Farm mechanisation a low priority in KP
ACCORDING to the agriculture engineering department, issues in mechanisation of farm sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa range from small land holdings, meagre budget allocations, low funds utilisation to shortage of machinery pool and required services.
“The major hurdle in farm mechanisation is the lack of coordination among farmers and the private sector together with poverty and ignorance of farmers, says Sardar Alam, a farmer from Swat.
An official said though Rs60 million and Rs104 million were budgeted for the ongoing and new schemes respectively in the current fsical year, much of the funds remained unutilised for one reason or the other.
“The department is still using the 22-year-old machinery that needs to be replaced immediately. For this, sufficient funds are needed. But the KP government has limited resources to cope with the situation,” the official said.
“With scarce financial allocations, no worthwhile technology can be promoted. Beside, high priced agriculture machinery is unaffordable for the farmers.”
On the strength of staff, he said, there were 1500 officials a decade ago. Since then, particularly after the 18th amendment, the number was reduced. Different offices and posts were abolished and the staff was sent to surplus pool.
“There are seven machinery centres in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, one each at divisional level. However, most of the 25 districts in the province do not have any such facility. The outdated machinery has not been replaced since 1992. The federal government had promised in 2009 to provide 100 bulldozers to the province, but the promise was not fulfilled,” the official said.
At present, only 20 per cent farmers can afford to use modern machinery in cultivation and harvesting of crops. However, Mr Shafiq, director AED, said the situation was improving gradually as a number of schemes were being incorporated in the budget every year.
He said the current year’s ADP had several ongoing and new schemes for improving mechanised farming in the province. “Amongst the ongoing schemes (2009-12), installation of 500 dug wells worth Rs150 million in areas facing water scarcity continues and would hopefully be completed by the end of the next financial year. Another project (2009-12) worth Rs100 million for land development of small farmers is in progress,” he added.
However, according to the ADP document, only Rs5.5 million could be utilised by end of June last year, and only Rs10 million has been allocated for land development scheme this year.
“A sum of Rs298 million has been provided for procurement of 25 bulldozers for land reclamation for which tender has been floated recently. It is hoped that purchase of bulldozers would materialise in the next fiscal year.
These machines would help reclaim10,000 hectares annually. The government would also install three power winches with ancillary equipment for installation of tube-wells. Besides, funds had also been allocated for the construction of agriculture engineering workshop in Mardan, he said.
However, the ADP document explains that Rs90 million out of the total fund of Rs567 million has been allocated for bulldozers which too could not be utilised. The tenders issued earlier this month means that the scheme would be carried forwarded to next financial year.
The AED provides earth moving machinery to farmers for reclamation of cultivable wasteland and addition of cultivable land to enhance agricultural produce. It also helps exploit the surface and sub-surface water resources for irrigation by use of machinery. It offers free of cost counselling services on farm mechanisation and related problems. The government also uses its machinery in case of calamities like earthquake and floods.
“The provincial government should procure agricultural machinery and provide it to the farming community on subsidised rates across the province. For this purpose, it will have to set up machinery pools in the district and at tehsil levels with transparent monitoring mechanism, says a farmer Zahir Khan from Peshawar.
“These machinery pools could be set up on the basis of public-private partnership and extended at grass root level to villages. These machinery pools have long been promised by the government but not delivered,” he adds.