Reflecting Engro’s passion of “shared value” that seeks economic value only after demonstrated societal value, Engro launched the Farmer Connect Project, externally known as ‘RAHBAR’ on October 2015 in Sheikhupura district. The project was aimed at improving farm yields and income through the capacity building of small to medium farmers in the rice-wheat cropping system of Punjab and Sindh through the use of best crop management practices (BCMP) and the introduction of innovative farming techniques. In Punjab the program was aimed at farmers tilling up to 12.5 acres of land. In lower Sindh it targeted farmers with ownership of up to 25 acres.
Farmers were taught about critical crop stages of sowing and land preparation, weed control, irrigation and urea top dressing, and harvesting and post-harvest care of produce. These trainings were conducted on farmer deras, along with practical demonstrations on BCMPs at trainee fields. The trainings were further strengthened with a regular feed of SMS messages to registered farmers on weather forecast and relevant agronomic advice. An essential ingredient of this program was field demonstration of the energy conservative and environment friendly concept of ‘sowing without plowing’ by using zero tillage drills.
The benefits have been immediate and stunning. Wheat gain yields of 26% were recorded by a third party survey and 15% water conservation was achieved. When you look at the fact that 97% of the water in Pakistan is used in agriculture the implications of what this program proved are national and immense.
To really understand the impact of what this has on ordinary farmer lives please see this heartfelt video about how Mushtaq Ahmed went from a struggling farmer who could not make ends meet, to almost doubling his yield after his participation in the program, allowing him to keep his family together and start saving money.