Vice Chancellor Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture (MNSUA) Dr Asif Ali has anticipated that the country will show remarkable progress in agriculture in coming days as the future farmers will be graduates of agricultural universities and colleges.

Talking to The Nation in an exclusive interview here on Tuesday, he added that the varsity would bring an economic revolution in the region by introducing latest farming techniques. He disclosed that varsity plans setting up a Farm Services Centre where all agri departments would sit under one roof. “The farmer will get solution to all problems relating to pesticides, seeds, land test, fertilizer and advisory at one place,” he added.

He further revealed that the varsity is going to set up a model farm over 500 acres of land in Jalalpur Pirwala. “We’ll introduce latest farming techniques like drip irrigation at this farm,” he declared.

He said that the economy of South Punjab is agriculture-based and every second house in the region is owned by a farmer. “The life revolves around agriculture in this region. Had this agriculture university been set up 25 years ago, the region would have been far more developed today,” he asserted. He pointed out that the area housed a number of agricultural research institutions but they could not make progress due to lack of fresh knowledge. He added that the varsity would share modern knowledge with the society as it is a project of agriculture department and all organs of the department have been integrated into this project. “It is our goal to send out the graduates with maximum professional learning obtained through practical exposure at all affiliate agricultural departments,” he disclosed.

The VC was of the opinion that we needed to bring the cost of production down if we wanted to promote agricultural business and increase the income of farmer. He pointed out that many precious resources like rainwater were being spoiled in the country. “Similarly, our farmer utilizes pesticide, seed and fertilizer in proportion with the acres of land instead of number of plants. We need to teach the farmer precision agriculture through which he can achieve even better results by spending half amount of water and pesticide,” he further pinpointed. He said that all agricultural departments had been brought under one roof in the varsity to make the farmers aware of efficient utilization of resources.

He declared that the best human resource would be brought to the MNSUA to turn it into a centre of excellence. “Our motto is to boost agricultural business and activity. We’re inviting ambassadors of different countries to Multan to introduce local agri products like mango to them.

He regretted that despite remarkable growth in agricultural production, the growers had to face financial losses. “It’s because of absence of agricultural marketing and value addition. Let’s take the example of potato. We had a bumper crop but no one guided the growers to get their produce turned into potato paste or chips,” he added. He said that we did not have enough space to store wheat while the country also produced big crops of mango and cotton but we lagged far behind in value addition sector.

Answering a question, he said that the varsity was passing through its struggling phase as its first badge was going to pass out very soon but still it did not have own campus. “The government allocated 180 acres of land for the campus but 177 acres are still under occupation of tenants,” he added. He said that the tenants had lost the case and the court had ordered them to vacate the land but they were still in occupation. He disclosed that the government of Punjab has approved Rs1,450 million for the campus development while the case for approval of another Rs3,000 million from Higher Education Commission is under process. “But the government will release these funds when we have occupation of this land,” he lamented.

To a query, he said that six major programmes including Agri Business, IT, Computer Science, Agri and Environmental Sciences were currently being run by the varsity while Agri Engineering, Social Sciences, Home Sciences and Farm Management would soon be introduced.