Aamer Hayat Bhandara is a farmer and an elected member of the district council in Pakpattan, Punjab. He studied politics and journalism prior to undertaking an Australia Awards Short Course in ‘Pro-Poor Market Development in Rural Areas’ at the University of Queensland (UQ).
During his early days of farming in 2005, Aamer observed the problems facing small farmers and started visiting them to provide up-to-date information and ideas to meet the current needs of the agriculture sector.
Within four months he made contact with hundreds of farmers in his locality. Aamer sought to remove the information gap between the government and local farmers and, by building mutual trust, became the symbolic bridge between the farmers and government officials.
As a result of his efforts, Aamer was appointed as a member of various committees by the government of Punjab to help solve the problems of small farmers.
During the Australia Awards Short Course he undertook at UQ, Aamer learnt new techniques and skills to improve the lives of Pakistan’s rural poor by adding value to their agriculture products.
He had the chance to visit the complete value chain of the agriculture sector from ‘Farm to Fork’ and gained a deep insight into the rural and urban life of a country like Australia.
After returning to Pakistan, he spoke out in support of farmers during several meetings. As a result of these efforts, the government of Punjab not only reserved places for small farmers to sell their produce in fruit and vegetable markets but also initiated a project for small farmers, enabling them to sell their produce by themselves. This involved eliminating the role of middlemen by initiating ‘trading platforms’ for fruit and vegetable growers at sites all over Punjab.
His efforts also led to rebranding and printing the price of fertilisers on packaging to control the price of agriculture inputs.
Aamer also floated the idea to issue credit cards for farmers, with the help of financial institutions, and to monitor the availability of inputs, subsidies and income tax of not only farmers but traders as well.
The ‘Kissan Cards’ are now being issued to farmers in Punjab and online registration will soon be available.
Furthermore, Aamer has made endeavours to enhance knowledge of the rural communities about child labour, gender discrimination and the health issues facing women labourers.
As a result of his efforts, Aamer believes he has seen some positive changes in regards to the education of girls, the elimination of child labour and recognising the importance of women labourers.
Aamer is now planning a project entitled ‘Young Agriculture Entrepreneurs’ to motivate young agricultural entrepreneurs to take part in sustainable agriculture development with a
long-term agenda to overcome the food insecurity the world is poised to face by 2050.
He has also developed a business and supply chain model designed to help small farmer supply milk directly to process plants by eliminating the middlemen, thus increasing profit margins.
Being part of training sessions and on-farm training activities related to climate change and its impacts on water and food security, many farmers in Aamer’s district have become familiar with climate change and its impacts on water and food security. They are now looking at how they can adapt to these changes by developing district-level adaptation plans and resource conservation tools to sustain the rural economy.
In recognition of his efforts, Aamer has been presented with multiple awards, including the Pakistan Youth Icon Award on United Nations World Youth Day.