Wisdom of Life

Project 6

CapacityBuildingof Farming Communities in Integrated Production of Cereals, Vegetables and Fodder Crops 

Timeframe :

12 Months

Donors / Sponsors:

USAID – CNFA / ILED

Geographical Coverage :

District Bagh (AJK) and District Mansehra (KP Province)

Objectives :

  • Enabling the earthquake-affected growers to revive their agriculture based livelihoods.
  • Capacity Development of farming communities in efficient integrated crop management.
  • Motivation & skill enhancement of communities to increase their farm income by application of advanced farm management techniques.

Issues / Problems :

During implementation of the project, the project team identified following major issues and problems that need to be properly addressed:

  • Lakeof technical know-how in the target rural areas.
  • Non-availability of quality inputs in time and at affordable price.
  • Lack of marketing outlets.
  • Lack of co-ordination amongst the stakeholders.
  • Local growers have been busy in activities other than farming. Especially farming communities were paying little attention towards agriculture practices. The project team selected very well known farmers and effectively utilized them to ensure equal benefits to all.
  • Communication gap regarding information delivery existed for some period of time in the beginning. However, it was resolved through regular meetings and dialogues among all the partners and stakeholders.

Methodology :

ECI established its two offices in the project areas. Staff was hired that included one Technical Manager, three Technical Assistants, one Admin / Finance Manager and three laborers. Resource person was arranged by ECI to train the farmers in integrated production techniques. Capacity building of the farmers was carried out through field days conducted at each site based upon all the processes from preparation of land to post harvest arrangements. All these training were carried out at field level. Resource person used to brief about contents on site with the help of charts and pictures and then the same was practically demonstrated in the field.

The project implementation process was based upon available best management practices in the context of integrated production systems and functional models of crop management which ensure higher productivity, low cost inputs, safe methods of pest management, increased soil fertility, efficient use of fresh water resources, conservation of the particular agro-ecological systems, better farm workers health and protection of agro-biodiversity. In addition to this, the Information Technology tools such as World Wide Web, electronic mail and different databases were also used as and when needed.

670 farmers were trained at nine (9) field days at different locations. CNFA /I-LED,RIhelped project team identify the farmers to participate in the field days. Following were the key components of project methodology:

  •       Identification of demo sites and selection of trainee / master trainers.
  •       Contents development for the field day and on-farm training.
  •       Demonstration of best management practices for productivity enhancement.
  •       Social mobilization for replication of the on-farm demonstrated techniques.

Beneficiaries :

Members of the farming communities of the target areas were the primary beneficiaries of the project. As a result of project activities 716 growers were trained through the process of on-farm training. The project was designed keeping in view the whole community of the area. Farmers of the area were benefited in the following ways:

  •       They got integrated production technologies for the betterment of their fields
  •       They will be having pollution free environment
  •       With advanced & safe techniques of packing aminimum wastage thus maximizing their profits.
  •       A sustainable income generation source in the improved skills will be available for the farmers.

Outputs :

  • More than 700 farmers were trained having skills in hand to train the secondary adapters in the integrated production technologies transferred by the project.
  • The improved farming skills gained are being helpful in raising their living standards. As a result, they would be getting more income due to increased production rate.
  • Reduction in use of pesticides was demonstrated at the demo plots wherever it was needed reducing the cost of production and maximizing their overall profits.
  • The improved farming skills gained by the farmers would be helpful for them throughout their life proving to be a lifetime source of income.
  • Application of important techniques of grading & packaging will enhance quality of the produce reducing the production cost resulting in an increased profit.
  • Enhanced level of profits will help reducing the poverty line which itself is a major cause of many other problems.
  • The growers were helped in identification of new market channels to earn good profit and get rid of the role of middleman in their local economy.

