Officials had claimed that next year's agriculture budget of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be innovative, allocate sufficient funds and offer out-of-box solutions. But an analysis of the annual development programme shows it to be 'business as usual'.
The overall meagre size of the ADP for the sector coupled with small apportionment of funds for various schemes shows it is a new budget with the old approach. It is characterised by meagre funding and staggered allocation of funds that delays completion of the projects for years. It is an overstretched plan of action that has negligible results at the end of the day.
The sector needs strong commitment of the authorities because the livelihood of around 70 per cent population of the province depends on it directly or indirectly.
The annual strategy aims at doing much with the little amount made available. With en bloc allocation to projects becoming impossible, delays in completion of projects become inevitable.
For example, for the project for distribution of cultivable land amongst landless farmers and agriculture graduates, which has a total outlay of Rs200 million, only Rs10 million has been earmarked for the next year. It will take years for the project to complete.
Again, only Rs1 million have been set aside for the Rs10 million rehabilitation of germ-plasma unit in Hazara division. And for development of olive orchards in wasteland, another good intervention, only Rs10m out of the total outlay of Rs60m have been approved for the year. For new schemes worth Rs716m in the agriculture research, only Rs109m have been provided.
Achai conservation and development programme estimated to cost Rs222m gets a meagre Rs42m. While Rs141 had been spent on it in the last fiscal, why the remaining amount is not allocated to complete the vital project?
The ADP addresses only marginally most of the serious problems like outdated farming techniques, inefficient extension and research outfits, low per hectare yield, lack of value addition, wastage of produce, shortage of irrigation water and the like.
The annual roadmap for agriculture for 2011-12 has been prepared in the light of provincial agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009 and the floods reconstruction priorities, a senior official said.
The agriculture budget has 71 projects including Rs849m for 47 ongoing and Rs505m for 24 new schemes.
The allocation to agriculture and its allied sectors has been increased from Rs1.175bn in the outgoing year to Rs1.355bn for new fiscal but its share has fallen from 1.70 per cent to 1.59 per cent of the overall ADP.
The livestock sector, for the first time, has been allocated Rs0.60bn or 44 per cent of the agriculture budget.
According to the province's white paper 2011-12, this year's budgetary allocations reflect higher priority to income generating sectors of the economy, including agriculture.
Agriculture can easily attain the status of big industry in the province if proper care and patronage is given to it, says the white paper.
To ensure efficient implementation and timely completion of the schemes the present strategy of spreading out resources too thin delays projects with cost over-runs.
In the agriculture sector, only six of the 84 projects were completed in 2010-11. And the problem of low utilisation of funds is another pressing problem that hinders timely completion of projects.
According to the white paper, in the preceding year, out of the total budget ADP estimates of Rs69 billion, Rs45bn were released but actual expenditure stood at only Rs26bn. For the agriculture sector, over Rs1.22bn were released against the budget estimates of Rs1.175bn but only Rs0.67bn could be spent till May 2011.
Viewed in this backdrop, the amount to be spent on agriculture may be much less than allocated in the ADP.
The size of foreign assistance in the new ADP is over Rs16bn for 39 projects but there is no project for the agriculture sector in it like the previous year. Only six per cent farmers in the province have access to agriculture credit.
Last year, the government had announced revival of cooperative bank which was to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women but actually only Rs200m was released.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the annual roadmap of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has something for each agriculture sub-sector: agriculture extension schemes (Rs0.11bn), agriculture mechanisation (Rs0.16bn), on farm water management (Rs0.15bn) agriculture research (Rs0.24bn), livestock extension (Rs0.24bn), agriculture planning (Rs0.02bn), livestock research (Rs0.27bn) and soil conservation schemes Rs0.05bn.
Besides these, projects for backyard farming and livestock rearing, value addition of fruits and vegetables, rehabilitation of flood disaster lands with plantation of new fruit orchards, olive cultivation initiative, poverty alleviation through improved rural poultry production and conservation of the Achai cattle breeds have been proposed.
Furthermore, a project on micro-propagation/tissue culture has also been proposed to produce millions of plants sooner than routinely possible.