“If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right”―M.S. Swaminathan
Embarking on a new business, the first things to be considered by an entrepreneur are “minimum costs and maximum gains.” People abstain from soiling their hands in a business venture that will result in perpetual losses unless they have faith in its outcome and they have sufficient resources to sustain until the scheme actually takes off. Usually the main idea is to start off something that would be profitable and enable a steady flow of income. Reducing costs have different connotations for the honest and the cheat. Whereas the former might work harder, employ fewer hands, avoid unnecessary wastage etc. the latter might connive with regulators to steal, say gas or electricity but the principal objective of both types is to enhance profits.
One sector which is of immense importance to Pakistan is agriculture that accounts for 19% gross domestic product (GDP), as per Economic Survey of Pakistan 2019-20), and employs about 43% of the workforce. It serves to feed a nation of 230 million and produces essential raw material for different industries besides contributing (albeit not to its actual potential) to the much desired exports of the country. One would imagine that agriculture would be on top of the government’s list of priorities but apparently, this is not the case. In Pakistan, according to https://pakagrifarming.blogspot.com/2013/08/list-of-agriculture-education-institutes-in-pakistan.html there are 8 agricultural institutions in addition to 7 universities and yet, we end up importing food staples and cotton for our textile industries.
On a global level, in addition to intense mechanized farming, agricultural research has reached a phenomenal scale with introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificially produced fertilizers and many forms of pesticides. Concern pertaining to whether GMOs are safe for human consumption or not has inspired many to study their effects vis-à-vis organically produced crops and most of the time it has been discovered that despite being safe, GMOs become hazardous because of the toxic effects of fertilizers and pesticides that are used to raise them whereas for organic ones although these may not be used as inputs, yet there are serious reservations about the quality and output of such crops not to talk of expensive licensing required to promote organic products.
In the words of Mr. Asif Sharif, founder of Payedar Qudrati Nizam e Kasht (PQNK or natural crop raising system) and a selfless crusader to enrich (in all possible sense) Pakistan with his tremendous knowledge of agriculture: “We must understand that PQNK produce is far superior than organic. In PQNK no purchased input is applied. It regenerates soil, mitigates climate challenges because of healthy condition of crops, saves over 80% water, uses minimum farm machinery that reduces over 80% emissions and stores CO2 in soil as SSC (sustainable soil carbon). Organic is just another name (extension) for purchased inputs-intense industrial agriculture. Also, while average price of wheat in the international market is 200 US $/ton, organic certified is for over 600. Justification is that cost of organic inputs is higher while yield is lower.” According to him, PQNK grown wheat costs (including land rent) less than Rs. 400 per 40 Kg with much higher yield whereas Punjab Government claims cost of Rs. 1,560 per 40 Kg at lower yield.
PQNK has found jubilant followers, both in Pakistan and other countries who have benefitted from this procedure. With minimal cost, the results are miraculous and there is no harm to either the soil or environment except the harm inflicted on multi-national companies (MNCs) manufacturing fertilizers and pesticides as they are bound to suffer a heavy blow if this system of farming is patronized by the government. This is the real obstacle in the path of Pakistan’s future prosperity which is why, although privately farmers are taking advantage, the government remains subservient to dictation from MNCs causing colossal loss in terms of better and exportable surplus of farm products and of course, the much-needed revenue in the form of taxes.
Continuous application of chemicals through fertilizers and pesticides leads to erosion of the soil. What is the use of a bumper crop for a few years only to render that piece of land, barren for future cultivation? Despite the availability of a methodology that can overturn the fate of agricultural production within just three seasons, nothing serious is being done at the government level. A couple of seminars and presentations, only to silence agricultural revolutionaries is just like brushing dirt, off one’s shirt. Rather than listening to PQNK lectures inattentively for hours if government officials allow practical demonstration on state lands, the difference between artificially conceived and PQNK farming would be visible to all but then why would anyone be inclined to deliberately estrange MNCs knowing well that this method of production means inputs reduced by 90% and outputs enhanced by 300%?
Farmers in countries like India, Brazil and Australia are moving towards natural methods of cultivation and their results are amazing, and even more amazing is the fact that they have derived their knowledge from our Pakistani expert whose efforts are being recognized all over the world except in his own country. One wonders why internationally acclaimed knowledgeable people are shamelessly ignored by the government and the likes of boot-lickers who have been multiple times “tried, tested and failed” are continuously pursued. One fails to understand why this form of agriculture which is a business that involves minimum input cost is not being patronized on a large scale despite the fact that whosoever is engaging in this venture has nothing but praises and expresses deep satisfaction over the outcome? Apart from low cost, the method is extremely simple and is most suited to managing wastage of precious water, the scarcity of which is inevitable in the presently applied cultivation procedure.
If Pakistan government chooses to ignore this revolutionary form of farming, a time will come when like the way our basmati rice and invaluable neem has been patented by others the shrewd money-makers will take all the advantage while the annual national budget will continuously suffer from trade deficit. Nothing is more gratifying than self-sufficiency and relying on one’s own resources and nothing can be more debasing than to be looking up to others for the minutest of needs.
Our Prime Minister, Imran Khan has been quoted as saying: “I have fruit trees. Cows for fresh milk, yoghurt. My own wheat. I’m basically self-sufficient.” When will a time come when this “I” becomes “We”? Should not this averment be viable for the whole nation or must it be forced to wear debt shackles for as long as individuals are economically independent but the nation as a whole remains grossly chained amid exploitative elements and with an empty kitty?
PQNK experts are calling for attention with strong convictions of creating a win-win situation for all stake-holders, better profits for the presently ‘poor’ farmers, extremely affordable prices for extremely high quality food for the public but the corridors of power are deaf, heartless and appear to have little concern about the prosperity of this country and its people.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)