Outcomes:

  • This project has become a foundation stone for increased production of cereals, vegetables and fodder crops as was evident due to excellent results of the demo plots in the project area.
  • As a result of project training, the Master Trainers would be transferring the improved farming technologies to other farmers or secondary adapters. In this way, a capacity building network will be established on sustainable basis.
  • Farmers will be self-employed, earning respect for them and generating permanent source of income for the whole family.
  • Reduction in the use of pesticides will automatically improve the status of health of humans, animals and plants in the area.
  • The affected areas of District Mansehra & Bagh will emerge as model zones for agricultural crops’ production.

Conclusion and Recommendations :

There are no two opinions about this fact that agriculture is the only option for survival and economic revival of remote areas. But soils are poor and tired of decade’s long mono cropping systems. Its resources are suffering from degradation and have lost much of its organic matter. The once lush green land is now lacking the potential to feed its occupants. Crop’s and fruit orchards yields are shamefully low especially in upper valleys where this is the single source of food, feed and income. Unlucky is the fact that farmers take their profession as a hard and tough job, a full time activity, exposed to weather vagaries, many calamities and threats, with zero output at end of the day. Sustained and integrated approach is the only way that can ensure high production and enhanced living standard of the inhabitants at large. But this is expensive, occasionally substandard, and even not accessible when and where needed. Improvement requires holistic sittings of priorities with clearer dimensions and focused coverage. This is what highly looking, lacking and needed. No question about that we are eyes and ears of this society and are supposed to support them in their efforts and rapports, attempts and endeavors, knowledge and skills at different angles and directions. We need to put in the picture the negative side of charity, welfare and the fast developing trends of waiting ready to eat meals.

We wish to plan a joint gathering of all valleys progressive farmers at Mansehra to have a thorough presentation and deliberations on all our project’s crops, listen to their views and comments, bring their problems to the surface and incorporate that in our future planning. It may not be possible within the available budgetary provisions, I think. It would be otherwise a highly productive session for all partners and stakeholders. Could we arrange additional funds from the donors to make this event happen? It is a matter of concern. A detailed workable plan can be prepared to the extent of its positive consideration and long lasting effects, coupled with people to be invited, funds requirements for participant’s transportation, boarding & lodging and other management expenses that may be required in this transaction. An amount of one hundred thousands rupees will be all sufficient for this program if it is to be organized in dignifiedly manners. Donors can also think to find out a chief guest for this event. We can contact and convince Federal Agriculture Minister to spare some time to attend this function as a chief guest in the entire interest of the community. This will also attract media people and will supplement our efforts in this direction.

The ongoing project titled “Integrated Crop Production Program” launched in earthquake area in May 2007, with financial support of USAID, CNFA, I-LED will complete its life by the end of September this year.

One of the main characteristics of the project is the farming systems perspective and the integration of various components into a single program. The most important feature is the participation of farmers in on – farm technology development. The approach is based on small farmer’s interest groups in order to increase the impact and quality of the activities and to stimulate the active role of the farmers in all the aspects of the crop production practices. These will of course strengthen the foundation for sustainable development in the area in the long run.

ECI embarked upon the project’s activities on April 26, 2007 i.e. (6 days earlier than officially approved period). Having short time and meager funds in hands, ECI team managed the activities on the ground with practical steps forward. These activities were appreciated by all forums, including the growers who are the major beneficiaries of the program and no doubt the donors as well. ECI has introduced a number of innovations, more than those that prescribed in the plan. Few amongst others are:

  • Helping farmers in any agricultural related issues including arrangement of quality seeds, pesticides, and implements, other than the demo plots, on farmer’s requests.
  • Delivery of presentations to NGOs and agriculture staff to update their level of knowledge regarding sustainable agriculture.
  • Vast and effective campaign through print and electronic media making all actions visible at large.
  • Idea of direct consumer’s sale of fresh vegetables as an effort to eliminate middle men (Arhati) role in the long run, who is always the major beneficiary and the sufferers are producers and consumers.
  • Floating the idea of “one hour with one farmer” other than the project’s beneficiaries and established for the first time, the most direct and focused learning by doing process in the area.
  • Preparation of questionnaire for growers as a tool for brainstorming.
  • Voiced for establishing effective farmers/growers, advising them to nominate 2-3 representatives at village level for arranging on time quality inputs coupled with technological package, taking care of the environmental and marketing aspects.
  • Nominating highly experienced officers as resource persons, having vast knowledge about area specific farming conditions.

