I belong to a traditional farmer family, I have no idea that what my forefathers used to do before they started sowing seeds in their farms but by the looks of it, it looks like eternity. So, based on what I have seen in my village, it’s not simply a question of
- How can we improve the per acre yield of Pakistani crops?
- Why people are leaving farming at once and why are they migrating towards the city?
- What can we do increase employment and earning opportunities in smaller cities and villages of Pakistan?
While we try to answer these questions, it also has to be noted that problems and reasons are multi-faceted and we should take what is given and make the best out of that given situation.
History and the Information Age
Agriculture and farming is more than a 10,000 years old profession and as it was accurately narrated in the hit Netflix documentary “Rotten”, farmers are vanishing from America and the same is also true for the rest of the world. As a global civilization we took off from Agriculture age, migrated to the Industrial Age and now we are in an Information Age. This “age” effect is gonna stay with the rest of the article as we have a much larger population now as compared to what we had just a 100 years ago. Much better chances of travel, education, and exposure. People need to adapt and find new occupations. Technology is replacing menial jobs that we didn’t exactly want to do anymore either.
The “Division” Factor
So, writing strictly in the Pakistani context, Mr. X has to two children and 75 acres of land. Now, that land will divide into two, leaving each with 37.5 acres. Simple mathematics tells you that the rental yield in the cotton belt of Southern Punjab (good land), is just around Rs. 35,000 per annum. That leaves each of the children with Rs. 109,375 per month that is barely enough for a family of 4 these days.
If he starts doing farming himself, he can definitely double that but there is another elephant in the room: You can’t buy more land as their prices are too high! The rental yield of agricultural land is just 3%, which means if you buy a piece of land today, it’s just going to recover its price in more than 33 years! Compare this to the average rental yield of city property that hovers around 6%, double than what you will get in agriculture. So, instead of buying more farming land, people simply start investing in D.H.A or Bahria Town residential or commercial plots.
There is another elephant in the village as well, there is simply no more land to buy. Historically people would migrate to underdeveloped areas and develop those lands. They would sell a small piece of land and would get a bigger chunk, that is simply not possible anymore because of the wide scale industrialization in the world.
The Agri Land Development Factor
Pakistan has the largest irrigation system in the world which means we use a lot of water to make our lands cultivatable, the lands are otherwise barren. So, let’s suppose Mr. X wants to buy more land and he thinks of going to the Cholistan. He notices that there are now lanes of crops going up until Derawar Fort where only a decade ago were just dunes of sand or barren land. So, people are grabbing what they can, large swathes already been given to UAE princes. We need more water to cultivate the rest of the land but we start building a canal with 5 years plan, complete it in 25 years and it starts doing saim to the good farms from where it’s passing, so we then plan a drain that would take another 25 years to complete. Moral of the story, no more lands to buy!
Educated Class in Villages
I would like to state the fact that educated class is very small in Pakistani villages. People have left, they still can be found in tehsil level cities but they are moving abroad from there as well. It’s all in the name of good old economic migration, the same our forefathers used to do but we have actually abandoned their occupation.
So you can see that a combination of all these factors leads to the problems faced in the farming industry today.