ISLAMABAD, March 9, 2011-- On March 8 and 9, 2011, the Planning Commission of the Government of Pakistan and the World Bank organized a Roundtable Discussion on Agriculture and Water for Agriculture in Pakistan, with the co-sponsorship of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, USAID, and financial support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The event, which was inaugurated by Dr. Nadeem Ul Haque, Deputy-Chairman of the Planning Commission, took stock of Pakistan’s current status, challenges, and aspirations for agriculture and water for agriculture. It created a forum to tap into the extensive in-country knowledge and to share knowledge on how similar challenges were addressed using local and international good practice and analysis.
“Pakistan’s share of agriculture in total GDP is declining, yet it is the dominant sector in rural employment and national exports. Improving productivity and competitiveness of the sector is critical to Pakistan’s economic growth and food security, and to the development of both farm and non-farm livelihoods, especially of the rural poor. The World Bank stands ready to provide substantial support to Pakistan’s agriculture and water sectors.” said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan.
The two-day event brought together representatives from across Pakistan, including senior officials of Pakistan Planning Commission, Federal Ministries of Agriculture, Water and Power, and other federal agencies, in addition to senior officials from agriculture, irrigation, livestock, food and planning and development departments of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Planning Commission is working on a new strategy to achieve a sustainable growth rate of 7 percent per annum. The agriculture sector growth rate has decelerated during the last 3 decades. Business as usual will not work. There is a need for change in mindset. The role of the Government in the sector should be redefined. The private sector should be the growth driver in an open market environment that rewards productivity, efficiency, innovations, and entrepreneurship. The Government should re-focus its role on protecting the public sector interest and rights, providing public goods, formulating policies and enforcing laws.
Market reforms must also be undertaken. Computerization of land records and titles can facilitate exit of inefficient farmers. In view of the high rate of return on investment in agricultural research, agricultural scientists should be given incentives. While, wide ranging issues in agriculture, livestock, horticulture, dairy, and water for irrigation were identified, three areas emerged as of immediate priority: technology, markets and water use efficiency. Further analysis and reforms are needed in policy and governance, management, institutions, and knowledge and information systems.
The Roundtable created a forum where the Government of Pakistan presented its development agenda in agriculture and irrigation, and the participants have called for more of such forums at the national and provincial levels as the investment and analytical programs unfold. The National Forum on Agriculture of the Planning Commission will be coordinating the follow up work on priority areas identified by the roundtable participants.