Outreach Activities of US-Pakistan Center of Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

Dr. Babar Shahbaz,
Chair Outreach Program,
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

(Continued since May 18, 2017) Field clinics (animal and plant clinics) were organized during the field days at the community centers. Faculty members from the disciplines of soil science, animal sciences, entomology, horticulture, agronomy, veterinary medicine and agricultural extension participated in the clinics. The farmers shared their animal and plant related problems and received prescriptions and advise from the experts.
Use of ICTs and Computer Training
The Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) have exposed new horizons of information exchange. Revolutionary transitions have tremendously changed the picture of communication around the globe. In this context the Outreach Chair of USPCAS-AFS is exploring the ways and means for the effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the transfer of agricultural and food system knowledge and technology.
Internet and mobile networks are providing agriculture technology and extension services that are cost effective, customized, faster, and up to date. In the rural areas of Pakistan majority of the farmers do not have access to the valuable knowledge base of the agricultural universities, and agricultural research centres. There is huge databank of agricultural information available online. The websites of Agricultural Universities, Punjab Agricultural Department, PARC and private industry have useful information. Through Community Outreach Centers, the Outreach Chair of USPCAS-AFS is providing access to online information to the local communities. Keeping in view limited computer literacy in the rural areas, the outreach chair has arranged exclusive training sessions with the youth. The youngsters of these community centers were provided training on how to access relevant information from different information portals and how to communicate with the scientists. The outreach centers have been equipped with basic ICT tools and farmers can post online queries directly to the experts.A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with the Pakistan Institute of ICTs for Development (PIID), Islamabad. The overall objective of this MoU is to establish collaboration between the Outreach Chair and PIID for the promotion of ICT culture in the rural areas. PIID offering technical expertise and advisory services in the realms of ICTs and other related initiatives (e-Village and e-Pakistan).

Women and Youth Empowerment through Capacity Building
Youth and women of rural areas are the two major stakeholders which can pave the way for progress and prosperity of agriculture sector. Keeping in view the importance of these prime mover of rural development, the outreach chair is determined to streamline the capabilities thereof. Involving the youth in healthy activities is also being focused.
Women constitute most of the agricultural workforce of Pakistan and they work equally with men. Livestock and agricultural activities in most of the rural areas of Pakistan in general and Punjab are subsistence oriented and participation of women in these activities is considerably higher than those of men. There is better awareness and the availability of information to the male farmers but there exists gender disparity in agriculture, and public extension services have not effectively addressed gender in their system. Women in the rural areas have less access to extension services due to several factors such as socio-cultural norms, lack of female extension workers and illiteracy etc. The Outreach chair of USPCAS-AFS has worked with different institutes/departments of UAF for gender mainstreaming in agriculture sector through capacity building and tailor made trainings.
Capacity building workshopsare being organized in collaboration with the Institute of Home Sciences, UAF. Dr. BinishIsrar, Dr. Ayesha Sameen andBinish Assadare the resource person for these events. A large number of women from surrounding areas attended the session. This series of seminars would be continued in other parts of Faisalabad District.Dietitian from University of Agriculture, Faisalabad delivered a lecture on health and nutrition for females and children and suggested them how can they improve their health. Second session was based on the questions from the females on their health issues.
Future Farmers – Youth/School Children
Rural youth are the potential future farmers and future of Pakistan’s agricultural sector. With an increasing population and decreasing agricultural productivity there is growing trend of urban to rural migration. Consequently young generation is least interested in farming enterprise. There is no formal system for mobilizing and training of rural youth. The Outreach Chair strives to create awareness among our rural youth about new technologies for adoption in the field of agriculture and rural development. In this context outreach events have been organized in the schools of community outreach centers. Interactive workshops on different issues have been arranged. A workshop on “tree planation and weed eradication” was arranged at Government High School, Chak-189 Jhumra. A six-member team of agriculture scientists (horticulture and agrimony) and extension experts visited Government High School RasoolpurChakJhumra. Team visited different classrooms and showed various kinds of weeds to the young students. Later on students took part in weed eradication activities so that they could be able to convince their elders for weeds control. Students also took part in fruits tree plantation activities in the main ground of the School.

Stakeholders’ Roundtable workshop
Stakeholders’ roundtable workshop was organized at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. Prof. Dr. Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Vice Chancellor chaired the session. The participants of the workshop included extension experts from Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, and the representatives of farmers’ organizations and industrial sector. Dr. Babar Shahbaz, Chair Outreach program in his address elucidated that agriculture sector is transforming rapidly. The demand for increased production of food, fiber, feed, milk, sugar, meat, edible oil, poultry etc. is increasing in the backdrop of growing population of the country that is expected to be about 224 million by 2030. This presents many challenges for agriculture and consequently for extension services in the next two decades. In this context this roundtable consultation intends to address emerging challenges for agriculture sector in general and outreach in particular. Prof. Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Chattha (Climate Change), Dr. Muhammad Jameel Khan (Agricultural Policy), Dr. Bushra Sadia (Biotechnology) and JahanzebMasud Cheema (Precision Agriculture) explained the vision of their respective thematic chairs in the context of future scenario.

The resource persons from Sindh, KPK and Baluchistan also presented challenges and emerging trends in agriculture sector in their respective provinces with special reference to extension services. Dr. ArifWattoo delivered a presentation on the future prospective of water use efficiency. Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad presented the viewpoint of farmers and presented proposed cooperative model for Punjab and informed that the Anjuman-e-KashtkaranPuanjab is a Voluntary Organization of Small and Medium farmers of the Punjab and they are planned to develop cooperative marketing and services system to address the problems of small and medium landholders.

Prof. Dr. Iqrar Ahmad Khan (Vice-Chancellor) in his address said that agriculture sector of Pakistan is facing multiple challenges and problems of small farmers are increasing day by day. Punjab government is taking all efforts to minimize the problems of the farming communities. He said that past initiatives cooperative farming should be reviewed carefully so that reason of the failure of such initiatives can be highlighted. He said that it is a real challenge for agricultural service providers to develop viable strategies to meet the future needs of agriculture sector.

Stakeholders’ Workshop

(Note: Most parts of this article have been taken from the quarterly newsletter of Outreach, published by USPCAS-AFS)

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