By guest blogger Wasiq Ismail
Pakistan is a country of great history, culture and potential, despite recent unfortunate events punctuated by global media outlets. Seeing the potential, I and a few dedicated team members launched Good Earth, a first of its kind Pakistani social enterprise designed to foster a movement to transform agriculture in Pakistan by bringing inclusive economic growth and sustainable agricultural practices to a historically forgotten part of our society: small-scale farmers.
The Inspiration – Rural Agriculture in Pakistan
Growing up in rural Pakistan, I witnessed first-hand how small-scale farmers struggle all year through a variety of market failures, often earning a meager return for their efforts and living hand-to-mouth. I grew up with people who had no opportunity for upward socio-economic mobility. Addressing this lack of opportunity and building inclusive markets has become my guiding mission.
The Problem – Conventional Agricultural Market Failures
There are three leading problems that work against small-scale farmers in Pakistan (and many other countries as well):
1) A pervasive land distribution imbalance has left almost two-thirds of farmland in Pakistan under the ownership of just 5% of the population.
2) Conventional agriculture in Pakistan is characterized by excessive use of chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers, contributing to soil degradation, declining productivity, and inferior crops.
3) The market structure includes expensive inputs, static local markets, and inaccessible larger markets leading to low profits and an often vicious debt cycle.
The Alternative – Organic Agriculture
Organic agriculture holds substantial environmental and economic benefits through its reliance on ecological processes and increased product values, but adoption by small-scale farmers is limited by lack of knowledge about the organic practices, suitable inputs, relevant certifications, and an inability to access high-paying markets.
The Innovation – Good Earth
Good Earth gives small-scale farmers access to knowledge sources, inexpensive organic inputs, organic certifications, and high-paying markets. We facilitate the nascent Pakistani organic market all in one platform. Access to these services is estimated to boost farmers’ incomes by 50% and protect the very land the farmers depend on. This solution, addressing market failures faced by small-scale farmers through organic farming, has never been implemented in Pakistan before.
Fueling the Global Transformation
While our efforts are currently focused on Pakistan, the small-scale organic movement has been developing around the world, and with good reason. The UN’s 2013 Trade and Environment Review focused entirely on the global need for a paradigm shift in the agricultural sector, and in particular, pursuing sustainable systems that boost the productivity of small-scale farmers. This shift can help lead to improved social, environmental and economic conditions for all involved – including promoting global food security. As a result, wherever you live, we urge your support of small-scale organic farmers.
About the Author
Wasiq Ismail is CEO of Good Earth, a Fulbright Fellow and an MPA graduate from Cornell University. Wasiq leads the organization in overall operations and strategy. Email Wasiq at: firstname.lastname@example.org