Ghizer’s Farmers Offer Feedback on Potato Seed

21 May, 2012

A small group of 25 jubilant farmers met with an IKF team in Yasin Valley to express their views on the impact of the IKF’s potato seed distribution program in Gilgit-Baltistan.   The initiative worth Rs. 13 Million, spanned all 7 districts of the province and catered to 3000 of the neediest farmers in Diamer, Gilgit, Skardu, Ghanche, Hunza-Nagar, Astore and Ghizer.  It was initiated after positive feedback was received from beneficiaries of last year’s program, whereby certified wheat seed was offered as an input to those who had lost their seed stores and standing crops due to heavy rainfall and landsliding.

At that time, the IKF’s primary concern was food security.  This year, taking into account, the advice of our partners and the beneficiaries, potato seed was offered as an input to the poor farmers, so as to provide not just food security but economic security as well.  Potato seed  is the foremost cash crop in all of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and is relied upon as a consistent source of income.  However, due to the fact that farmers in GB tend to be poor, the repeated use of poor quality potato seed has served only to reduce the fertility of the soil along with its productivity.

To combat these negative trends, the IKF, based on advice it received from the Federal Seed Certification Dept and with logistical assistance from the Gilgit-Baltistan Dept. of Agriculture acquired 5000 bags of Kuroda,  Asterix & Santee varieties of high quality potato seed.  In fact, it is asserted by the Agricultural experts there that the sowing of high quality potato seed will not just increase output, it will repair the soil from the damage that has been caused by years of single cropping with poor quality seed.  Despite delays caused by the prevailing law and order situation in the Northern Areas, the seed made it to their respective destinations in all 7 Districts of GB in time for sowing.

As soon as the law and order situation permitted, a two person monitoring and evaluation team traveled to Gilgit-Baltistan on May 15th 2012.  The two team members, Naseem ur-Rehman and Isfundiar Kasuri met with 25 farmers in the Union Council of Taus, which is located in the scenic Yasin Valley.   Gumburi Khan, one of the farmers we met with informed us that the community had banded together to raise the funds required to transport the seed from Gilgit to Taus.  They have also vowed to share the seed they collect, after harvesting, with their fellow farmers who could not benefit directly from the IKF potato seed distribution this year.  In this way, the IKF hopes that the participatory approach that is key to its own strategies for social development, may enable the subsistence farmers of Gilgit-Baltistan to not just help themselves but to lift up their communities with them.

It is anticipated that potatoes will be harvested starting the end of July.  Stay tuned for a more comprehensive report on the success of the program after the harvest is complete in August.

Click on the link below to view a short documentary on the monitoring and evaluation trip to Gilgit-Baltistan.

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