LAHORE - By adopting new farming techniques, batter management and latest technology, the women growers have succeeded to enhance per acre yield of wheat by about 25 maunds to 45-50 maunds from earlier production of 20-25 maunds in Southern Punjab district of Muzaffargarh- one of the most backward areas of the country.

The wheat as well as other crops production, harvested in 500 acres of land by women farmers, have shown almost double production after the training sessions provided by Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy with the support of Usaid in water conservation, wheat production technology, tunnel farming, kitchen gardening, compost formation and soil and water testing methods.

To implement this project the qualified staff was hired which worked closely with Agriculture Department and BZU Multan, stated Poda executive director Sameena Nazir. She said that all worked together to impart trainings to 500 women farmers on subjects of tunnel farming, water conservation techniques and crop disease identification to get maximum output using lesser labor.  The Usaid funded project is also giving women farmers silos to preserve their seeds. This is a major need of small landholding farmers, said Mian Abid Hussain, EDO of Agri Dept, Muzaffargarh. A lot of seed is wasted because the small farming families do not have silos to preserve the seeds, he explained.

An important element of this training is the capacity building of women farmers to learn modern techniques to improve traditional agri practices, observed Sumaira Ishfaq, the project manager who moved from Islamabad to this area to implement this project of rural women empowerment. Sumaira has also the honour of being nominated by the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition as one of 100 ‘Women of Courage.’ For the 5th International Day of Rural Women 2012, the ARWC selected 100 women who have demonstrated commitment to advocating for women’s rights in rural societies in Asia.

Muzaffargarh is one of the most backward localities of Pakistan with extremely low literacy rate, controlled by feudal lords, having landholdings of thousands of acres. This is the base of extremism where financial support is making its way to religious clerics from organisations of Middle Eastern countries ostensibly with the direct support of those governments. Here the network of mosques and seminaries of different rival religious sects is being strengthened through an influx of charity in order to expand these sects’ presence in the area. The general public of Pakistan usually considers the US government as an adversary in comparison with the Middle Eastern Muslim monarchies, as they continue to support the Pakistani nation through funding religious seminaries and by establishing mosques. On the other hand the US has the credit of empowering the most deprived segment of the society in the most backward area of the country-the community living in direct clutches of landlords and religious fanatics.

“It was very hard but I am happy that I was able to help women in Muzaffagarh to improve their lives in an unfriendly and male-dominated atmosphere”, she said. Initially the project faced many problems as local people looked us suspiciously. She said these projects should also be started in other parts of Pakistan as well. “We have set the examples that women can learn to own land, can become excellent farm managers and work together as a group”, added Sumaira Ishfaq. “I am so happy that my family has now finally recognized me as a ‘woman farmer’, says Shareefan Mai standing proudly over her bumper wheat field in a small village of Chak Mohsin Khan, Union Council Thatta Qureshi of Muzaffargarh.

She is expecting to harvest 25 munds more wheat compared to last year harvest which is possible through new techniques of farming. Shareefan is one of the 500 women who have learned new ways of agriculture from Poda’s women farmers schools set-up in different eight locations of Muzzafargarh.