Thursday, September 16, 2010

Floods Recovery:land reform,water rights,in-land fishery and white revolution

We should be coming out of floods soon,as at least in Punjab people have started returning home to start planting for the next crop.In Sindh also,people are expected to start returning.Flood victims will have to be rehabilitated ,as they have lost almost every thing;houses,cattle,food stock,plantation, crop etc.It is an extremely difficult task.Most of the affectees are small farmers and the landless poor,operating in the Kachcha areas.Next crop is to come in six months, and the affectees have to eat and survive in this period beside providing inputs to produce their livelihood.

In this article, I would like to discuss some of the options and approaches that could produce some results in near term,although may take some time,and may not be implementable immediately.However,as I have pointed out elsewhere,government(s) can utilise this calamity as an opportunity to launch some fundamental reforms in the economy and agricultural sector in Pakistan.

Let me first of all and at the first opportunity explain what is meant by "white revolution", as some readers may be concerned and nervous over the word revolution.White revolution is a term referring to the prospect and potential of very high increase in milk production in our country.For almost a decade , we are talking about the white revolution by launching innovative development and assisting programmes in the live stock sector.With more than 200,000 cattle having been lost in the floods,the dream of such a revolution seem to have receded further into
the oblivion.However, a more distributive and broad based programme could be launched by providing a pair of cattle under some loan scheme,along with a small piece of land.By some magic ,if government manages to get the money and credit from abroad and lends it to small farmer, where does the land come from.

I have discussed elsewhere the possibilities of launching land reforms,in a limited fashion,which may be politically feasible.I would not elaborate it over here,except that the Government(s) can speed up and rather broaden the land distribution programme that had been in the pipeline in Sindh,before the floods.Same can be done at much broader and wider scale in Balochistan,where only 5-6% of the countries population lives on almost 50% land mass of the country i.e., one million households vs 25 million households elsewhere.I have similarly argued for water rights for the landless from all the future irrigation network expansion of the future, and further increase in irrigation water availability.

Let us here focus on the flood water.Many water bodies in the country and especially in Sindh and Balochistan ,which had become almost extinct due to lack of water, should have been revived and rehabilitated by the excess flood water.In lower Punjab,farmers are reportedly offering higher bids for leases of these water bodies with their enhanced fishery potential.New areas with deeper land where inundation has been very high could possibly converted to new water bodies.In many countries like Bangladesh, Peru and Brazil etc aquatic fishery projects have been launched successfully in the flood plains under community based systems.

Traditionally in-land water bodies are auctioned and given out on annual contracts to often rich and well-connected contractors who try to maximize their fish catch , small artisanal fishermen from their subsistence activities.As it happens conventionally in Pakistan, a lot of money and income goes into the pockets of those awarding the contracts and their patrons.Very little income is received by the government.Provincial governments should consider awarding communal or cooperative ownership or fishing rights to nearby and traditional communities along with assistance and extension providing hatcheries and feed supplies under some credit schemes.New water bodies may be created by trapping the flood water and connecting it with river through channels.In Haiti a similar project has been launched under Clinton Global initiative,about which a film has been shown recently on CNN.A similar project could be launched in Sindh and elsewhere in the country.Through such innovative schemes and projects,one could mitigate and alleviate the disastrous consequences of floods to our people and the economy.However we must move fast, and move optimistically in a positive way,looking for wisdom and approaches from whatever directions these may be be available.Fortunately ,world today is a global village and technology and wisdom is available to meet the challenges.World community appears to be quite eager to help,if we are eager to help ourselves.

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