Dr M Subhan Qureshi, Dean of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences in the Agriculture University of Peshawar (AUP), has revealed that a project agreement has been signed which will enable it to compete for international assistance jointly with Washington University. The project in question has the objective of improving livelihood of those engaged in the sector as well as the production of clean food in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In addition, the terms of reference of the project include identifying existing inefficient practices and documenting them and recommending improved practices premised on studies to be conducted under the project and elsewhere that would eventually be introduced into the local production system. AUP is not the only university that is engaged in research with foreign institutions as Agriculture University of Faisalabad and Veterinary Sciences Lahore is also competing for such grant assistance that would not only strengthen the research capacity of our local institutions but also lead to an improvement in the production of farm products. Thus these project agreements with our research institutions must be supported.
Dr Qureshi while explaining the salient features of the project stated that the project would focus on management interventions for enhancing livestock ovulation rates, conception birth rates, growth rates, feed conversion efficiency and health status with special focus on debilitating parasitic infections and other animal diseases. And available plants in the project area would be evaluated in terms of their toxicity, medicinal and nutritional properties.
There is no doubt that livestock can generate considerable economic activity in any country. The actual benefits range from providing meat, a good source of protein required by humans, to dairy products which can constitute a number of industries including milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream. Animals also provide fibre, which include wool and mohair provided by sheep and goats while cows, deer and sheepskins are used by the leather industry and fertiliser is provided by manure.
In this context, it is relevant to note that the present government, as per the Economic Survey, has been engaged in mega development projects which include (i) strengthening of livestock services project which envisaged field studies and the establishment of National Epidemiology Network for Livestock Disease Surveillance and Reporting, (ii) livestock production and development for meat production under which 13,000 feed-lot fattening operations (beef and mutton) in which more than 163,000 beef animals and 2000,000 mutton animals were produced, (iii) milk collection and processing and dairy production and development programme wherein 207 milk producer groups were formed in all provinces, 150 milk cooling tanks were installed, 63.3 tons of fodder seeds and 663 tons of animal ration/feed on cost basis was provided to the milk producer group, (iv) Prime Minister's special initiative for livestock envisaged a total of 290 veterinary clinics with quality medicines and 3,000 rural community persons were imparted veterinary training of one month and 4,265 rural female livestock farmers were trained in better animal husbandry practices, (v) national programme for control and prevention of avian influenza, (vi) improving reproduction efficiency of cattle and water buffaloes in smallholder production system; and (vii) upgradation and establishment of animal quarantine stations.
However, while these initiatives by the present government must be appreciated as a step in the right direction yet the fact remains that much more can be and should be done not only because agriculture sector remains the major employer engaging 45 percent of the country's labour force but its sub-sector livestock is one of the few productive sectors that is not heavily reliant on fuel or electricity. The growth potential of Pakistan's livestock is considerable and one would hope that the government further strengthens its investment and engagement in this sector.