Farmers Development Program mainly addresses this large section of poor men and women farmers. The purpose of this program is to educate and organize farmers not only to confront the dismal rural poverty they are facing but also help enable them to fight for their rights.
The program envisages these objectives:
- Forming poor farmer groups and their networks
- Increasing awareness of farmers rights
- Supporting poor farmers rights movement
- Sharing experiences
- Reviving indigenous knowledge systems
- Developing sustainable models of farming
- Creating opportunities for poor farmers participation in decision making forums
Farmers participating in this program are:
- Farmers with less than 5 acres of land
- Peasants cultivating land less than 10 acres
- Landless farmers
- Farmers with low capital
- Farmers from minority groups
- Women farmers
The program formally started in November 1999 in two provinces of Pakistan namely Sindh and Punjab. Training and education of small farmers to build their capacity is the most important part of this program. It ranges from group organization to organic farming. Technical know-how for better produce and marketing is another part of the program; it immediately brings dividends of high performance. Discussions on gender equity, peace, democracy and good governance played an essential role in the development of the program and participants. It brings people together and strengthens poor. Linkages with government departments had proved successful contrary to general impression that the line departments do not cooperate. Setting-up poor farmers network to raise collective voice and take actions, the approach created a sense of cooperation amongst the farmers committees which was never there. Sharing information on relevant issues is another important feature; it empowers the poor as they have been consciously denied their right to information. Issue based rallies and seminars encouraged the poor farmers to voice for social justice. Rural theatre and indigenous cultural activities are important part of program as they are progressive secular and are closer to the hearts of farmers.
Within the period of less than two years, the farmers have been organized in 17 districts of Sindh and Punjab, whereas 840 farmers trained in these districts. There are 190 farmers groups and associations and 43 resource organizations, 33 demonstration plots around organic farming, there are two provincial networks of farmers representing thousands of poor men and women farmers, and a new movement of poor farmers is initiated. Farmers, with the help of South Asia Partnership Pakistan bring out a monthly newspaper called “Chanan”. This newspaper is supported by the farmers committees. 25,000 copies of the newspaper are printed every month which are read by thousands of men and women farmers.