FARM production can be increased by 80-100 per cent if improved seeds, fertilisers, farm machinery, insecticides and herbicides are available to farmers at reasonable price together with interest-free loans in time.The price of diesel and electricity rates may also be cut for agricultural use.
Farmers also lack storage facilities so they have to sell their produce at low rates which is an economic loss to them. To improve farmers’ economic conditions, it is important to buy their produce at reasonable rates and provide other inputs at his door step.While the government has taken some steps to improve the lot of poor farmers such as announcing incentives for purchasing tractors and other farm machinery, and increasing support and procurement prices of rice and wheat, it has failed to find a viable solution to supply cheap inputs in time to the farmers—a basic requirement for attaining food autarky.During the past 61 years, many pro grammes were initiated which increased production to some extent; nevertheless, the basic goals could not be achieved.
All the set targets can be achieved if farmers get inputs well in time in required quantity at affordable prices to enhance their output. Here comes the idea of “village agricultural centre” (VAC). The VAC is the establishment of agricultural windows like utility stores in large villages (with a population of 1,000). All types of agricultural inputs must be available at these centres.
The seting up of such centres at union council level cannot give the desired results. Just like one window operation, which is in practice, the establishment of VAC is vital for achieving self-sufficiency in food.Here the question arises from where the funds will come from in this resource constrained country? In fact, the funds should not hinder the programme aimed at attaining self-sufficiency—- which can save billions of dollars spent on import of food items.
Fortunately, the government has announced that revenue collected from agriculture will be spent on its development. Village agriculture centre is the best option to spend the earnings from this revenue. It is suggested that this programme should be initiated during the fiscal 20092010 and included in the next five-year plan.Under the plan, the VAC coverage should be extended to 20 per cent villages every year. After five years all villages in the country will have a VAC. Important components of VAC are as under:The VAC should be established in every village with a population over 1,000. The centre can operate under the supervision of the provincial agriculture department.An agriculture graduate, appointed as in-charge of VAC, will be responsible to control its activities and solve farmers’ problems.Every centre should have (a) all the farm inputs like certified seed, fertiliser, pesticides and farm machinery etc.(b) workshop to repair farm machinery (c) training facility for driving tractor(d) veterinary hospital, which will also arrange workshops and give suggestions for increased production of meat and milk. (e) nursery of flower, fruit and tree saplings. (f) facility of honeybee and silkworms rearing and, the latest information about poultry, dairy, fish and livestock farming. (e) branch of Zari Traqiati Bank to disburse interest-free loans in the form of fertiliser, seed, pesticides, machinery. The recovery should be made by acquiring farm produce.Besides, the VAC should have audio and video documentaries of improved farm operations and advanced production technologies.
Pasco should be responsible to buy farm produce at the VAC. Likewise, it should have sugar mill weighing centre, with at the spot cash payment arrangements; ginning factories should be granted permission to buy cotton at the VAC. Storage facilities should be provided; branch of insurance company should also be set up for crop insurance.Cold storage and packing facilities should be available in areas where vegetables and fruits are produced.Training courses for safe use of insecticides and herbicides should be arranged, to make farmers aware about possible hazards of mishandling these inputs.Cooperative farming might be as possible solution for fragmented small land holdings. Every centre should have a co-operative society and member- farmers should be granted special benefits. It should have an exhibition plot with an area of 1-2 acres.To summarise, the VAC can cater to the needs of individual farmer, provide jobs to agricultural graduates and act as a base for sustainable agricultural development.
Courtesy: The DAWN