Agriculture — dying or dead?

Published: July 21, 2015
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The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS

It is not without sociological reason that what we describe as art or the science of growing anything out of soil is suffixed by culture. It has two aspects, economic, that relates to production and organisation, and the socio-cultural, that is about the relationships it establishes among peoples, persons and communities. It is unfortunate that since Karl Marx’s very mechanical and materialistic interpretation of historical progression, generation after generation of superficial intellectuals have dubbed agricultural relations as primitive, exploitative, and more importantly, of an age that is long gone. Often, land-based relationships are dismissed or caricatured as feudalistic and land-based communities and their culture also labelled feudalistic. It is a popular refrain of urban intellectuals that have hardly any deep understanding of these communities, except for a few pieces of ‘research’ designed to prove how every thinker and revolutionary from Marx to Mao was right about collectivisation of land. The cycle of history and the sentiment of real people have proven all of them wrong, at least on this issue. But the thinking of our contemporaries on land and agricultural relations remains stuck in the mud of historical materialism.

I do admire these thinkers and their works, and of course their intellectual contribution to human sciences, however, I find their mechanical understanding of human relations too superficial to explain the complex affairs of human relations. I find the approach reductionist at best. There runs an unconscious influence of Marxism on the Pakistani liberal- intellectual and politician, whether it is on land-tenure or production issues. There seems to be a thick layer of urban prejudice against rural folks and their ways of living, thinking and relating to one another. In their barrages of critique, one finds hardly any depth, intellectual rigour or empirical reference, except the sterile activism to ‘end feudalism’.

A hardworking agriculturalist in Pakistan, mostly involved in self-owned farming, finds it hard to get recognition of his contribution to the national economy, society, and most importantly, preservation of culture of communities. While I have been an academic for the last four decades, and will be till the end, I am a proud farmer, an agriculturalist in my body and soul and will remain till the end. Let me explain to you the rotten policies of our government, and on the top of it, the rotten thoughts of disgust among the urbanites regarding farmers. Like most first-generation urbanites, I come from an agricultural community — a heritage that defines our identity and culture. It is in those communities and land where our roots are, and we will never abandon them. Doing so, even with all the losses and the meagre earnings from huge investments will be emotionally devastating for us.

It is not emotionalism or idealism that keeps our spirits high; there was, in my case, a sound economic reason as well when I invested in agriculture — as a long-term pension fund. By barely staying little over the red for decades, I find it is not climate change or bad luck, but the exploitative policies of our federal and provincial governments that rob us of our rightful share. We grow the best fruits, vegetables, cotton, wheat and rice — better in flavour, aroma and nutrients than anywhere else in the world amid harsh weather conditions, but gain very little, and even suffer losses. Beginning with inputs, they are costly — seeds and pesticides are sub-standard, often spurious and urban-based speculators, middlemen and exporters manipulate the market. They form buying cartels, and with the connivance of bureaucrats and politicians, import grains and pulses when our crops start reaching the markets.

It is just our deep faith in our community and heritage that keeps us going, not the economic rationale anymore. But, for how long will that last?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd,  2015.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Reality Check
    Jul 22, 2015 - 3:39AM

    As a farmer I cannot help but agree with you. Although I feel that we as farmers arent progressive all over the world there have been farmer co-ops to save them from the buying cartels i think its high time farmers in pakistan also form co-ops to market their produce all over the world we cannot expect the government to help us and if we wait for that well we might be too late by then.
    Lets face it Kissan Ittehad isnt cutting it. Recommend

  • Imran
    Jul 22, 2015 - 9:58AM

    And our politicians devolved this important ministry. Recommend

  • zafar iqbal ranjha
    Jul 22, 2015 - 12:38PM

    Learned Rasul Bakhsh Raes has done a great justice not only to the farmers but whole rural population of our country. Our rural population seldom gets any space in our media. This population has been criminally ignored by our successive governments because they have no nuisance value at all,they have no organizations to raise their concerns. They are being exploited by the traders living in the cities who have made our bazaars inundated with foreign goods by listening to their unending lust for profiteering and completely ignoring the plights of our dying farming community. The present rulers, interests are directly antagonized to those of the farmers. They will never raise the prices of crops specially sugar cane, cotton and rice because they need cheaper raw materials for their industrial and business empires.They will always raise the prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides,diesels etc for the simple these are produced or imported by them and thus assure for them further profits. However the ruling elite must note it that this country can,t be lifted up economically by yoking the farmer community further downward. Our bureaucracy in the Finance&Economic Affairs and Commerce Ministries can guarantee subsidies for the farmers of America, Europe and Australia by importing their agricultural goods by listening to the dictates of IMF, World Bank because they ensure for them commission and kickbacks. They will never listen to the calls of our farmers whose conditions will remain so until a genuine farmer is not sworn in as the Prime Minister of this great nation.
    Zafar Ranjha Mandi Bahauddin 03335525613Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Jul 22, 2015 - 2:23PM

    Yet the agriculture sector is contributing 21 % to the GDP, known as an agriculture country having agrarian economy, but our govt policy is focused toward industrialization, what a contrast. Most of the industrialist a & waderas are basically landlords & Politicians. They do not pay taxes & shows loss but profit from agriculture sector which is tax free. That is why they never agree to tax income from agriculture. So, gentlemen, you see the linkages.Recommend

  • Sandip
    Jul 23, 2015 - 1:46AM

    Is there any scientific study which will prove what the author says and what every pakistani claims- that Pakistan grows everything best in the world. And if that’s the case, how come Pakistanis who are always supposed to be the best at what they do, cannot do anything about their country. It’s good to be patriotic, but it’s foolish to lie about it. That too when all facts point to the contrary.Recommend

  • Realist
    Aug 18, 2015 - 12:08PM

    The author made fool of people with political science for four decades now thinks of agricultural heritage. What a change!Recommend

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