Green Pakistan Initiative

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Green Pakistan Initiative

A second Green Revolution in the offing?

Engr. Sarfraz Nawaz

The Government of Pakistan has recently launched the “Green Pakistan Initiative” which is aimed at increasing agricultural exports, promoting corporate farming, tackling climate change to increase food productivity, and using wasteland for agriculture. The initiative would generate employment in rural areas, thus leading to prosperity and ensuring sustainable agriculture in the country. In the words of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, it would bring about a second agricultural revolution in the country and would create four million jobs. The outcomes will spur growth in the agriculture sector that would bring Pakistan at par with the developed countries.

Pakistan’s agricultural sector has played a pivotal role in the country’s economy since its inception. With the help of this sector, Pakistan has made great headways in terms of capital formation, employment and external trade. Moreover, this sector has also helped put the country on a growth trajectory beginning as early as the 1950s. As per the Economic Survey 2022-23, this sector contributes 22.9 percent to GDP and 37.4 percent in employment generation, besides ensuring food security and providing raw materials to the industrial sector. It is also a source of foreign exchange earnings and is significant for sustainable growth. However, during recent years, this sector has been facing multifarious challenges including climatic shocks, low productivity, shortage of water, and so on. These all challenges have been compounded due to apathy on the part of successive governments. However, it is quite encouraging that the incumbent government has realized the situation, and to steer this sector out of the multiple crises it faces, it has launched the “Green Pakistan Initiative” which is aimed at enhancing food security of Pakistan, as well as increase exports and reduce the agriculture-related imports, contributing, thereby, towards the national economy. The government expects an average investment of 30 to 50 billion dollars in Pakistan over the next three to four years.
To launch this revolutionary initiative, a seminar on agriculture and food security was held in Islamabad which was attended by federal ministers, chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh provinces, chief secretaries of provincial governments, agricultural experts and farmers from all the provinces. Moreover, foreign dignitaries and potential investors and experts from the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, China, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and various other countries were also in attendance.
While addressing the seminar, PM Sharif said agriculture is the backbone of the country and the farmers work hard to provide food to millions of people and they would be remembered in history as builders of Pakistan. He added that this initiative would bring about a second agricultural revolution in the country – The first Green Revolution was initiated in 1965 when there was a three-fold increase in the output of food grains during 1967-1992. It was the time when modern equipment of that era, such as a tractor was first used in agriculture.
“There was a time when Pakistan was producing more cotton than its neighbouring country but then it lost the track and was now producing less of staple crops,” he said adding Pakistan could not afford more foreign loans but was forced to save its economy from default by getting loans from friendly countries.
The PM said the Gulf countries were ready to invest in the agriculture sector and bring modern machinery to boost crop production in the country. Pakistan needed political stability to attract investment as in an unstable environment, investors shy away, he added. Pakistan could attract investment of $40 to 50 billion in the years ahead and it could make food exports to the gulf countries which were presently importing food products worth $40 billion. He was of the view that Pakistan had to compete with the world and increase its exports and added the economy would get revived in the next two years.
“It is a demand of our national security that the country’s food security and economic security should be strengthened,” he said.
Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir attended the seminar as the guest of honour. He also addressed the participants and assured the people and the government of the Army’s full support for all the initiatives being taken under the ambit of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) including Green Pakistan Initiative. “Allah the Almighty has blessed Pakistan with many resources. We are a capable nation and we have the potential to rise to the top,” he said, adding that everybody should contribute to Pakistan’s development. The army chief expressed confidence that Pakistan will achieve progress and development and no power on the earth can stop this from happening. “We have gathered to make Pakistan green once again,” he said.
It is highly encouraging that for the first time the government, the army and all institutions concerned are on the same page with the focus to develop agriculture to attain food security, reduce imports and increase exports. The government’s visionary approach and the military’s profound commitment have captured the admiration of agricultural experts, who recognise the significant positive impact these combined efforts will have on the sector.
The strategic utilisation of modern techniques and the integration of public and private entities will facilitate a harmonious exchange of knowledge and resources. This synchronised approach will bolster agricultural productivity and enhance the socio-economic landscape, paving the way for a prosperous future.
Analysis
The firm commitments made by the civil and military leadership augur well for the optimum exploitation of the potential in the agriculture sector, which could, in turn, pave the way for meaningfully addressing the economic and financial challenges of the country. Since the agriculture sector provides the shortest and fastest route to economic progress and prosperity, a whole new approach has been developed under which federal and provincial governments, assisted by the Pakistan Army and other relevant institutions would move in harmony to realize this potential. It seems groundwork has already been prepared for the new scheme as participants of the seminar were told that some Gulf countries have expressed their keen desire to make huge investments in the agriculture sector and bring modern machinery to boost agriculture production in the country. Due to proximity and strong linkages, Pakistan can definitely become a food basket for Gulf States that currently import food products worth 40 billion dollars from different regions. The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that the green revolution in the 1960s was due to the introduction of new varieties of seed, the building of dams and canals and modern agriculture practices in the country. The fresh potential is there but it would need sustained collaborative efforts to realize the targets as envisaged by the leadership. We cannot sustain growth in agriculture without ensuring increased availability of irrigation water and, for this purpose, apart from speedy implementation of the ongoing water reservoirs, work will have to be initiated on all technically feasible dams. We have some agriculture research institutions but they remain underfunded and it is the need of the hour to upgrade their working through Chinese collaboration with a focus on the evolution of higher yield crop varieties suitable for our climatic conditions and local production of quality pesticides. Pakistan is also guilty of wasting huge resources in livestock and fisheries sectors in the near absence of value addition and proper marketing. Well-connected and influential mafias are also major impediments in the way of exploiting optimum potential of the agriculture sector and the leadership will have to make concerted efforts to render them ineffective. No doubt, there is immense potential of the Green Pakistan Initiative as it would provide job opportunities to over four million people, reduce poverty, enhance food security, increase exports and reduce the agriculture-related imports. Prospects of investment are also there but the government will have to deal with the issue of rising cost of production, lack of related infrastructure and hostile lobbies that become active to protect their own vested interests. Mere production of more grain, fruit and vegetables is unlikely to have a salutary impact on the common man if factors contributing to an increase in cost of production are not addressed satisfactorily.

The writer is an electrical engineer and a CSS aspirant.

Muhammad Ali Asghar

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