Realising the urgent and unavoidable need of agriculture reforms in Pakistan, the government is all set to launch the Agriculture Emergency Programme (AEP) worth Rs 309 billion across the country. All procedural and codal formalities have been completed in this regard. As many as 16 projects in the agriculture sector would be launched under this programme to boost yields of major crops. The project also aims to revolutionise agriculture and livestock sectors by conserving water and soil; tapping the potential of aquaculture and shrimp farming and establishing new markets to protect farmers from exploitation of middlemen.
While government’s initiative deserves to be applauded, and there is no denying the fact that the ailing agriculture sector of the country was gasping for such intensive-care treatment, we must also acknowledge the contribution of some torch-bearers who kindled the light of hope in the testing times. While provincial agricultural departments over Pakistan have been doing a spectacular job in bringing about change to improve this sector, a few marathon runners in the national pavilion deserve a standing ovation for strengthening their hands in this herculean task.
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is one such contributor. PAEC has taken the lead in utilising nuclear technology to improve the productivity of the agricultural sector through the introduction of new crop varieties, pest control technologies, plant nutrition, water management, animal health and productivity as well as food decontamination and preservation. Four PAEC agricultural research centres have been established in three provinces of Pakistan, with a major share of the cultivatable land in the country. Nuclear Institute of Agriculture (NIA) in Tando Jam, Sindh, (1962) was the first such institutes. Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB), Faisalabad, Punjab (1972), Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Peshawar, KPK (1982) and National Institute for Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Faisalabad, Punjab (1994) were established in a span of about 32 years and have contributed more than Rs 1200 billion in the economy of Pakistan through the development of new crop varieties.