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Investment in small farmers key to ensure food for all: Oxfam.

Peshawar, March 30, 2012 (Frontier Star): Addressing the provincial launch of Oxfams Grow campaign titled Dharti, political dignitaries and members of social welfare organisations called on the government of Pakistan to ensure immediate investment in small farmers and development of pro-poor agricultural policies. At the launch, attended by more than 400 farmers it was said that more than 60 percent of the population in Pakistan is dependent on agriculture and yet small farmers continue to be one of the most vulnerable groups in Pakistan. It was said that the creation of farmers associations is crucial for ensuring fair prices for farmers? produce, protection of their rights, representation at district and provincial levels and capacity building. Small farmers will continue to struggle with poverty unless immediate and concrete steps are taken to empower them, Oxfams Dharti campaign aims to protect small farmers in KPK through advocating for their rights, suggesting improvements in government policy making and imparting skills to improve crop production and farming techniques. It also aims to facilitate marginal growers for attaining productive, sustainable and shock-resilient farming, said Mehnaz Ajmal, Economic Justice Manager for Oxfam in Pakistan. Without effective pro-poor agricultural mechanisms and systems, small farmers would continue to suffer exploitation in the form of high agri-input costs including ever rising seed prices, fertiliser and machinery costs. We need effective policies today to ensure a better tomorrow for them? said Anwar Khan, Food Director KPK. Campaigners appreciated various past government initiatives for the development of small farmers including, however it was said that much more needed to be done and that steps were needed to effectively link small farmers with such programmes to ensure maximum benefits for them. Under the Dharti drive, a 12-point charter of demands drafted earlier by farmers was presented at the event. It called for free distribution of government land among landless peasants, residential land ownership rights for the poor, district-based peasant courts, farmer-friendly amendments to tenancy acts and an end to the exploitative middlemen system. There is a need for recognising women farmers? rights and develop agriculture policy to provide increased facilities to female farmers such as agricultural training. The focus also needs to be shifted on improving farmers access to land, irrigation water, farm machinery, seeds and new agricultural research for improving crop production and to grow better, share better and live better. Only when this is done will farmers be able to truly benefit from their land, said Rizwan, Additional Secretary, Agricultural Department KP. Farmers present at the event expressed their difficulties including cumbersome credit application processes and lack of extension services by the government including provision of good quality seeds, fair fertiliser prices among others. Pakistan is a disaster prone country and with climate change the risk of floods, droughts, earthquakes will continue to increase. While natural disasters are inevitable their effects on farmers could be minimized effective by enhancing their resilience through crop insurance and disaster resistant farming techniques. The launch was part of a series of events being held by Oxfam under the Dharti campaign, across Pakistan to promote and protect farmers. This campaign was launched in 40 countries in June 2011, is now progressing in 100 countries.

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Publication:The Frontier Star (Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 30, 2012
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