The diverse agro ecology makes the farming patterns of earthquake area highly complex right from land preparation till marketing of the crops. A uniform set of integrated farming practices is totally lacking. Progress towards self-sustaining, resource-conserving, energy-efficient, economically-viable and socially-acceptable crop production practices, is not so easy task, keeping especially in view the morale and financial status of the earthquake effectees. It requires a long term realistic and practical planning to support the farming community in skill development that will enable them to review and improve their economies. There are no two opinions about the fact that agriculture extension has now reached a stage that the emphasis can shift from fact finding to transfer of knowledge.

There are following three most common issues that have paralyzed and marginalized our agriculture production and brought the rural poor to collapse:

  • Flow of technical information to the farmers at proper time in their own language and in applicable, practicable, and demonstrable way, keeping the farmer’s economical, social and literary level in view.
  • Availability of quality inputs at proper time, place and price.
  • Marketing mechanism-Today major beneficiary is the middle man (Arhati) while the producers & consumers are the losers.

These major reported issues are felt at all levels; however no one bothers to put forward practicable program as an effort to redress the bottlenecks and short comings. We have left the farmers to the mercy of nature and the whole situation seems like farmers and scientists are helpless and hopeless. However when there is no hope, a hope can be invented for the people to survive. Integrated crop production program is therefore a hope toward a secure future as a result of skill development followed by higher income at rural level.

Proposed Steps :

Keeping the above scenario in view, it seems that the life of current project is too short to handle such plans that happens to be a highly time consuming activity in comparison to other fields. Its continuation without disruption would yield highly positive and refined results within 3-4 years and its abrupt end would totally erode the momentum of work generated to date. If the project continues, its scope would be further expanded during upcoming Rabi season, including wheat, sunflower and fruit orchard plots in the lower valleys. ECI proposes to initiate work right from now on the following aspects:

  • Establishing a constructive dialogue between scientists, farmers, NGOs, and representatives of local government to evolve a well-planned strategy for sustainable agriculture development under one umbrella. The ongoing scattered, duplicated, in many cases half cooked and even unwanted efforts require that the plans and actions of all concerned organizations, government departments, NGOs and private sector may be channelized and specified keeping in view the fact that foreign donations are
  • Not misused. Joint dialogue in this direction will make headway towards sustainable agriculture in the earthquake area in the long run.
  • Documentation of prevailing traditional practices versus non traditional practices and the positive and negative considerations in both cases.
  • Establishment of orchards like olive, apple, apricot and other fruit suitable for specific climatic conditions of the area.
  • Including seasonal crops and vegetables like wheat, sunflower, potato, peas, spinach, garlic, turnip, radish and so on in the lower valleys.
  • To develop conditions where a large number of farmers adopt the new technologies to increase their productivity and income.
  • Motivating farming community to actively participate in the programs by integrated activities and services from various institutions in one coordinated pattern.
  • Awards for the growers in specific area adopting modern techniques and motivating others in their surroundings.
  • Building farmer’s motivation to develop their farm practices in economies of size.
  • Inviting and pushing seed and pesticide companies to become farmer’s partners.
  • Creating the condition where the common farmers have accessibility to get bank loans leaded by creating a solid partnership between farmers and NGOs.
  • Creating other alternatives of income sources by introducing intercropping system/other enterprises like roof top farming honey bees, cattle and poultry farming and as already mentioned orchard development etc.

 

Conserving Natural Resource Base and Promoting Human Development through Sharing Knowledge, Exchanging Practices and Co-creating Future