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LAHORE: Massive mango production at some of the orchards in Multan and Khanewal under a pilot project bears testimony to the fact that growers can be able to earn much more if they pay proper attention to their profession by adopting best management practices.

Pruning, which is the first simple thing to do in farm management, has changed the suffocated environment of the selected orchards, easing the mango trees breath and enhancing fruit production finally, Dawn has learnt.

The project titled “Agriculture Sector Linkages Programme” was initially launched in 2011 by the government under technical assistance of the Australian government. Under the project, the Australian agriculture experts on mango and citrus orchards management started building capacity of the Pakistani experts in order to trickle down the best management skills and methods to the growers. But later in 2013, a leading food company also entered into the project and started providing financial assistance for launching various activities related to farm management with an objective to make the growers part of its supply chain management under various CSV (Creating Shared Value) programmes. The company named this plan as “Chaunsa Project”, terming it yet another example of how it creates shared value in the communities it works in.

“I along with some other agriculturists was also part of the team of the project launched by the government under technical support and assistance of the Australian government in 2011. I also received a 45-day training in Australia. Since the equipment and other technical methods were not affordable for farmers to adopt such practices, the company also joined the project to fund such activities in 2013. I also joined the company a couple of years back,” says Qaiser Mahmood, Nestle Pakistan’s agri business development manager.

The project is a pilot initiative which supports mango farmers in southern Punjab. In the initial phase of the endeavour, eight farms were chosen in south Punjab that benefited from training on best farming practices to increase yield and improve quality of chaunsa variety alone. The company has trained and built the capacity in a range of areas including pre- and post-harvest horticulture, plant propagation and varietal assessment. Small farmers are now able to take advantage of new opportunities in the mango farming sector, including canning, pulping and exporting. Since the initial project was of four years and ended in 2015, Nestle owned this completely later, Mr Mehmood added.

Talking about the success story, he said initially it appeared to be difficult as to how to make growers agreed on adopting the best management practices, starting from pruning that involves cutting of trees branches for trees health. “Pruning, which we had learnt from the Australians, who perform this work through machinery, is the best first thing to do if someone wants to increase mango yield massively. Initially the farmers feared to adopt it. And they were even in a state of fear when we started pruning work after they allowed to do this,” he said.

He said later the company experts built farmers’ capacity on nutrition, irrigation, disease, harvesting and picking management.

He quoted two mango orchards of the eight selected in the project area whose production increased after their owner adopted such practices. These two farms, presently are producing mango weighing over 425 tons annually.

He said the long-term vision for the Chaunsa Project is to take company’s principle of Creating Shared Value (CSV) and support small farmers, just as the company did with its dairy farmers years ago – 150,000 of whom now provide their milk directly to it as part of their value chain. Similarly, through responsible sourcing of mango pulp and development of linkages with Nestlé’s value chain, small farmers will have better access to markets where they can sell their mangoes at competitive prices, and the company can continue to improve livelihood of rural communities across Pakistan.

“And after the success, the project is being expanded to cover 25 farms this year,” Mahmood said.

Talking to Dawn, Malik Mazhar Sindheela, a farmer of Multan, said his orchard comprised 23 acres and he achieved surprising results after he adopted some innovative approaches under the project. “I was apprehensive of future outlook when I joined the project. But good results satisfied me.”

He said he had given his farm on Rs1.8 million contract in 2011, followed by Rs3.6m in 2012, Rs6m in 2013, Rs8m in 2014 and Rs8.5m in 2015. “And in 2016, I decided to do it on my own, expecting more than Rs10m.”

Mirza Mohsin Baig, owner of another 30-acre mango orchard, said he also adopted such practices and got surprising results.

“In 2011, I contracted my farm for Rs2.7m, followed by Rs3.4m in 2012, Rs4.2m in 2013, Rs5m in 2014, Rs5.4m in 2015 and Rs6m in 2016,” he added.

He advised other mango growers to adopt good management practices for better yield.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2016