Karachi: Engro Foundation, the CSR arm of Engro Corporation, along with Engro Eximp Agriproducts, the Company’s rice processing business, has successfully concluded its System Productivity Innovative Rice Trainings (SPIRiT) project.
The project was a first of its kind training program that has successfully introduced innovative and more effective rice-wheat farming techniques and technologies to smallholder farmers in five districts of Punjab.
The project was supported by the TVET Reform Support Programme, which is funded by the European Union, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Royal Norwegian Embassy. This Programme has been commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
Using teams of agri-experts, trainers and mobilizers, the SPIRiT project trained 10,782 farmers & 1,644 agri-farm support persons in the areas of resource and water conservation, plant population management, improved harvesting & best crop management practices in the rice-wheat cropping system over a period of 20-months, from December 2013 to July 2015. The Project areas comprised of 40-50 villages in each selected pocket of Sheikhupura (Mureedke & Khanqah Dogran), Gujranwala/ Sialkot (Qilla Deedar Singh & Madiala Tigga) and Mandi Baha Uddin (Gojra).
Teams worked with farmers in the field throughout the whole life cycle of both these major crops while conducting individual contact activities like farm visits and mass contact activities such as seminars, farmer meetings, demonstrations, group discussions, field days and briefings along with literature distribution.
Farmers were introduced to innovative techniques such as Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR), Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD), Optimum Plant Population Management (OPPM), Zero-tillage Wheat Sowing and Quality Harvesting of Paddy. Another important component was to upgrade & install Rice-Harvesting Kits in the combine harvesters being used in the target area. The project distributed 200 uniquely designed quality rice-harvesting kits that can be installed in the combine harvesters, facilitating quality harvesting of paddy with minimum harvesting losses. Other innovations introduced by the project on an unprecedented scale in Pakistan were the Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) and Zero-tillage Wheat Sowing technologies.
To develop an enabling environment for sustainable proliferation and adoption of SPIRiT Project concepts even after the closure of the Project, 525 early adopter farmers were intensively trained to become anchors of the innovative farming techniques within their communities and continue training their fellow farmers.
SPIRiT on-field training program has enabled smallholder rice farmers to boost productivity by 8%-15% per acre per rice season, while conserving 25%-35% water and agricultural resources along with other benefits like skill enhancement, improvement in farmers’ income & livelihoods. However, millions of rice farmers across Pakistan are still utilizing ineffective and outdated methods. The SPIRiT project concept holds huge potential to improve livelihoods and food security.