Assisting Severely Disadvantaged Agricultural Areas in Pakistan: The Potential for Improving the Interaction and Effectiveness of Development Partners Research, Extension and Village Religious Leaders
At present, in the NWFP of Pakistan, village religious leaders play no formal role in agricultural development. Yet, historically they have had functional involvement in other development sectors such as education through the mosque schools programme (Government of Pakistan, 1985). Hidayat Ullah (1986) recommended that programmes need to be developed for the possible involvement of religious leaders in agricultural development. Yet since then, little direct action to bring this about has been forthcoming which is particularly unfortunate given the continuing difficulties with information transmission of complex agricultural issues being experienced by disadvantaged farming communities in the NWFP highlighted by Nowshad Khan, 1999. // Moreover, available literature on research in Pakistan into the potential involvement of religious leaders in agricultural development is largely lacking. Yet, this kind of study has been occasionally conducted in other Islamic countries. Fernandez (1989) reported that the mosque, as a local and indigenous institution in the Malay community (Malaysia), can be utilized as an effective channel to reach the majority of village farmers. He noted that the content of the Friday address at the mosque was not necessarily on religious matters per se but could also relate to community, national and developmental issues like agriculture, health, nutrition and the need to participate in development projects. As religious leaders have been used as a successful motivational force for change in other Islamic and non-Islamic countries, the hypothesis, that they could contribute a role in an improved model of agricultural information transfer in disadvantaged agricultural communities in the NWFP, is not unreasonable (Alebikiya et al. 1993; Morner and Hansen, 1991; Webb, 1990).