SAWIE a digital climate-smart farm advisory platform organized a Farmers’ field school at Zaidi Farm, Kakar Gill, Sheikhupura together with Bank Alfalah, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Ayub Agriculture Research Institute, LUMS, Punjab University, SACAN, Data agro, Dawood Agro and UPSIGN. The day-long session attracted a great number of farmers, researchers and professionals from agri-tech sector. Ms. Sundas Abbas from SAWIE welcome the participants.

Engr. Mushtaq Gill (Tamga-e-Imtiaz), CEO of SAWIE said, there are about 8 million smallholder farmers in Pakistan who own less than 5 ha but their contribution is 80% of overall food production. They harvest a low crop yield (typically 50% lower than larger farms) and due to the lack of access to quality inputs, access to crop production and protection sowing and harvesting machinery, real-time knowledge of crop health, climate change, and changing weather patterns, they have endured uncertainty in their growing conditions. There is a vital need for capacity building of stakeholders comprising village-level agriculture service providers, academia, extension workers, and smallholder farmers about climate-smart agriculture practices, weather predictions, soil health, crop health, crop irrigation & nutrients, and guidance on seed-to-seed production.

Mr. Bhatti, a Rice Wheat farmer of Pindi Bhattian for his conservation practices, has reduced his fertilizer and chemical costs by 60%. He has improved his soil structure and porosity for better-holding water and is also supper resilient at times of extreme heat and water scarcity situation. There is a need to change the mindset of our farmers who have been practicing plowing for decades. We need to train next generation of agronomists to tackle these challenges.

 Prof Rana Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Sitara Imtiaz, vice chancellor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad was the chief guest and elaborated on the need of training our farmers in sustainable agriculture solutions, we need a system-based solution to address food security.  If we can address the seed issue and market -Mandi, the farmers are willing to adopt innovation. We have seen this success story in maize.  There are about 25000 villages in Punjab that require such kind of joined-up approach to learn from the success stories demonstrated here at the Farmer’s Field School of Zaidi Farm. His University had been last two years supporting the Wheat campaign by engaging more than 20,000 students.  Prof Iqrar said Pakistan needs a second Green Revolution that requires all forces to work together to take advantage of the new digital revolution, improve soil health, reduce water wastage and nutrient losses, smart crop protection, and link with markets.

Eng. Mushtaq Gill said, Pakistan has limited water resources and is on the brink of becoming a water-scarce country if we do not change our farming method. Agriculture takes almost 92% of the freshwater consumption. We need to adopt tested methods of soil and water conservation; the use of zero tillage and bed planting methods will help to reduce water losses by 40%. The use of digital advisory solutions offered by SAWIE has proved that farmers only need to apply irrigation when required. SAWIE has started irrigation advisory services with the help of the Pakistan Council for Research on water resources ( PCRWR).

Mr Mahmood, Advisor, RIZQ and ex WIT – LUMS, FAO, mentioned the need of adopting regenerative approaches to address emerging challenges of climate change.

Dr. Abdul Wakeel, from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, emphasized the need for use of balanced fertilizer, we need to develop a habit of conducting our soil testing on a regular basis.

Mr. Yahya Hameed Whala, head of Agriculture financing, Bank Alfalah said,  there is a need to upgrade our farmer’s machinery requirements to meet the challenges of climate change. We need to invest in zero tillage and happy seeder kind of technologies. State Bank of Pakistan has provided a special subsidy on investment in farm machinery at a 7% markup.

Dr. Abul Fazal, who hosted the event on his Zaidi farm said, we are working on three major pillars of climate smart agriculture, conservation & regenerative agriculture for the last 10 years; i) minimum or no tillage to disturb soil, ii) land cover, and iii) crop diversification. We have seen a clear difference in yield and crop health in our fields compared to our neighbors. He is very keen and supportive of the village seed Bank supported by SAWIE through the help of the Wheat Research Institute.  Last year they have distributed the new varieties to their neighboring farmers

Dr Muhammad Javed, Director of Wheat Research Institute, Ayub Agri Research Center said, we are continuously developing new varieties that are high yielding but they could only perform better if farmers would adopt the appropriate agronomy practices that include sowing methods, soil preparation, and irrigation and fertilizer management to achieve higher yield potential. 

Leading Agritech experts that included Adil Farooq, Dr. Anwar ul Haq, SAWIE experts including Ms. Hurrian, Mr. Haji, Mr. Hassan, Mr. Mujahid, Mr. Ali, Mr. Muhammad Yousaf, Mr. Tariq Lodhra, Dr. Adnan, Engr. Saleem Akhtar from the NRSP Rice project, and Sardar Baber, a progressive farmer along with the students, and farmers from the neighboring villages took part in the discussions and field visits.