Kitchen gardening plan finishes in a mess


Provincial Agriculture department has been proudly claiming that it has successfully achieved the sale target of 170,000 seed bags for kitchen gardening across Punjab. However, no official in provincial agriculture department is able to estimate economic impact as no recordkeeping has been done during activity for monitoring and evaluation. Sources revealed that agriculture department had directed all lower cadre officials to sale minimum 10 seed bags for promoting culture of kitchen gardening in the province. They disclosed that all junior officials were compelled to deposit Rs500 – an amount equivalent to the price of 10 bags – to the agriculture department. They claimed that most officials had to bear the cost of flawed project, while some had recovered their amount by selling seeds to their friends and families.
Speaking to Profit, a senior official of Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI), who was part of the whole campaign, agreed that the department had failed to maintain records of buyers. He also failed to give any concrete answer about economic impact of the whole activity. However, he claimed that three greengrocers had closed their businesses in district Jhang as people in the area were producing sufficient vegetables to meet their requirements.
Responding to a query, he underlined that as prices of vegetables were showing rising trend, government had decided to encourage masses to produce vegetable for their own consumption. However, he was not aware about a single kitchen gardener who had achieved success through this project, mainly due to absence of buyers’ data.
Speaking to Profit Hamid Waleed, a buyer who bought seeds for kitchen gardening from Punjab Agriculture Department said he had to acquire services of a professional gardener for setting up a small kitchen garden in his home. The seed packet did not have any remarkable information or instruction about sowing or growing of plants, except the contact numbers of the agriculture department. He further disclosed that he was not offered any support from provincial agriculture department as his contact information was not recorded at the time of purchase.
After contacting Punjab Agriculture Department Director General (Extension) Dr Anjum Ali, he claimed that his department had telephone numbers of seed buyers and Agriculture Department was contacting buyers to provide them extension services. He disclosed that historically, the agriculture department could not sell more than 10,000 seed bags; but it had happened for the first time that his department had surpassed the target of 170,000 bags.
He said it was a gigantic programme as department had sold 170,000 seed bags in which some 108,000 Agriculture Extension officials, NGOs and agriculture research institutes were involved. He underscored that government did not have to invest a single penny in the project. Rs8.5 million worth of sale proceeds had been deposited in the government account, he maintained.


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