Agriculture is the backbone of national economy. Its share in gross domestic product (GDP) declined from 53 per cent in 1947 to 23.3 per cent in 2003-04. It engaged 66 per cent of labour force at the time of the inception of the country which has now declined to 44 per cent due to increased employment in industrial ,manufacturing and servicing sectors. Making tall claims for agricultural development for the public consumption has become a routine of the successive Governments.
The population of Pakistan in mid 1948 increased from 32.4 million to 145 million now ,which is estimated to increase to 180 million in 2010 and to 280 million in 2025 . The current agricultural growth rate is not above population growth rate, inspite of the tall claims of agricultural policy makers, to meet the food and fibre requirements of the burgeoning population and to maintain a reasonable export surplus for sustaining our agro-based economy .
At present nor the land and water resources are being efficiently utilized nor the actual yield potential has been achieved due to mismanagement of our land and politicizing of our water resource bases and failure to implement high production technology at the field level. The projection of wheat production show a shortfall of 8 million ton by the year 2013 and 11 million ton by 2025 .It is also estimated that by 2025 ,Pakistan will be short of by 28 million tons of different food grains ,sugar ,pulses ,oilseeds etc .The Government will be forced to import million of tons edible oil ,wheat , pulses ,raw cotton ,sugar and other agricultural commodities costing billions of rupees causing heavy drain on our limited national exchequer. Some of the areas of mismanagement of agriculture are pointed out as under :
Land resource base: Our fertile agricultural lands are deceasing due to urbanization ,industrialization ,construction of roads, highways. The production potential of our existing cultivated and cultivable lands is seriously declining due to uncontrolled soil erosion ,soil salinity , water logging and sea intrusion in the coastal belt .Inspite of the tall claims of successive Governments of their control ,there are 11.2 million hectares(mha) of land eroded by water and 4.73 mha eroded by wind .Similarly there are still 6.2 mha of slightly to highly saline-sodic soils inspite of taking loan for their reclamation .Likewise ,there are still 2.5 million mha of land where water-table is between 0-5 feet below the ground surface and 6.2 mha where ground water table is between 0-10 feet inspite of spending billions of $ taken as loan for various projects to control water logging including $785 million taken for the national drainage project . This reflects on the poor and inefficient policy of land resource management of our agricultural managers .
Of the total farm land ,63 per cent comprises of small ,subsistent and below subsistent level farms. The continued fragmentation into two or more separate holdings is a significant constraint on agricultural production. The two land reforms of 1972 and1977 and tenancy act of 2002 could not be effectively implemented.
Water resource base: Pakistan has abundant water resource base with an average river flow of 144 MAF with yearly fluctuations and nearly 52 MAF of groundwater .Again , in the cultivated command area of Indus Basin ,the total annual rainfall is estimated at 23 MAF with a run-off loss of 50 per cent .Even if this run-off loss is reckoned at 25per cent at the croplands ,it would be 6 MAF .If to this is added the run-off loss over forests and rangelands ,the total run-off loss would come to 9MAF. This rain water loss would further increase if losses outside the Indus basin are also included .
River/canal water resource is declining due to sedimentation of old reservoirs thus seriously affecting crop production .But no major reservoir has been constructed after the construction of Tarbela Dam due to politicizing and provicializing of the issue . Again ,out of the groundwater acquifer nearly 46 to 48 MAF of water is already being used due to increase of tube-wells to703,074 in 2003 in addition to Persian wells ,lift pumps , karezrs etc. Overmining of groundwater without any regard to its annual recharge rate is seriously declining the groundwater acquifer. Seveal areas in the country, especially in Balochistan have already been exhausted causing serious problems to livestock and the livestock. Again due to poor conservative rain water harvesting practices our rain-fed crop yields are far below those of irrigated crops. For instance ,our rain-fed wheat yield is nearly 118 per cent below than the irrigated wheat yield ,while in several countries of the world by following modern water harvesting techniques their rain-fed crop yields are nearly equal to their irrigated crop yields . This again ,reflects on inefficient use of our water resource base and inept agricultural policies.
Crop production: The population of the country increased by 122 per cent from 1972 to 2003 ,while the total cropped area increased by about 33 per cent during this period including the area sown more than once in a year. Although the crop yields also increased due to release of high yielding varieties ,but their yields are still 56-84 per cent below the demonstrated achievable potential at the farmers fields by FAO experts in Pakistan. For instance, with respect to yield per hectare in the world we rank 8th in wheat, 9th in rice(paddy), 10th in cotton ,15th in maize and virtually lowest in sugarcane inspite of having the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world. On the other hand India has larger area under rain-fed crops ,but their yields are much higher than ours due to better planning which enables the farmers ,especially small farmers to implement modern production technology effectively at the field level.
Agricultural education ,research and extension: The time tested unified agricultural education ,research and extension system was disintegrated in early sixties resulting in poor linkages among these institutes and their linkages with the farmers.
There are four agricultural universities, three colleges and two faculties. According to the European Union Mission which came to study agricultural education system of Pakistan , the standard of our education is very low as compared to international universities due to prevailing indiscipline ,politics ,narrow ethnic and cast systems instead of taking decisions purely on merit alone.
Similarly ,there are over 200 research institutes ,stations and substations in the country ,but the research and extension budget is little over 0.2 per cent of the share of agriculture to GDP ,which is not sufficient for high standard research and extension according to the international standards .Again , the international and national consultants of Agricultural Research Project reported that there is no shortage of competent agricultural scientists in Pakistan ,but due to too much interference by the politicians and bureaucracy they are demoralized .Because promotions ,awards and rewards are not made on scientific merit and achievements but are made on the personal likes and dislikes of these politicians ,bureaucracy and heads of institutes .These consultants suggested various measures in 1995 to improve our agricultural research system by making it more independent from the clutches of politicians and bureaucracy to improve our research system for increasing agricultural production and attaining self-sufficiency .But no action has been taken so far as the powerful bureaucracy did not want to loose their hold on it .
Both China and India are emerging as economic giants in South East Asia. On the other hand we are emerging as a most corrupt giant due to lust for power and money by our successive rulers, politicians and bureaucracy to whom accumulation of wealth is more important than the supreme national interest .
As a result corruption has spread to all departments and walk of life in our society .The common man is the ultimate sufferer.
Courtesy: The Nation