Karachi, October 13: The Federal Minister for Food Security & Research – Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan visited the SPIRiT (System Productivity Innovative Rice Training) project earlier which is being jointly implemented by Engro Foundation – the CSR arm of Engro – and EngroEximp Agriproducts – the Company’s rice processing business.

The project is supported by the TVET Reform Support Programme, which is co-funded by the European Union, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Federal Republic of Germany and being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

The SPIRiT project aims to improve agricultural productivity, efficiency and livelihoods for 10,000 farmers & 1200 agri-farm support persons by training them in the areas of resource conservation, water saving, plant population management, improved harvesting & best crop management practices in the Rice – wheat cropping system over a period of 15-months from December 2013 to February 2015.

Speaking at the occasion, Minister for National Food Security and Research, Mr. Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan said “I appreciate SPIRiT Project Initiative jointly taken by GIZ, Engro Foundation and Engro Eximp for improving Farming practices through a package of trainings and demonstrations. This will definitely improve knowledge, skill set and expertise of the small farmers and landless farm support workers on innovative agricultural practices along with improving their yield, quality of the harvests, profitability and livelihood while saving water and exerting positive impacts on the environment.” The Minister also visited farmer fields to see demonstration of SPIRiT project concepts. He also lauded the role of EU, Dutch, Norway and the German governments for supporting the reform in the areas of technical education and vocational training (TVET).
SPIRiT is an innovative on-field training program to boost the productivity of small rice farmers 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. The project aims to train farmers in newer and innovative methods/techniques of rice farming that include Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD), Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR), Optimum Plant Population Management (OPPM) and Harvesting related Best Management Practices in the rice–wheat cropping system over a period of 15-months from December 2013to February 2015.

In addition to that, farmers are trained on best crop management practices and best fertilizer management practices in rice and wheat crops along with dissemination and adoption of resource conservation sowing techniques like zero tillage wheat sowing. Team of agri experts, master trainers, trainers and mobilizers is working with the 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, farmers meetings, demonstrations, group discussions, field days and briefings along with literature distribution.

At the event, leaders from the farmer beneficiary group also described benefits that they have experienced through the trainings in SPIRiT project, in terms of decreasing costs of production, water saving and improving their yields.

Mr. Saleemullah Memon, Director Rice Business conveyed a vote of thanks to the guests. While addressing the guests he said: “These trained beneficiaries (Farmers & Farm Support Workers) will become anchors and change agents to further disseminate Best Crop Management Practices & innovative conservation agricultural techniques among thousands of other fellow farmers in the years to come. We look forward to greener and prosperous Pakistan”.

SPIRit innovation program will result in 80,000 hills (plants) in an acre as a pre requisite for good rice yield and constitute up to 20 plus plants per square meter. Direct Seeding of Rice and Alternate Wetting and Drying techniques will result in conservation of resources and will further lead to lower cost of production thus increasing water use efficiency &increased productivity.