Agriculture contributes to 21% of Pakistan's GDP. It is a major source of livelihood for about 60% of the rural population and 45% of the country's labour force (Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12).
With a total horticulture production of 8.1 million tons, High Value off-seasons vegetables (HV/OSV) is estimated at 4.5% or 350,000 tons only and offers potential for growth in domestic and export markets. A large number of small farmers are involved in cultivation of vegetable as it represents opportunities for enhancing competitiveness through quality production, value addition and increased sale.
Agribusiness Support Fund aims at increasing competiveness and productivity of horticulture and livestock sectors. One of ASF's objectives specifically focuses on strengthening the capacity of smallholders and farmer enterprises. ASF formed Farmers Enterprise Groups (FEGs) to not only facilitate joint access to services, resources, economies of scale but also to overcome financial and technical constraints currently being faced by them. Some of these FEGs comprise of farmers involved in cultivation of vegetables. Production of high value off-season vegetables leads to greater profits. Thus as a result these FEGs are being provided technical and financial assistance for walk in tunnel farms under ASF.
Realizing high market demand of fresh vegetables in Islamabad, an FEG consisting of eleven farmers involved in vegetable cultivation from Chatta Bakhtawar, Chapper and Buni Behak villages was formed. The FEG members were trained in enterprise development and use of commercial scale tunnel technology, besides providing support in establishment of tunnel infrastructure, provision of improved seeds and establishing their linkages with the market for sale of their produce. The case in focus is one of the FEGs members, who participated in ASF's assisted support for growing HV/OSV
Mr. Ibrar Hussian, an FEG member from Chatta Bakhtawar village, and his family used to grow cereal crops for several decades; has now shifted towards growing HV/OSV. Mr. Ibrar installed two tunnels with off season vegetable plants of tomato, cucumber and capsicum with support from ASF. Considering tunnel farming's benefits he constructed the third tunnel with his own resources to get maximum benefits from off-seasons vegetable production. "It encouraged me to install more tunnels to get maximum benefits from HV/OSV production", said Mr. Ibrar. He added that the initiative inclined the local community of Chatta Bakhtawar towards growing HV/OSV in their small land holdings to fulfil family's bread and butter requirements, besides creating new job opportunities for the local people.
Mr. Ibrar proudly said that he earned fifty thousand rupees from ASF HV/OSV tunnel without spending even a single penny and still earning from tomato plants as they are still in fruiting stage. He said in past he used to grow cereal crops (wheat and Maize) on six acres by spending sixty thousand and receiving a sales revenue Pak rupees one hundred thousand only. Further he had to hire five to six labourers on time of sowing and harvesting for 10 days which was burden on him. On the other hand in HV/OSV, he needs only two labourers for land preparation and two for nursery and on hoeing stage only.
Mr. Ibrar has also established his outlet near his farm for sale of fresh vegetables. He is making more than double money from the same piece of land by growing HV/OSV. He said ASF helped me in marketing of my produce not only in local market but also established linkages with Metro Islamabad and Lahore Expo Center, for supply of produce.
Mr. Ibrar thanked ASF for the support extended to his farm. He was optimist that profitability will lead the sustainability step in future and by doing this he can make the living standard of his family better