Punjab’s agriculture department has launched a new software through which farmers will be able to claim subsidies and seek financial assistance much more conveniently. On face value, the initiative sounds promising but barriers like accessibility, ease of use and a gaping digital divide remain prevalent. Perhaps a more holistic approach, one that tackles the root of the problems faced by the agriculture sector, need to be explored.

Earlier, farmers needed to use Punjab Information Technology Board’s (PITB) application that required a 13-digit code which would enable them to claim subsidies. This system proved to be inefficient due to hardships in logging into the app and using it as well. The new app introduced by the sector is one that is not void of the same drawbacks—a software that farmers have to log into, seek verification by the agriculture department and claim subsidies from HBL. It seems counterintuitive to adopt a very similar platform to aid farmers who were already struggling with the system.

The question of whether all this is sufficient to address the grievances of local farmers still remains. Major issues like a faulty landholding structure still affect subsistence farmers across the province. Around 42 percent of our farms are smaller than 2.5 acres; this disrupts proficiency and mass production, leaving farms underequipped. Similarly, the seed provision mechanism also needs to be altered in Punjab. 80 percent of all seed comes from informal sources. This means that unreliability in regards to the source can seriously cost farmers. Lastly, the heavy price tag that comes along with irrigation systems is also crippling for local farmers—owing to the use of electricity and fuel to power tube wells. So while we take a step forward in empowering our farmers, we also need to resolve long-standing inconveniences that have been proven to be a hurdle in running farms.

Each step we take to improve the situation is vital. However, there is no denying that more needs to be done, especially in regards to structural reforms.