Realizing the dream of agricultural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Achievement of PTI govt in fulfilling their manifesto of agricultural development

Written by The Frontier Post

Dr Sumera Shams

The Indian subcontinent has remained agrarian in nature since centuries. During the Mughal era Indian agriculture was advanced compared to Europe at the time, such as the common use of the seed drill among Indian peasants before its adoption in European agriculture. The British East India Company landed in the subcontinent for the purpose of trade in spices, which was an important commodity in Europe back then as it was used to preserve meat. The Company’s fortunes then rose steadily as they grabbed more opportunities of trade in silk, dye, opium, tea and cotton, etc, and subsequently meddled in Indian politics. The Company developed a new land system for the subcontinent. In the early period of the East India Company rule, land revenue was a principal source of finance for the Company with larger returns every year. Another noteworthy change in Indian Agriculture was its commercialization that spread between 1850 and 1947, which resulted in the price hike of agriculture commodities to three times of the original.
In the forthcoming decade after the conception of Pakistan, agriculture was not among the top priority of the government, rather industrial policies were given focus which capped the growth rate of agriculture at 1.43%. The agriculture sector regained momentum after the establishment of Agriculture Development Bank of Pakistan, which provided subsidized resources to farmers. The West Pakistan Land Reforms Regulation 1959 included a ceiling on individual holdings, additionally these regulations contained provisions which provided for security of tenants as well as for preventing the subdivision of land holdings. The government provided multiple incentives to farmers, seeds, water, fertilizers, plants tube wells, and agricultural machinery were subsidized, and taxes were exempted.
As a result of the passing of 18th Amendment by the Parliament of Pakistan, 17 federal Ministries were devolved to the provinces including the ministry for food, agriculture and livestock. Prior to the 18th amendment, The Agriculture Policy 2005 and The Horticulture Policy, 2009 were developed to provide an estimate of natural resources and their comparative advantage in the province.
The Agriculture Policy 2005 of the former NWFP was developed to focus on strengthening the coordination and service delivery systems, encouraging private sector investment, introducing participatory technologies, upgradation of the existing legislation, research and development and tax relief in the agriculture sector.
The Horticulture Policy, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2009 was developed to improve efficiency and profitability of horticulture, research and development, and increase the public-private partnership.
Both these policies provided a clear assessment and proposed actions for the agriculture department, however, they seemed more like “wish lists” instead of coherent actions. It was evident that the province needed a standard policy with set targets and milestones, with an established monitoring and reporting system, which would keep legislators and senior policy makers informed of the problems and progress.
In the past, Agriculture remained a much-neglected sector of the province and very meager financial resources were diverted for its revamping but the present provincial Government after coming into power in 2013, fully realized the importance of the sector and its role in economic growth of the province. The first step taken by the present Government in the right direction was generous allocation of funds in yearly ADPs, which was more than 200% increase in the last 4-5 years. In the tenure 2013-2018, the PTI government allocated Rs. 12.688 billion to the Agriculture Department in comparison of Rs. 5.67 billion allocated by the ANP government (2008-13) and Rs. 0.96 billion allocated by the MMA government (2003-08).
A wholesome Agriculture Policy, which was much needed after the devolution was finalized and approved by the PTI government, with a ten years perspective plan i.e.; 2015-25. The agriculture policy is focused on increasing provincial government reliance on its own resources, improving the Government’s capacity in terms of effectiveness and efficiency and future dialogues with donors, and multiplying efforts for resource mobilization with financing agencies. Further, it adopts a shift in approach from investing in infrastructure to socio-economic development of the province. To ensure proper implementation, the policy document elaborates on the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders; focuses on institutional reforms and strengthening; enhancing the department’s capacity to respond to climate change and risk reduction; and actions to be taken in short terms to achieve quick and solid results.
In the light of the Agriculture Policy, a number of legislations have been brought to the floor of the House of the Provincial Assembly, and the legislators along with the department developed various sectoral policies. Moreover, the Agriculture department has increased their efficiency by utilizing agricultural lands to their maximum capacity, established and updated infrastructure, upgraded heavy machinery and developed various sectoral research centers within the department.
In 2018, when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf established federal government, former Prime Minister Imran Khan declared an Agricultural Emergency all over the country while announcing his government’s 100 days agenda. Subsequently, the previous federal government launched the Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Program worth Rs. 309.7 billion, to uplift the agricultural economy. Under this program, 16 projects were launched to boost yields of major crops, which drastically increased the agricultural spending by up to 360 percent. Due to the on-going situation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Agricultural Department committed to continue the National Emergency Program which includes projects for enhancement of the production of wheat, rice, sugarcane and oilseed, preservation of the water resources and their better utilization. Due to political uncertainty at the National level, all the federal projects initiated by former Prime Minister Imran Khan are now at stake and under threof political victimization.
However focusing over the provincial initiatives, for the first time the current government has developed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s food security, consisting of short, medium and long term plans, which focuses on agriculture and job creation. This policy comprises multiple initiatives to increase agricultural products, construction of small dams, raising and development of maximum command areas of existing dams, construction of big dams, and cultivation of olive plants at vast scale. An additional income of Rs. 21 billion per annum is expected with the implementation of short term plans, Rs. 18 billion per annum under medium term plan would generate whereas the long term plan is expected to generate an income of Rs. 22 billion.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Livestock Policy was developed in 2018 to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the livestock department, enabling them to be competitive, responsive, compliant and sustainable and supply safe and affordable food of animal origin to domestic and international markets.
In 2019, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in collaboration with the World Bank, approved the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Irrigated Agriculture Improvement Project, to support agricultural productivity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, by improving irrigation, strengthening small farmers’ skills, and supporting farmers to add value to their products. Total cost of the project is estimated at Rs. 30 billion and duration is 6 years.
To uplift socioeconomic status of the farming community and to provide hygienic and quality animal products to the general masses and poor communities of the newly merged areas, 07 schemes of Accelerated Implementation Program (AIP) of Tribal Decade Strategy with a total cost of Rs.12.498 billion was announced. Similarly under PSDP, 09 schemes were announced, with a total cost of Rs.3.93 billion, and 89 schemes with cost of Rs. 7.1 billion were announced under the ADP.

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