‘Next decade is era of precision agriculture’

Asadullah Habib, President, of Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited, has said that the rising population and shrinking agricultural land put stress on agriculture and stressed the adoption of modern and scientific approaches to revive agriculture.

Habib was speaking at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between ZTBL and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute to collaborate for the promotion and adoption of the latest and novel technologies, practices, and techniques for improving agricultural productivity and livelihood of rural communities. Habib informed the participants that through over 500 branches, ZTBL provides swift and indiscriminate financing services to both sustenance and commercial farmers. He informed that ZTBL is proactively providing financial, area-specific and capacity-building services to seven million farmers.

He said that his bank alone serves 78 per cent of small farmers while the rest of the banks serve the remaining farmers. Zaigham Mahmood Rizvi, a Member, ZTBL Board of Directors, said that despite impending water scarcity, 70-80% of water consumed in agriculture is wasted. He highlighted that $15-20 billion can be added by import substitution of agricultural products and can be instrumental in transforming the socio-economic landscape of rural communities. He further said that revamping the agriculture sector is impossible without empowering rural women and focusing on water conservation and efficiency and renewable energy.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, of SDPI, said that food security is a major concern of Pakistan that is linked with other national security issues and needs to be urgently resolved. Though Pakistan has improved the productivity of certain crops, diversification of food baskets continue to be a challenge, and inadequacies in access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities are also issues. Highlighting the issues of misalignment and lack of coordination between high-standard research and indigenous agricultural technology, he called for the extension of agricultural financing products and capacity building of workers. He said that a golden triangle can be created by converging skills, market, and capital forces.

He urged ZTBL to bridge capital space, harness skills and knowledge of labour, and connect them with the market. He further said that despite the Geneva Pledge, Pakistan was unable to capitalise on the financing opportunity due to a lack of convincing projects. He encouraged the bank to collaborate with stakeholders and pitch doable and achievable projects for agricultural revival and livelihood development particularly focusing on communities affected by the recent floods.

He further said that the “next decade is the era of precision agriculture” and it is an untapped market for financial institutions which can be exploited by collaboration with research institutions and Armed Forces which have expertise in drone-tech and GIS mapping. To revive the agriculture sector and prevent over-utilisation of groundwater, he emphasised on solarisation of tube-wells adding that it must be coupled with technologies like drip and sprinkle irrigation to replace flood irrigation and tools like water tariff and pricing based on consumption rather than flat rate billing. The MoU under a multi-partnership approach, intends to invite other stakeholders to develop and carry out joint ventures, pilot projects, and research activities to cater to today’s farm needs.