Pakistan project helps farmers increase income through improved harvests
MEDA’s Partnerships and Value Expansion for Inclusive Seed Systems (PAVE Pakistan) project works to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers from villages in the Sheikhupura and Gujranwala Districts of Punjab in eastern central Pakistan.
Punjab is the main agricultural province of Pakistan.
Pakistan ranks 8th worldwide in farm output, but many farmers have low incomes. Small-scale farmers (those with 12 acres or less) average about $2,000 a year of income to support a family of five, based on two crops a year.
PAVE works with 4,422 farmers to broaden the seed supplier base and the volume of seed for sale. Farmers receive greater income from value-added growing and seed-multi- plication crops and selling their quality harvests to the seed processors at a higher price than regular crops.
They also learn new farming practices and marketing techniques. MEDA set a goal of ensuring that at least 10 per cent of clients are female farmers brought into this supply chain. That goal, unprecedented for that region and that value chain has been surpassed, as 600, or 13.6 % of clients, are female farmers.
Rural laborers also benefit from higher wages that come from supporting seed farming.
Every dollar invested in the project has generated $4.36 in economic activity.
MEDA provides project management, monitoring and impact measurement and gender support for the $678,000 (USD) project, which is funded by the Australian govern-
ment and carried out by partner ENGRO Foundation.
ENGRO Foundation is the corporate social responsibility arm of Pakistan’s largest conglomerate group. It focuses on designing inclusive business projects to incorporate the poor and marginalized into mainstream supply chains.
MEDA staff have made 10 visits to the project over the course of 2.5 years. Additionally, MEDA staff have monthly calls with ENGRO about project progress.
What follows are the stories of several PAVE clients.
Javed and his wife, Bushra, own two acres of land in the village of Saranwala. Like everyone else in the village, they had very little information about the use of certified seeds. They saved their own seeds for growing rice and wheat. Their farming income was low due to the fact that margins on wheat and rice crops are low, and they only have a small acreage.
They were shy, lacking confidence and initially resistant to change. But when Javed and Bushra got to know how certified seeds and best crop management practices can help to increase their farming prof- its, they were eager to learn. They wanted to learn more about crop diversification and increasing harvests from twice a year to three or four times a year.
Javed and Bushra were one of the earliest adopters in the project. After attending training, they contributed to PAVE’s demonstration plot. They have also practically implemented most of the modern practices that they learned.
“Not only we have learnt new practices from PAVE, but we have successfully implemented them as well, Javed said. “Results have been satisfying and we shall continue to implement the modern practices. I hope PAVE or any such group continues to keep us informed of new techniques in future.”
By growing certified Basmati rice seed, they increased their yield from 30 to 48 maunds per acre. A maund equals 82.3 pounds, or 37.3 kilograms.
Engro bought their rice at a premium price of 1,700 rupees (several hundred rupees above average), just under $24US. They also kept some of their rice to process into seed and sell.
For a second crop, they planted an acre of round gourd, selling it for almost three times their costs. That profit was far more than what they earned for rice and wheat crops.
Bushra also set up a winter vegetable demonstration plot to grow a range of vegetables that they previously had to buy from the market.
Money they have earned from their improved farming practices has allowed them to send their son to a private college for his secondary education. They have also rented another acre of land to grow peas.
Javed actively participates in farmer gatherings and mega gatherings of PAVE and eagerly advocates for the project concepts. He invites his fellow farmers to learn from his experience.
Humaira Bibi, a farmer from the village of Wasakha Singh in the Gujranwala district, followed a traditional cropping pattern of wheat and rice crops on a six-acre field. She was not aware of the latest farming techniques and concepts of crop diversification through vegetable farming.
Humaira was interested in learning about the modern farming practices to increase the yields and improve the quality of her crops. The PAVE project’s focus on the use of certified seeds and best crop management practices attracted her. She believed that without adapting modern techniques and practices, she could not get optimum crop production.
When Shumaila Tufail, the Women Seed Officer from Gujranwala, conducted initial trainings in her village, Humaira actively participated in the trainings and regularly kept in touch with Shumaila to seek guidance.
Humaira cultivated certified rice seed and got impressive yields of more than 45 maunds per acre, a yield increase of more than 28 per cent. She also diversified her cropping pattern by planting peas and potatoes. She has proved herself to be not only a progressive grower of rice, wheat and vegetables, but has also kept a portion of her rice production to process it into seed. Profits she earned from selling quality produce have allowed her to renovate her house.
“I am positive of continuously improving my earnings because of the shift to new cropping techniques,” Humaira said.