Farmers’ Training  on “Sustainable Rice Production Using Regenerative Agriculture” Held in Nowshera Virkan, in Rice belt of Gujranwala.

On June 12, 2024, a farmers’ training focusing on sustainable rice production through Regenerative Agriculture was held in Nowshera Virkan, Gujranwala. The initiative is lead by a Regenerative Rice Cluster comprising of SAWIE, Dawood Agro Services &Syngenta Pakistan. The cluster aims to promote regenerative rice farming through training farmers and promote appropriate technologies from sowing to harvesting.

Pakistan, the fourth-largest rice exporter globally, with annual exports valued approximately  $3 billion, relies heavily on its rice sector for export revenues, which employs about 20% of the workforce. However, the rice crop faces significant challenges, including climate change, water scarcity, suboptimal farming practices, inefficient supply chains, inadequate infrastructure, limited access to credit, and a lack of awareness among farmers and traders. Additionally, demands for reduced carbon footprints, import duties, and traceability issues affect exports and consumer trust in high-value export markets.

The workshop’s key message was to improve soil health, enhance water productivity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane. Rice cultivation emits 120-200 kg of methane per acre, contributing significantly to the sector’s carbon footprint. The project is leveraging innovative digital tools, which support climate-smart and regenerative agriculture solutions, offering holistic solutions to the rice farmers challenges and promoting a sustainable farming ecosystem.

Over 100 participants, including farmers, researchers, government policymakers, and rice industry stakeholders, attended the event. Key speakers shared valuable insights:

  • Dr. Tasneem Khaliq, Head of Regenerative Agriculture at SAWIE, elaborated on the principles of regenerative agriculture developed by Syngenta:
    1. Reduced or zero tillage of soil
    2. Keeping the soil surface covered
    3. Maintaining living roots in the soil
    4. Growing a diverse range of crops
    5. Bringing grazing animals back to the land
    6. Promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices
  • Eng Mushtaq Gill (TI), CEO of SACAN & SAWIE advisor, discussed improving water productivity through Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) methods, and the use of land levellers and mechanical planting.
  • Mr. Aadil Farooq, CEO of Dawood Agro Services, highlighted mechanical transplanting solutions for rice, emphasizing how mechanical planters can improve rice plant population and farmer productivity.
  • Dr. Javed Akhtar Padhiar, Director Agriculture (Extension), Gujranwala, Government of Punjab, talked about growing healthy and profitable rice crop is very important. He emphasized the agriculture extension department’s support in providing farmers access to subsidized loans and equipment. He ensured that he and his team would coordinate with farmers and project team to play a vital role for sustainability of rice production.
  • Mr. Afzan Munir, Manager Business Sustainability at Syngenta Pakistan, emphasized the need for improving soil health and implementing precision application of inputs for better crop management.
  • Mr. Muhammad Yousaf, Head of Financial Services, provided insights on accessing government subsidized loan schemes for farm mechanization and solar energy solutions.
  • Ms. Sundas Abass, Head of Farmer Training, elaborated on the support available from the SAWIE team.

The workshop underscored the importance of adopting regenerative practices to ensure the Pakistan Rice sector’s sustainability and competitiveness in the international market.