By Khalid Abbas Saif

AGRICULTURE IS linchpin of the economy is to be redefined and reprioritized the broader parameters of production, harvesting, storage, marketing, and value addition by keeping in view the climatic issues, availability, quality, conservation and judicious and efficient use of water to turn around the fortunes of ordinary people of Pakistan.

Most recently an orientation ceremony has been held for newcomers on the eve of World Food Day at Iqbal Auditorium, Faisalabad Agriculture University (UAF), where UAF Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan as chief guest expressed these views.

According to him, the university is focusing on equipping the students with all tools and techniques to effectively meet the current and future challenges posed by population growth, rapid urbanisation, pressing water resources, and climatic and social issues to educate the people as angles of change. He was quick to say that in past, we did not pay more attention to inculcate the students that agriculture is a noble and worthy profession that needed to be pursued with dedication and dynamism, hence our human resource came in the market with a lack of ownership for agriculture.

Dean Faculty of Agriculture Prof. Dr Muhammad Ashfaq, Dean Sciences Professor Dr Muhammad Ashraf, Dean Agri Engineering Professor Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad, Dean Social Sciences Professor Dr M. Iqbal Zafar, PO Students Affairs Professor Dr M. Younas, Hall Warden Professor Dr Amjad Aulakh, Controller of Exams Professor Dr Tanvir Malik, Advisor Foreign Students Prof. Dr Tahir Siddique, Abdul Ghafoor and Zaheer Ahmad also spoke on the occasion and briefed the newcomers about the activities of their respective offices.

Presently, the university is pursuing the agenda of entering the students after 10th grade in order to produce such manpower dedicated to agriculture and rural development with vigour and enthusiasm. The university is offering 25 disciplines in first degree programmes with hundreds of elective courses for specialization.

The VC revealed that the University is setting milestones of success by making the education affordable to the neglected rural people of the country adding that in last year not a single scholarship application was declined and out of 13,000 students, about 25 per cent are getting free education through various scholarships and financial assistance schemes of disbursing more than 80 million rupees in the University.

Expressing his views about world food day, he said, food is always first for human life adding that the keywords “Roti, Kapra, aur Makaan” can only be fulfilled befittingly if agriculture is growing; so we need to give the agriculture its due priority. He said that agricultural scientists gave dividend to the economy as at the time of independence for 35 million population, the country was producing 8 mounds of wheat per acre, which increased 4 times adding that prior to 1980, the cotton was not more than 3 million bails which touched 15 million bales this year coupled with 4 times more increase in rice, 8 times more in corn, fruits and now poultry has become the 2nd big industry of the country owing to manpower trained by the University and the knowledge, technology and skills disseminated to the farming community.

He said we do not have a Silicon Valley, mobile manufacturing, or other foreign exchange earning industry, but our agriculture is giving impetus to the economy as exports of 26 billion dollars are mainly dependent on cotton, rice, corn, fruits, and sports tools so prosperity of engineers and doctors is dependent on agriculture, which provide raw material to both the professions.

He urged the future agricultural scientists to meet the potential of getting 80 mounds of wheat per acre and make possibilities of taking more than 8,000 litter of milk against the existing production of 2,000 litter of milk per animal per year and also keep an eye on the global trends. He said, after petroleum, Pakistan as an agricultural country is importing edible oil by spending 240 billion dollars per year adding that we need to encourage and promote the oilseed cultivation in the country to make it self-sufficient.

He described the food and water security inseparable and urged the need to address the trans-boundary water issues, inter-provincial, technological, hydrological, storage, quality, and conservation of water issues. He emphasised the need to arrest the growing pumping of water through 1 million tube wells installed at farmland adding that underground water is a public property that needs to be paid to the public and requires prudent use.

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