation for salt and heavy metal absorption , land reclamation, sericulture; micro propagation, nursery growing for economic tree crops; community participative seed production especially hybrid seeds are to be encouraged. Land development endeavors, wasteland or watershed, should be based on self drained catchments with stockholder’s participation.

    The task ahead is more challenging. The very progress, achieved through extractive agriculture, has left the live saving support systems comprising land, water, flora and fauna and the atmosphere in distress. Impressive increase has been achieved in crop yields since 1970s but this has been a result of greater use of external inputs including mechanization, intensive water application, fertilizers, pesticides, sophisticated processing, packaging of food etc. As compared to other advanced countries it (use of external inputs) is relatively low. USA uses 9.6 calories of fossil fuel to produce per calorie of food, we use one calorie fossil fuel for that purpose, but this can be improved by optimized system and improving primary productivity of the soil. Use of tress for fuel, feed, timber, fruits etc. will improve soil productivity besides enhancing energy production per unit area.

    The watershed based dry land and wasteland development is gaining momentum. Watershed represents not only a hydrologic unit of area but also a bio-physical, socio-economic even a political unit for planning and management of natural resources. Watershed management is an integrated approach, ensuring holistic development for all the users of the watershed with their active participation and gender neutrality. The users of watershed should be made owners of land for building asset and provide means to improve the asset, as asset without means for development will perish. One half of the watershed should be allocated for the horticultural crops to improve nutrition of the habitants and generate year round income and employment as well market orientation. For conserving soil and water and stabilizing watercourse embankments, bioengineering practices should be encouraged as they are cost effective and environment friendly. Stakeholders should be motivated to participate from planning, execution and management.

    Agriculture sector of Pakistan is well recognized for its multi-functionalities of providing food, nutrition and ecological security besides employment and livelihood for over 160 million people. Pakistan has made a marvelous achievement in grain output after the introduction of Green Revolution that eventually resulted in maintaining all time high buffer stock in warehouses of our country. This rosy picture doses not commensurate with complete elimination of poverty. The   present situation calls upon diversification to expand our food basket, enhance economic access by alleviating poverty and create rural employment and desirable environmental externalities. It is time we assessed our strength and weaknesses in global trade. Considering the low productivity of many agricultural commodities, agricultural policies have to be designed to improve productivity by enhancing the efficiency of production through technological change to generate marketable surplus.

     

    By : Muhammad Ahmad, Khawar Jabaran & Atique-ur-Rehman

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