Young female farmers can make the difference: a success story from Pakistan

By Musarat Begum

I am a BA student working on agriculture (kitchen gardening) as a part-time job. I have acquired good experience in producing vegetables using indigenous techniques, seeds from my own plot, and compost from my own compost pits, minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In this way, the vegetables produced are better tasting and healthy. People in my village prefer buying these vegetable due to good taste and better quality as compared to vegetables that are available in the market. I sell my produce at market rates and this is a factor both attracting my costumers and increasing them day by day.

I belong to a poor family living in a rural area, where the available sources of income are very limited. My father works as a carpenter in the village on a daily wage basis and his income is very low. He has to feed a large family and cover our education expenses too. For this reason, I wished to help my father and do something to generate some income. Therefore, I joined as a volunteer the “Bindra Khanam” female CO & Community Development Foundation a cluster organization working on the agriculture sector. I attended a three-day workshop on kitchen gardening through the IFAD-supported Azad Jammu Kashmir Community Development Programme (AJKCDP). This training enabled me to learn useful techniques to grow vegetables and help my father with kitchen gardening. As a result of this, we were able to produce vegetables for household consumption and to save Rs. 48,000 annually, excluding production costs. I am very happy to have contributed to ensure that my family was able to cover the expenses associated to the education of my brothers and sister. Furthermore, my experience generated a positive impact on successful involvement of young people in agriculture.

In the second year of vegetable production, I managed to increase the vegetable cultivation area and produce even more surplus. Through sales, during the whole year, I earned Rs. 52,000 and saved Rs. 48000. I also dried some vegetables to be consumed during the winter season. All my family members supported me during plugging, sowing, and marketing the vegetables. This was a mutually-learning process, with me being helped by my father and my father learning from my experience.

I believe that commitment, training and skills development in agriculture, better use of local and knowledge resources, and full support from my family were the major factors of success. Nevertheless, I also faced a number of constraints such as water shortage; unavailability of quality seeds, solar drying, storage and packing facilities, and tunnels for off seasons vegetable production; limited access to market; and land erosion.

The following measures could be adopted for agriculture development in rural areas: build water pounds near spring channels to collect and store excess water and use it for dry season; build protecting walls to stop land; grow forest nurseries as well as fruit plant nurseries through community organizations (COs) to promote social forestry and income generation of people; promote small scale dairy farming as well as poultry farming to develop natural resources for organic agriculture development; enhance skills of COs about agriculture, social forestry, poultry and livestock development; and promote organic agriculture through the use of local resources.