ISLAMABAD  - More than 14,000 small farmers, 3,000 agriculture experts and 300 service providers have been imparted training for efficient use of water under a US-funded programme during last four years.

To achieve this goal, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has partnered with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and 11 Pakistani institutions on a project to demonstrate and disseminate best practices and technologies in watershed rehabilitation and irrigation improvement to help rural Pakistani farmers. In this regard, participants of a roundtable held at the US Embassy here informed that the $3.3 million, four and a half year project that began in 2011, strengthens the capacity of Pakistani agricultural institutions to show farmers ways to better capture and store water, reduce the loss of water or soil and more efficiently water crops.

The participants included Cheryl Simmons, National Conservation Technology Specialist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mike Kucera, Agronomist, National soil Survey Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA, Otto Gonzalez, Special Project Officer, Office of Capacity Building and Development, Foreign Agriculture Service, USDA, Dro Abdul Majid, Country Manager, Pakistan, International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR)and Dr. Muhammad Aslam Soil Fertility Expert, ICARDA.

USDA National Conservation Technology Specialist, Cheryl Simmons observed that by combining some old and new technologies, Pakistan’s farmers can lead the way to wise water use at home and on farmland.

The participants informed that they have shared technologies and practices such as solar-powered drip irrigation, simple drip bucket irrigation, planting on raised beds and ridges and on-farm water storage methods with the farmers.

The farmers were also guided about the innovative ways through short instructional videos and professional training.

While commenting on the programme, Dr. Abdul Majid, Country Manager of ICARDA in Pakistan said, the watershed and irrigation improvement project has created a lot of awareness among farmers, professionals and policy makers about techniques for efficient water use.

Chairman, PCRWR, Dr Muhammad Ashraf said that during the programme the farmers were imparted training as how to decrease cost of agriculture input and enhance the production.

He said out of 30 million hectors, 12 million hectors is dry land in Pakistan, adding, “We imparted training to the small farmers regarding increase of harvest in rain fed areas.” Dr. Muhammad Aslam, Soil Fertility Expert, ICARDA said that farmers can get more yield by adopting land fertility skills.

He said that Agriculture University, Faisalabad has trained thousands of farmers in 30 districts on soil health and they are getting more yield by cutting down input cost.

Special Projects Officer, Otto Gonzalez presented an overview of the project initiated to help the Pakistani farmers.