Farmers living in remote parts of northern districts of Pakistan have scaled new heights of success by introducing new varieties of onion. It is a two-prong strategy applied by the Inter-Co-operation (IC), a Swiss development agency, to make them self-sufficient in crop production and train them in new and scientific methods of cultivation.
Under Livelihood Project Hindukash (LPH), IC has launched its onion project in Talash area of Lower Dir, which turned into a big achievement. IC’s project succeeded in opening up a new window of public-private partnership between the Magnus Khal Seed (MKS), global onion seed/bulb producing and marketing company and Onion Interest Group (OIG) of local farmers growing basic category onion bulbs in Talash Valley. Onion crop is produced in different ecological zones of Pakistan. Experts from Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department said, “In KP, onion is grown as a winter crop which fulfills 50 percent demand of consumers in the province.”
“According to an estimate, 30 percent increase in the yield is possible if certified onion seed is used. However acquiring such seed always remained challenge for both the Public and private sectors in Pakistan as only two percent of certified seed is produced in the country, while the remaining shortfall is covered through imports from various countries, mostly from India. Some of the farmers also produce seed on limited scale for their own use,” they added.
According to the local farmers, IC with the financial support of the Swiss government, through the platform of Livelihood Hindukash project is trying to resolve the challenges and issues in the rural economies by strengthening existing livelihoods resources and value chains in the selected areas of the KP and Fata. Since 2007, IC is exploring and augmenting the value chains for possibilities of local economic development in Talash Valley, a fertile area in Hindukash Range in Dir Lower district.
According to the experts, major winter cash crops contribute about 30 percent share in the household income of farmers in the Valley. Wheat, maize, tomato and onion are the main crops grown on about 400 acres of agricultural land. The feasibility study prepared by the LPH in 2011 revealed that Talash Valley is most suitable for growing quality onion and bulb production.
In order to turn the subsistence farming into reliable onion seed production, the project enjoying the technical assistance of AEDDL and FSC&RD. In 2012, it organised farmers into the interest groups and piloted cultivation of SWAT-1 variety and remained successful in producing certified onion seed. Replicating the success, a batch of 80 farmers was trained in certified seed production, its storage and linked them with the market.
Now, more farmers inclined towards onion seed production in the valley due to its comparative income margin over the wheat. The emerging challenge foreseen, however, was limitation of variety specific isolation areas for certified seed production and limited availability of registered varieties of basic category onion bulbs from agricultural research institutes. MKS produces basic onion bulbs of different varieties in several locations of Punjab, Sindh and KP and transports these to Chitral for certified onion seed production as its dry temperate climate suits the production and minimises risks of viral and fungal diseases.
In October 2014, LPH under the technical supervision of AEDDL facilitated the seed company in Talash Valley to conduct a varietal trial of four pre-basic onion varieties to test against fungal diseases, yield and quality bulb. At least, 14 progressive farmers of OIG agreed to use their land for the trial. Two varieties namely Amazone and Mustang were recorded high yielding as compared to the existing variety SWAT-1.
After successful trial results in October 2015, MKS formally entered into public-private partnership agreement with OIG in Talash Valley to initially produce basic onion bulbs on 5.5 acres of land. As per agreement, MKS will provide quality inputs required for onion bulb production to 14 OIG-member group and guarantees buyback of the whole production. The buyback contract with the company has reduced the farmers’ risk from price fluctuation. The LPH facilitated the deal between the two parties in negotiating mutual agreement by ensuring principles of equity and transparency.
In comparison with cost benefit analysis of 15 farmers for the last three years, MKS is now paying 17 percent premium price over the average prevailing market rate to four onion farmers. Whereas, on the average 29 percent additional profit per 100kg bag will be received by the farmers over the traditional net profit which also includes provision of free of cost inputs like, onion seeds, gunny bags and facility of picking the harvest from respective farms. The provision of quality fertilisers, pesticides though on payment but in time, technical guidance and supervision also adds value to the overall earning of the farmers.
Head of Seed Production Division of MKS Pakistan, Sajjad Ali said, “Company has huge production plans for upcoming years. Based on the result of this year, we can shift major portion of our production to Talash Valley, which can certainly increase the number of beneficiaries. It highly acknowledges the efforts of LPH and other partners for facilitation.”
Source: Business Recorder
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