By Hira Nafees Shah
Participants of the ‘Capacity Building in Seed Technology’ workshop with Fulbright Alumnus Irfan Afzal
Agriculture is at the heart of Pakistan’s economy, employing about half of the labor force and making up 24 percent of the nation’s GDP. Development in agriculture is therefore vitally important to the development of Pakistan as a whole.
One Fulbright alumnus, Irfan Afzal, took one step in this direction with a series of workshops on ‘Capacity Building in Seed Technology.’
“I arranged the workshops because I felt that local seed companies lack resources, infrastructure and trained manpower,” he said. “Therefore, I wanted to address the lack of capacity building in the seed industry.”
Funding for the project was provided by the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network. All alumni of U.S sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan can apply for a grant of up to 5,000 dollars to enable them to give back to their communities.
About 200 participants, including students and stakeholders, took part in the first workshop held at the University of Faisalabad. The event featured the announcement of the new Pakistan Seed Academy — which aims to strengthen collaboration between public and private seed sectors.
Audience at the Seed Technology Workshop
The second workshop, held in Rahim Yar Khan, brought together 100 participants from local seed companies, who discussed the process of cotton seed processing and storage. The third workshop took place in Sahiwal and revolved around seed production, processing and handling of maize. More than 100 participants from across Pakistan took part in the highly interactive session which witnessed the attendees asking questions from the speakers as well as answering each other’s queries.
“We learned lot related to our subject in this workshop and found it to be quite informative,” said Abdul Hayee, a participant.
Informative Speakers Enlighten the Audience
Sessions on Hybrid Seed Production, Maize Plant Protection Measures and Seed Processing of Maize taught the attendees about how to maximize the yield of female plants, how to safeguard crops from diseases and insects, and how to increase the longevity of seeds.
Participants learned about the importance of reducing moisture in seed stores and selecting crops suited to local soil conditions.
“I think this conference is a positive step to address the problems that farmers and seed industries are facing,” said Chaudhry Masood Ahmad, a participant who had come from Okara to attend the workshop.
“I believe Dr. Irfan Afzal’s session was the best as he gave guidelines on how to keep the seeds dry, while we are in the process of storing them,” said Kashif-ur-Rehman, another audience member.
Dr. Afzal’s session on Maize Seed Handling and Storage focused on how the maize seeds are affected, when they are kept under different temperatures and received a healthy response from the listeners.
Fulbright Alumnus Irfan Afzal
March towards Modernization of Seed Industry
The Fulbright alumnus says he is content with his small grant project and the way that the sessions have progressed.
“I am satisfied that due to my seed technology project, I was able to convey the expertise of the speakers to the audience and was also able to develop human resource in this field,” said Afzal.
He also attributes his success in giving back to his community to his Fulbright exchange experience.
“I draw inspiration from my mentor in the U.S. and am linked with agriculture companies there,” Afzal said. “I also remain up-to-date about the research that these companies are doing in their programs.”
One of the tangible connections between his American study and his grant initiative is the setting up of the Pakistan Seed Academy on Facebook, through which Afzal hopes to connect U.S. and Pakistani agriculturists and create awareness about new technologies in the field, among other objectives.
The organizers of the project have high hopes for the endeavor and perhaps its long-term benefit for Pakistani famers was best explained by the participants of the workshop.
“The Pakistan Seed Academy will facilitate us in getting good seeds, so that we won’t need to obtain imports from outside, but will also be able to export our products,” said Mian Anat Ali, a local farmer.
“Pakistan needs the Seed Academy, because this will reduce the gap between the public and private sectors in the country and we will also be able to adopt new technologies,” said Saman Saleem, an attendee and one of the organizers of the workshop in Sahiwal.
For more on Irfan Afzal’s project, visit: