Farmers being trained in tunnel farming

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and the Centre for Excellence in Rural Development (CERD) have joined hands to equip farmers with the latest farming techniques to enable them to cultivate crops through tunnel farming.

A pilot project to this effect is underway across eight union councils in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to WealthPK.
CERD is employing the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, which aims to train farmers via on-site training. “We have been working with a group of farmers for almost two and half years now,” said project manager Naeem, while talking to WealthPK.

He maintained, “We have created groups on WhatsApp where farmers can send their queries to technicians for help.”
“In the past, various agencies provided farmers with tools and training that lasted a year, which is not sufficient,” Naeem said. “Our approach is to provide them with equipment, multi-year training and the after-training support.”

He said CERD technicians have provided training and exposure to farmers over an entire cycle of production. “We are assisting them from nursery-raising to sale of produce and management of finances so as to enable them to raise nurseries next season as well.”

Naeem maintained that during the ongoing phase, cultivation of multiple off-season crops is taking place, including tomatoes, green peppers, etc.
The tunnel farms have been divided into seven schemes, with each scheme comprising three tunnels. Each tunnel is 130 feet in length, 30 feet in width and 12 feet in height, he explained.

The NERD project director said that tomato cultivation is of particular interest among all the stakeholders. “Tomato plants are able to produce a relatively high yield,” he explained. “Each plant of tomato is expected to produce 20-25 kilogrammes of produce, and two to three cultivation sites have already started production.”

“Our success rate in this pilot project has been 100%,” Naeem confidently claimed, pointing out that CERD is the technical partner in the project with PPAF being the financier.

He said a proposal has been submitted to PPAF, requesting it to expand this initiative to other districts. “Two more districts are expected to be added by the middle of April.”

Naeem said that CERD and PPAF are also working on orchid farming and bio-floc fish farming under this project. “Bio-floc farming allows for high production in a relatively smaller space, much like poultry farming in controlled sheds,” he explained.

He stressed that modern farming techniques are essential for enhancing food security and improving the livelihood of farmers.