agro business schools imperative
By Raza Kamal and Naseem Abbas
In the last decade business schools have mushroomed in the
country without the realization if these graduates would
find meaningful employment. The general argument cited is
that supply will create its own demand ; quite the opposite
of the accepted principle.
At the same time student community finds no assistance from
any agency as to where the jobs would occur in the future.
The obvious choice one makes if not ordained to become a
doctor or an engineer is to join a business school.
This specialized education takes its direction from the
western world without any thought whether it meets the
national needs or otherwise. The orientation of students on
graduation is to find an urban based job since the
educational cost has reached disproportionate ratio that
lesser modest options are not even examined. In such a hazy
environment, we witness a glut of business graduates with
supply surpassing the demand; MBAs employed as supervisors
on petty remunerations.
The business education in Pakistan has only offered a very
narrow scope concentrating on occupations in the urban
sector mainly in the fields of manufacturing, banking and
marketing of consumer/durable goods.
This is not in consonance with either our economy nor with
the national resource base. However this is one class of
professionals who are equipped with competencies and
confidence to venture into entrepreneur ships in other
sectors which are imperatives for our development.
Businesses should be created in zones where there is
concentration of mass, needs and opportunities; therefore
the case for agro-business schools. There has never been
more need of integration of urban mind with rural effort to
combat problems like poverty, unemployment and human
resource development. The urban- rural divide can only be
overcome if a strategic effort is planned to mesh the two
This is a cogent possibility since our mainstay sector,
agriculture is deteriorating everyday. Every year there is a
downward trend in its contribution ratio to GDP; yield per
acre remains stagnant which results in heavy imports of
Besides, all the reasons attributed for these failures, one
important cause is the lack of investment in the human
capital, stereotyped and mediocre policies and mismanagement
in the agricultural sector.
The argument that adequate human and financial capital is
being invested in the agricultural universities is not
coherent for the reason that no output improvement is
reflected; presently only 27 per cent of land is cultivated,
an increase of only 42 per cent since 1965; growth less than
three per cent every year.
Agricultural development means not only increase in
productivity but also handling the product professionally
i.e. marketing, distributing, exporting, conserving and
improving its attributes. Professional skills needs to be
attracted towards agriculture.
The first step should be in the direction of creating demand
in agricultural sector. The agricultural sector is
contributing only 24 per cent towards the GDP whereas it
used to contribute 65 per cent in late 1960's. Presently 29
per cent of population forms part of the labour force (45
million heads); however 67 per cent of them resides in the
rural area; 42 per cent are employed in the agriculture
sector and nearly 60 per cent of employed force is engaged
in this occupation.
Unemployment has crept to 8.27 per cent of the workforce
which is mainly in the rural area. It is quite evident from
these statistics that the critical mass of labour force by
residence, by occupation and by unemployment is concentrated
in the villages.
The ratio of rural population, vast tracts of land lying
uncultivated and disproportionate managerial skills in the
agricultural sector adequately supports the hypothesis that
if demand is generated in this sector, supply will follow.
It is for the ministry of agriculture to examine this issue
and generate employment to attract quality professionals
towards agro- based businesses. It should build infra
structural network to facilitate growth.
Some of the areas which need attention are liberating
procurement and storage from government control,
facilitating farmers in the usage of mechanized implements
through micro financing and leasing, preventing spoilage of
crop by encouraging extensive network of warehouses and
storage, giving support to entrepreneurial activity to boost
export potential specially in the area of farm products and
live stock, better water management and land management
The quantum and quality of manpower employed in the sector
needs to be reap praised. These measures will create job
opportunities in this sector and attract better quality of
The argument that quick take- offs in economy is possible
only through investments in manufacturing sector may not
hold true for Pakistan. In our country agriculture plays a
pivotal role in the economic growth. It is the base sector
for the major industries like textile and sugar and provides
raw material for many industrial products.
Any disturbance or calamity in the sector shakes the whole
economy since majority of the population directly or
indirectly depend upon it for their livelihood. Volatility
in this sector cannot be permitted.
Pakistan is one of those fortunate countries where 82 per
cent of cropped land is irrigated by a network of canals and
rivers and the live stock population is fifth largest in the
world. All that is needed is to harness these resources.
The policy to combat unemployment and poverty alleviation
really means rehabilitating the rural sector; unless quality
manpower is not inducted in this sector material innovation
in planning and action will not appear.
The problems in the sector were tackled by setting up
agricultural universities. So far only four such
universities are functional. The focus of these universities
is towards enhancing yield, research, and soil problems
being faced by the tillers. Since the employment opening in
the sector has remained stagnant over the past few decades
the universities have been unable to attract good quality
Our agricultural universities have based programmes on the
principle that the gap between ignorance and knowing is more
important than the gap between knowing and doing. If we are
aiming at bringing about a turnaround in this vital area
there is a need to provide a dynamic learning environment
not merely to fine-tune existing programmes.
A major conceptual and structural change is required
supported by governmental policies transforming it from a
narrowly oriented food production sector to a broadly
societal activity involving management of resources that
provides not only an increase in agricultural growth but
also utilizes manpower which at the moment lies idle.
One possible option is to shift the tilt of business schools
towards agricultural sector. It is opined that this paradigm
shift is in consonance with national imperatives and would
also alleviate the glut in the urban business.
The requirement of encouraging the development of a smoothly
functioning market, through institutional and regulatory
reforms will facilitate market efficiency and energize
private sector activities.
A well-educated and energetic business professional can
change the market through his expertise gained in a business
school. These business graduates can develop a marketing
system where the return to the farmer is not eroded by
multiplicity of intermediaries, lack of market information,
shortage of farm-to-market roads and fragmented markets. A
fully accredited MBA degree in agri-business can make them
effective change agents in the agro-enterprise sector where
they can be:
* engaged in production and marketing of inputs like seeds,
fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery and livestock feeds;
* production, procurement, processing and marketing of
* provide services such as exports, commodity trading, rural
banking insurances, logistics and water management;
Fisheries and livestock are also areas where professional
expertise is required to add value to agriculture sector.
The steady decline in both these areas can be part of
curricula of the schools.
Government's incentives in this sector are noteworthy but
are not properly disseminated to potential investors;
exemption of sales tax, liberal debt financing, and import
of breeding stock subject to meagre taxation and
establishment of abattoirs are some measures unknown to
The volume and range of bank credit to the agriculture
sector is increasing. It has to be managed by professionals
who understand the mechanics of our agro based industry and
the imperatives of banking industry.
The tilt of business schools towards agriculture is one
strategic step which can ensure better human resource
utilization and would also meet the national imperatives.
Our agricultural base will contribute meaningfully and
employment would be generated in the rural areas.
Courtesy: The DAWN