Agri dept reiterates pledge to ‘modernise’ farming

Assistant director says as many as 110,000 smartphones to be handed to growers

Our Correspondent March 18, 2018

MULTAN: The Agriculture Department’s Assistant Director for Information Naveed Asmat Kahloon has stated that another initiative has been taken by the Punjab government under the banner of Khadim-e-Punjab Kisaan Package.

Through it, 110,000 smartphones will be given to farmers under Connected Agriculture Platform Punjab programme during the initial stages. These devices will be equipped with special apps to help growers interact with agriculture experts so they may gather advice for the improvement of crops, understand weather conditions in real time and see videos about the latest production technology.

Kahloon further stated that these phones will be provided on the provision of Rs500 for tenants and Rs1,000 for land owners.  This phase of the scheme was designed due to the lack of a systematic and efficient way to educate/inform farmers. A man-based slow flow of information is generally the norm, resulting in farmers making hasty, ill-informed decisions. This in turn led to financial losses.

As a first-of-its-kind program in the Asia-Pacific region, CAPP is all about digitising the small/landless farmer community to make them well connected, well aware and in control of their farming workflow.

The Government of Punjab Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with a private cellular operator and Punjab Information Technology Board, has developed a carefully crafted mobile app service. It was created by keeping the unique target audience in mind with an aim to enable technology to rapidly assist and cater to farmers’ needs.

With these smartphones, farmers will be able to apply for agri loans through the PITB-led app which would eliminate the patwari and bank agent culture.

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It will create a technology driven ecosystem which will give confidence to farmers in deciding what to sow, along with when and where to sell.

The app will alert farmers on weather conditions, crop diseases, protection and timely use of fertilizers and pesticides. The Agriculture Department will also establish facilitation centres where farmers will be trained on the use of agri apps.

Authorities are planning to provide this technology to the farming community so they may able to enter a new information world where they will get instant information.

It has been predicted that small farmers will benefit from this initiative in a big way as smartphones would key reveal information. The move is seen as a first step towards achieving the goal of becoming self-sufficient about food security and making farming a profitable sector.

The assistant director stated that this was just the beginning and would lead towards an increase in agricultural productivity; which will pave the way for profit in the sector.

The fiscal year 2015-16 saw a declining graph in agricultural growth in Pakistan for the first time since its inception. “The cost of doing business had reached new heights and this led to almost zero profits. There was also a lack of schemes which offered loans to small farmers through an organised source.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2018.

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