Opportunities in Agricultural and Rural Development
Agriculture Policy and Agrarian Reforms
Meeting diverse challenges to agriculture require a long-term commitment from decision makers which is responsive to the specific needs of a wide range of stakeholders. Development of a strong linkage between agricultural researchers and the decision makers would have a great potential to improve agricultural productivity, trade and food security. UAF shall work towards evolving a priority framework for holistic agricultural and rural development for successful agrarian reforms.
Food Security and Nutrition
The food security in the country is largely gauged by the availability of sufficient wheat flour. Rampant nutritional imbalances in our diets are leading to stunted growth and wasted children.
Land, Water and Environment
Climate change and its consequences are one of the greatest challenges faced by the global community in the 21st century. We need to combat the climate change impacts on land, water and environment by developing mitigation, adaptation and resilience strategies for effective management of soil and crop zones, rangelands, watersheds and forests. The country needs serious reforms and strategic research on land and water uses.
Water and Energy
Water and energy crises have become a major threat for agricultural and human development. Sustainable management of surface and ground water resources is vital for ecosystem dynamics. However, energy crisis is adding severity to this issue. High efficiency irrigation systems and metered tube well abstraction with alternative energy sources (e.g., solar/wind/biomass) will offer reliable solutions. Extensive research and outreach efforts will be made in this area.
Mechanization and Precision Agriculture
There is a tremendous potential of precision farming for economic and environmental benefits like economizing the use of water, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides besides the farm energy requirement. We will promote an integrated approach to develop the best management practices based on precise application of inputs for increasing farm yields.
Seed and Fertilizer
After water, seed and fertilizer are the two input items which are restricting the farmers' ability to achieve yield potential. The seed industry in Pakistan has failed to evolve. The fertilizer industry is only nitrogen focused, leading to a gross imbalance in fertilizer use.
Sustainable Crop Production
One of the most urgent challenges is to increase crop productivity through technological innovation, but in a sustainable and inclusive manner. The needs of small-scale farms in diverse ecosystems where the potential to improve productivity is low, must be addressed to create realistic opportunities for their development.
Biotech Crops and Products
Appropriate use must be made of technological innovation based on biotechnology, such as the new genetically-improved varieties, organic fertilizers and biological control methods of diseases, weeds and pests, and development of vaccines for livestock.
It is important to capitalize on new crops that are native or exotic to specific agro-ecological regions. New crops with high yield potential, improved tolerance to environmental stresses and climate change, and better nutritional benefits must be developed through plant introduction and domestication.
Major opportunities include: genetic conservation, rangeland management and health coverage of large and small ruminants, and development of vaccines for the control of threatening diseases. Our animals are underfed and fodder research is wanting.
While sustaining the tremendous progress of commercial poultry, there is a challenge to produce vaccines and to conserve and promote the diversity of domestic and indigenous poultry birds. Revival of rural poultry can dent the poverty.
Fresh water fish has emerged as an alternative crop which is healthy and free of diseases, insects and toxicants. This sector permits use of brackish water that can potentially replace those crops which are declining in profitability.
Supply Chain, Value Addition and Entrepreneurship
Agricultural markets are rapidly globalizing generating new consumption patterns and new production and distribution systems and offer opportunities to farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs along agricultural value chains to transform commodities into higher value products. Multidisciplinary research in entrepreneur ship can play an important role in job creation and poverty alleviation.
Marketing and International Trade
Harnessing and globalizing the power of markets, in directing what, how, when, and where to produce, is essential to meet the demands for agricultural output in the rapidly changing national and international food demands regional trade is likely to drive our production patterns. There is also an opportunity to promote regional languages, culture and customs.
Competitive Agro Industries
There is an urgent need to improve the competitiveness of agro industries, given the increasingly important role they play in the development of value chains. Innovative management practices are essential that will lead to new ways of operating successful agribusinesses.
The flora and fauna are depleting fast as a result of agricultural expansions and because of promotion of monocultures in the commercial agriculture. Diversification of agriculture must be promoted.
Excessive use of chemicals in agriculture is deteriorating our environment and ecosystem. Crop production without the use of hazardous substances will be a great step in producing organic foods (where possible) for healthier society together with conserving the environment.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
Information technology has revolutionized the communication. The benefits of IT to our farming sector have yet to arrive. The university has a responsibility to integrate knowledge and technology to a level that is acceptable to the farmers.
Outreach and Social Mobilization
It is essential that thousands of poor small farmers be incorporated into innovation processes, in which they can draw on their own knowledge and culture and take advantage of the diversity of their native culture and products while benefitting from the modern researches.
Access of Stakeholders to the University's Innovations
It is highly critical that our farmers have firsthand access to all the innovations/ achievements / technologies developed by UAF faculty. For this, various outreach options including Extension systems will be exploited.
Intellectual Property Rights
Innovation can be accelerated by creating appropriate IP regime in the country. IP also promotes private investment into research and development.
Promoting Investment in Agriculture
Growth in agriculture follows improvements in infrastructure, research and development, production practices and markets. That requires public and private investments. The private investment becomes possible through easy access for credit.
Exposing our faculty and students to the diversity of the human experience and to the geographical and cultural complexity of the world is crucial to drive a positive change in learning and public service thereafter. Through collaborative agreements with renowned international institutions, UAF will offer faculty and students the opportunities to interact with researchers from around the world.
Gender mainstreaming is the current international approach for advancing the equality of life, equity in society and population control/demography.
Population Planning and Migration
The population growth in the country is excessive. That has literally diminished the benefits of productivity and economic growth. Agriculture sector is also a victim of migration due to lack of optimum employment opportunities in the rural sector.
Agrarian reformers must be devised holistically where agricultural productivity and rural development are treated as simultaneous elements. Investing in yield enhancement programs alone shall be unsustainable. That should be supported by skill development, alternate employment opportunities, empowerment for conflict resolutions and governance by institutional reforms. Education, health and communication facilities are essentials of life which are a right of rural masses.
Iqrar A. Khan