PESHAWAR: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) country representative Luigi Damiani on Wednesday said farmers would not be able to cultivate wheat for a year if they were not provided seed on an urgent basis.
“Food aid alone will not be enough. If the next wheat crop is not salvaged, the food security of millions will be at risk,” he said while talking to journalists on the occasion of distribution of Rabi package seeds, fertilisers, DAP and agricultural machinery among the small farmers of Swabi district.
The country representative said the FAO had completed damage assessment in 39 out of the 81 flood-hit districts in Pakistan and the data collected revealed that over 1.3 million hectares of standing crops had been destroyed while over 500,000-600,000 tonnes of wheat seed stored for the current Rabi season was also washed away.
“The floods have also caused extensive damage to the supporting infrastructure like a large number of irrigation channels all over Pakistan,” the FAO official said. The Rabi package distribution is part of the 40 million euros Food Facility Project aimed to combat the rising food prices in Pakistan. The beneficiaries including small-scale farmers owning two to four hectares of land and women who head households are receiving the Rabi package, which includes a 50kg bag of wheat seeds, a 50kg bag of urea, 50kg DAP and vegetable seeds for tomato, turnip, spinach and peas, to produce adequate grain for their household consumption. The distribution was carried out at the points set up by FAO and the implementing partner at a number of locations in Swabi. The Union Councils Shewa, Narangi, Permoli and Jahangira fall under the project and the current number of beneficiaries in Swabi is 6,164 households.
A number of platforms were also set up at the time of initiation of this project to enable farmers to jointly benefit from the machinery provided to them. These consist of interest groups comprising vegetable growers, cereal groups and water user associations.
Similarly, machinery pool group were also formed to ensure that the machinery was utilised jointly and in turns by the beneficiary farmers. National Project Manager Dr Faiz-ul-Bari said the main purpose of the European Union-funded project was to increase sustainable food security for the most vulnerable households in food deficient areas of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He said 17 districts were identified as the most food vulnerable but with good potential for agricultural production. “At present the setting up and construction of 15 water channels and 14 harvesting structures has been finalised in Swabi and the work would start as funds become available,” he said.
Mahjabeen Qazi, the area coordinator of FAO, said the adoption of modern techniques was the need of the hour as traditional ways and means of farming were responsible for low productivity. She said the FAO had arranged a three-day training workshop for enhancing the capacity of the farming community.