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On-farm training for growers

June 17, 2013

THE Sindh agricultural department is seeking allocation of funds in 2013-14 budget under its Annual Development Programme for enhancing per acre yield of cash crops through ‘farmers’ field schools’.

The department plans to implement this scheme at taluka and union council level to educate farmers about different tools of farming to help productivity of crops like cotton, rice and wheat.

“We want to educate farmers on how to cultivate even their small acreage of land. It is only the improved practice of farming and efficient use of inputs at farmland which shows the difference”, says DG Agriculture Extension Hidayatullah Chajjro. Generally, he says, farmers do not use recommended doses of inputs required for cultivation of crops. Studies show that up to 50 maunds per acre wheat is achievable, but average production remains between 20 to 25 maunds per acre in Sindh.

The scheme will begin from eight districts: Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Nawabshah, Tando Mohammad Khan, Badin, Dadu, Sukkur and Khairpur. The focus will be on cotton crop since it is facing a number of issues from cultivation to its picking. Under the project, farmers will use two acres for trial of crop in their conventional way of farming for which they will purchase their own farm inputs. The agricultural department will bring another two acres under cultivation and share the input cost with growers. At the close of season, the difference between per acre yield of the two methods will show farmers practical implications of the experiment.

“Physical training and demonstration will make farmers understand many things in a simple manner,” explains Chajjro. “If the training results in even a five-maund increase per acre, it will create a substantial difference in the overall production.”

According to Chajjro Sindh’s average per acre yield of cotton is 34 to 35 maunds, paddy’s 50 to 54 maunds and wheat’s 36 to 37 maunds. “We are confident that we can increase these yields by five to eight maunds per acre on an average. We conducted trials under this scheme at a couple of places first in said districts and now we are proposing to government to introduce it at union council and taluka level in those districts”, he adds.

From farmers’ perspective, a combination of irrigation water and quality seed is considered vital for crops’ cultivation. Their accessibility to mechanised farming is limited. Sindh government had in the last budget increased provision of subsidised tractors to 8,000 from 6,000.Farmers want the tractors scheme to continue in next fiscal year.

Chajjro realises that the success of the scheme largely depends on availability of irrigation water, and says that the issue has been discussed at different provincial level meetings. “It is manageable because irrigation officials have to ensure availability of water for lower region of Sindh where the first crops are sowed and then proceed further towards upper Sindh region”, he says. Likewise, agricultural research officials are working on quality seed’s production. Farmers generally use a mixed variety of seed which they usually preserve with them. Certified seed is provided by Sindh Seed Corporation (SSC) but SSC can only cater to 20 per cent requirement of total seed and the rest comes from growers themselves. Under ‘farmers’ field school’ scheme, the growers will be encouraged to grow a particular variety of seed on their land, say, two acres, and then preserve it. This will be of great advantage for them, says Chajjro.

Besides, the department is trying to include ‘refresher courses of field staff’ scheme in the 2013-14 budget. They need exposure to use modern technology during cultivation and harvest of crops so that they are able to transfer the same to average farmers at grass-root level. One of the aims of the courses is that the field staff should also learn how to control pre- and post-harvest losses and how to prepare land for better yield.

These courses are designed initially for two institutes of the agricultural department in Sakrand and Jacobabad.