Agriculture in SAARC Countries
Most of the South Asian countries are primarily agricultural. Their economy
is also based largely on agriculture. The World Bank statistics of 1995
clearly bear out the above mentioned proposition and attribute rural poverty
in this countries to poor agricultural productivity.
The GDP shares of agriculture sectors of the SAARC countries (1995) are:
Bangladesh-30%; Bhutan-45%; India-31%; Nepal-45%; Pakistan-25% and Sri
Lanka-25% against the shares of industrial sectors that stand thus :
Bangladesh-14%; Bhutan-25%; India-29%; Nepal-14%; Pakistan-24% and Sri
The labour force engaged in agriculture sector (1995) in SAARC countries
are: Bangladesh-65.5%; Bhutan-90%; India-63.2%; Nepal-91.7%; Pakistan-47.4%,
Sri Lanka-49.1%; and SAARC average-67.8%.
The statistics clearly indicate the fact that increase of agricultural
productivity is one of the main keys to poverty alleviation in SAARC
countries. Therefore, the stimulating factor in economic growth is
agricultural production. These factors conclusively indicate that utmost
priority is set for improvement of agriculture in SAARC countries. The first
and foremost aid to agricultural development is "information".
Sound informational infrastructure is thus essential for agricultural
research, education and extension.
The SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC), the first regional
institution of SAARC, started functioning in Dhaka in January 1989. Its main
objective is sharing information mutually for the advancement of
agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry and allied disciplines. The
problems and prospects of agriculture and ecology of the SAARC Countries are
more or less the same. United by same geographical boundaries and historical
ties, sharing of common experience shall be mutually helpful for all. The
SAARC Technical Committee on Agriculture (TCA) underscored the need for a
regional information system effective for promotion of cooperation in the
field of agriculture among the Member Countries and proposed to the SAARC
Standing Committee for establishment of the SAIC in Bangladesh. The Standing
Committee, in its Sixth Session, approved the proposal and sent it, with
their recommendations, to the Council of Ministers for consideration.
The Council of Ministers in its First Session, held in Dhaka on 12-13
August 1986, accepted the recommendations of the Standing Committee and
declared in the Joint Communique issued at the conclusion of the First
Session that SAIC would be established in Bangladesh. The Centre has been
functioning in the premises of Agricultural Information Centre (AIC) of
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council located at New Airport Road,
Farmgate, Dhaka 1215 in Bangladesh.
The objectives of SAIC includes :
- Establish regional information net-work on agricultural and
- Identify and document agricultural and pertinent literature
- Identify user-specific formats for information storage and
- Compile directories, bibliographies etc. of regional importance
- Produce and collect audio-visual media products (microfilms,
microfiche, video-films etc.)
- Render SDI and current awareness services
- Organize training on information and communication sciences
- Function as the regional information centre for South Asia
- Establish linkages with international information networks like
AGRIS, CARIS, CABI, etc.
SAIC's functions include :
- Collect information on current agricultural literature, on-going
research and development projects, research and development
institutions, education and training opportunities and resource
persons in various fields of agriculture through the Member
Countries Focal Points in the network.
- Select, analyze and process regional agricultural documents
useful to regional users.
- Provide access to these documents for users of the region.
- Produce bibliographies, directories, etc of regional importance.
- Provide SDI services, copies of documents, microfiche of
non-conventional (or published) literature generated in the region.
- Organize and provide training on information and communication
- Function as the regional centre of South Asia and have access to
other regional and international systems.
A Governing Board (GB) composed of eminent information personalities from
each Member Country formulates policy matters, approves projects, recommends
budget estimates, monitors and evaluation administrative and overall
activities of SAIC.
The Board is headed by a Chairman nominated for a two-year term from Member
Countries by alphabetical rotation. Decisions taken by the Governing Board
have to be approved by the SAARC Standing and the SAARC Council of
The Director of the Agricultural Information Centre (AIC) of Bangladesh
Agricultural Research Council (BARC) is concurrently the Director of SAIC.
The Director is the Chief Executive of SAIC in respect of administration,
finance, organization, planning, implementation and evaluation. The Director
is the Member-Secretary of the Governing Board.
The Director prepares annual budget estimates, agenda and working papers
for the meetings of the Governing Board and the Focal Points, writes down
proceedings of these meetings, and circulates among the members.
The national agricultural information centres of Member Countries are the
Focal Points of SAIC. Besides direct contacts, SAIC interacts with the Focal
Points in respect of inputs and data for its projects.
Operation and Staffing
On a day-to-day basis, the SAIC Director guides the implementation of
programmes and activities which are carried out by seven professionals. The
professional staff includes four Deputy Directors, one information
specialist, one computer programmer, and one reprographic specialist. The
Director and professional staff are supported by 34 general service staff.
The various activities of the SAIC are assigned to four separate yet
complementary divisions : Publication, Information, Computer, Library and
Reprography. Each division is headed by a professional who is responsible
for the implementation of activities in his or her area. At the same time, a
consultative relationship among the divisional heads ensures that activities
requiring cross-divisional cooperation are properly executed. The SAIC
Director plays an active role in the overall coordination of divisional
The Centre actively collects, compiles, packs and disseminates pertinent
agricultural information for dissemination to SAIC clientele in SAARC member
countries. In support of this, the Centre develops and maintains a wide
range of databases covering all fields of agriculture. The Centre has access
to international agricultural databases, applying appropriate information in
a regional perspective.
Funding of SAIC
As host country, Bangladesh provides capital costs and other
infrastructural facilities, such as accommodation, furniture, vehicles,
equipment etc. Institutional and programme costs are shared by all the