Agriculture & Poverty
By Abid Hussain &
RURAL population, directly or indirectly is linked to
agriculture for its livelihood. And agricultural development is
linked to rural development, water resources, industries,
poverty alleviation and environment. Its high growth rate helps
in poverty alleviation through employment and development.
Improved farm output also helps in diversification of rural
economy toward agro-based industries and non-farm activities
such as livestock, fisheries and poultry. Thus,
agricultural development is critically important for poverty
alleviation since 65.9 per cent of the population live in rural
According to official figures, in 2004-05 poverty was 28.10 per
cent in rural areas, 14.90 per cent in urban areas and 23.90 on
an overall basis. Despite efforts of the
successive governments to mitigate poverty, it is still
burgeoning and expanding.
The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) scientists
conducted a survey to analyze income sources, agricultural
productivity and poverty status of farm families in
the rice/wheat and (Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Lahore,
Kasur, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin and Hafizabad) and mix cropping
zones (Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang,
Faisalabad/Toba Tek Singh & Okara) of Punjab during
According to survey results, crop income accounted for about
two-third (66.41 per cent) of the total income of farm
families. It contributes 71 per cent in the total income in
rice/wheat zone and 59 per cent in the mix-cropping zone. In
the rice/wheat zone, major crops (rice and wheat) contribute 97
per cent of the crop income of poor farmers and
94 per cent of the crop income of not-poor farmers.
Similarly, in the mix-cropping zone share of major crops
(sugarcane and wheat) in the income of poor farmer is greater
than the “not poor”; 82 and 71 per cent, respectively,
meaning the share of minor crops in the crop income of latter
is greater than the former.
Livestock sector’s contribution is 5.12 per cent in the
rice/wheat zone and 11.5 per cent in the mix-cropping zone.
Thus, agriculture sector contributes 73.87 per cent in the
income of rural farm families in the study area: 76.12 per cent
in rice/wheat zone and 70.50 per cent in mix cropping zone.
Therefore, it is apparent that an increase in
agricultural productivity results in an increase in per capita
income of rural farm people and thus a decrease in poverty in
Wages and salaries are also significant income sources for
peasants. They contribute about one-fifth (20.38 per cent) of
the total income of farm workers families. Rental
and transfer incomes are minor sources of income for farm
families; these sources contribute 5.75 per cent in their
According to latest official inflation-adjusted poverty line,
31 per cent per cent of farm population in the survey area is
poor. The incidence of poverty is more in the
mix-cropping zone than in the rice-wheat zone.
Poverty estimates depict that in the mix cropping zone about 34
per cent of the members of rural families are poor as compared
to 28 per cent in the rice/wheat zone. Mean
income of poor farm households is less then the established
poverty line by 0.37.
Aggregate poverty deficit of the poor in the mix cropping zone
is more than in the rice wheat zone. The income inequality
amongst poor in the mix-cropping zone is more
than in the rice/wheat zone and overall study area. Thus,
poverty is more severe in mix cropping zone than the rice/wheat
The yield of major crops in the study area is low than their
potential yield. The yield of major crops is still 25-50 per
cent below the demonstrated potential; the gap between
actual and potential yield of rice is 50 per cent, wheat 40 per
cent, sugarcane 35 per cent and maize 28 per cent.
The low yield of major crops may be attributed to poor quality
seed, low seed rate, conventional sowing method, and
inefficient use of fertilizers, poor management practices
and low level of farm mechanisation.
The crop specific reasons of low yield revealed that low seed
rate, use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of the
farmers, very low use of nitrogen and phosphatic
fertilisers and negligible use of potash fertiliser were the
main factors responsible for low sugarcane yield.
While, the major reasons of low yield of rice crop are low
plant population, use of previous year’s produce as seed by
most of the farmers, low use of nitrogen fertilizer, very
low phosphatic use and negligible use of potash
The use of previous year’s produce as seed by most of the
farmers, low use of nitrogen fertilisers, very low use of
phosphatic and negligible use potash fertilizers were the
main reasons of low yield of wheat.
Whereas, the major reasons of low yield of maize crop are low
use of nitrogen fertilizer, very low use phosphatic and no use
The Indian sugarcane variety (CO-1148) and Tritran are major
cane varieties planted by the farmers of study area. Super
Basmati and Basmati-386 are major rice varieties
and occupy more than 85 per cent acreages of the total rice
area. Inqlab-91 and Wattan are the main wheat varieties planted
by the farmers. Farmers of the area planted
Desi and Neelam varieties of Maize and CIM-499 and Desi
varieties of cotton.
On the input side, black marketing/ higher prices of
agricultural inputs and low quality/adulterated pesticides are
problems faced by the farming community in the study area.
On the output side, low output prices, lack of transportation
and storage facilities are main problems.
In the livestock sector, more than 42 per cent of the total
milk produce is consumed domestically and the remaining amount
is sold to different marketing intermediaries. The
inter-cropping zone comparison shows that milk prices are
relatively higher in rice zone as compared to mixed cropping
zone in both summer and winter seasons.
In the study area, male young stocks of large and small
ruminants are usually sold before reaching maturity and few
farmers keep breeding bulls for buffalo and cattle.
However, 93 per cent farmers practice natural breeding method
in livestock and artificial insemination of livestock is
practiced only by seven per cent.
One animal out of average livestock holding per farm of nine
fell ill over a period of one year. Foot and Mouth Disease
(FMD), Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (HS), Red Water,
Dysentery, Runeinal Impaction and Paralysis are the common
livestock diseases. Vaccination of animals against diseases is
not encouraging as only 36.2 per cent and
18.8 per cent of farmers vaccinated their adult buffaloes and
In case of young stock, the percentage of farmers who
vaccinated their buffalo and cattle young stock is 11.7 and 8.1
per cent, respectively. Similarly, de-worming of
livestock is not encouraged and that of young stock is even
The growers are cultivating non-recommended varieties of all
the major crops which suggest that either they are unaware of
the approved varieties, or there exist flaws in the
delivery system of approved seed. Thus, to increase
agricultural productivity, it is suggested that growers should
be educated to use recommended seed rate of approved
varieties and apply recommended doses of fertilizers to crops.
The flaws in the delivery system of approved seed and
fertilizers should also be removed.
To increase livestock productivity introduction of highly
nutritive fodders such as Mott grass and hybrid sorghum fodder
(Sada Bahar) de-worming according to fixed
schedule, vaccination against contagious diseases and promotion
of artificial insemination are suggested.