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Land reforms inevitable for agricultural growth, says Sharmila Farooqui

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Islamabad: Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sharmila Farooqui said that his party is very much committed to land reforms in the country and empowerment of small farmers, who account for lion’s share in country’s overall agriculture production.

“Our party is not divided on need for land reforms in conformity with the vision of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the party, who wanted to see the subsistence farmers empowered and masters of their own destiny,” She said. She expressed these views while addressing the concluding session of the two-day ‘National Dialogue on Land Grabbing’, which opened here on July 5. The event was organized by the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) in collaboration with the International Land Coalition, Land Watch Asia, Asian NGO Coalition – for Agrarian reform and rural development and National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan.

The dialogue was attended by a member of civil society organizations, NGOs, educational institutions, farmers’ organizations, journalists, researchers and students. They also actively participated in the discussion on the worsening situation of the land grabbing and its effects on different sectors of Pakistan’s economy, particularly agriculture. She remarked that our party’s efforts for land reforms in past have faced stiff resistance by the exploitative feudal lords of the country. Nevertheless, party is pushing hard with the reforms as these are need of the time and in favor of growth of the country’s agro-economy.

Sharmila Farooqui told the participants that she had also asked her top key party leadership to keep land reforms on the party’s top political agenda and include it into the party manifesto.

“I have proposed the party that minimum land ownership ceiling should be 25 acres as it would be the first step towards land reforms,” he said. Talking about notorious Tenancy Act 1950, she said that the oppressive Act hardly is in consonance with the needs of present time and favors only landlords and is cause of small farmers’ exploitation. “I have also suggested the party leadership that either it should be abolished and replaced with new Act or be amended to empower the subsistence farmers,” Sharmila Farooqui said. “Of course, this Tenancy Act is a major hurdle to the land reforms.” Najma Sadiq of Shirkatgah, a women’s resource center in Karachi, spoke on different aspects of land grabbing and corporatisaion of farming lands in the country. “Unchecked land grabbing by different stakeholders of the society, corporatisation of the agriculture farming are grave threats to the small farmers and agriculture – mainstay of the country’s economy,” she highlighted. Najma sadiq said that corporatisaion of the agriculture farming in the country would result in unhampered exploitation of the land, a key resource, and lead to use of foreign and exotic species of different crops, which would turn the fertile lands infertile after few years.

Chief Executive Officer of SCOPE, Tanveer Arif, warned of possible strong movements by the farmers against the government, if it fails to stop promoting corporate agriculture farming in the country.

“Instead of allowing foreign investors to purchase fertile land in the country on the pretext that it would allow transfer of new agriculture technology and investment, the government should evolve such programs, which would help build up the capacity of farmers and aware the farmers of new technology and its uses and benefits,” he highlighted.

He also urged the government to review its decision of allowing corporate foreign investors to buy land in Pakistan. Otherwise, corporate agriculture farming, if allowed, would not only hurt sustainability of the agriculture but also would render millions of small farmers jobless, deepen poverty, hunger and result in food insecurity.

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Saleem Shaikhhttp://saleemshaikh.blogspot.com/
The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.
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