Vegetables without borders
A first-ever collaboration on agricultural innovation in Punjab brings Pakistan and India closer together
In a week when individuals from India and Pakistan were awarded the Nobel Peace prize, AVRDC also facilitated historic agricultural cooperation across the Punjab border as a part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Agricultural Innovations for Pakistan project.
Initiated by AVRDC South Asia, a three-day meeting at Punjab Agricultural University in India from 8-10 October mapped out activities for the first-ever project collaboration between the university and their agricultural colleagues in Pakistan.
Most meeting participants had never travelled to their neighboring country, despite both sharing the divided province of Punjab that was split between India and Pakistan at independence. Agricultural conditions and needs on both sides of the border are very similar.
“We have had many international projects, but this is the first one with Pakistan,” said the head of the university’s Department of Vegetable Science, Dr Major Dhaliwal, as he welcomed the Pakistan team. “We are honored to have visitors from Pakistan – it’s like a family reunion.”
The three AVRDC staff from Pakistan, led by Mansab Ali, joined more than 30 staff from the university and three members from the AVRDC South Asia regional office, including Regional Director Warwick Easdown.
AVRDC’s work in Pakistan focuses on protected cultivation, increasing mungbean production and improving value chains. In addition to planning joint work in these three areas, the group also visited research facilities and farms across Punjab.
These included university trials, a state government Center of Excellence in protected cultivation, and farmers producing a range of crops under cover and managing marketing cooperatives to improve their returns.
India has made rapid progress in the development of protected cultivation of vegetables. Growing vegetables under sturdy polynet houses – promoted in a joint project between AVRDC and PAU – is almost unknown in Pakistan. There is a need to link Pakistan more strongly to international innovations.
However, Pakistan mungbean yields are higher than those in India, and innovations such as post -emergent herbicide mixes developed in Pakistan have good potential for application in India.
The USAID Agricultural Innovations Program project is helping to link agricultural innovations on both sides of the border, building peace through a shared interest in vegetables.