FAISALABAD: Unlike many of his peers in the media industry, Aneesur Rehman dreamt of launching a TV channel for a cause – highlight the plight of the neglected agriculture sector and create awareness among farmers to improve their standards of living.
With that mission in mind, Rehman four years ago started Sohni Dharti, the first agriculture sector-specific television channel in Pakistan, with an initial investment of a billion rupees.
He is putting all his energies into educating the farmers and raising their life standards as well as boosting the agriculture industry that contributes 23% to the economy and provides jobs to 45% of the labour force.
However, Rehman’s sheer focus on one sector has brought persistent losses for the channel, yet he has not wavered in his determination and will continue to press on with the work he is doing for the sector.
“I did not start the channel to make fortunes. I want to help develop the agriculture sector that has failed to grab much attention of the government,” Aneesur Rehman, Chief Executive Officer of Sohni Dharti, says in an interview to The Express Tribune. However, “since the launch, the channel has been running in heavy losses.”
He is a businessman who has lived for about 40 years in the UK. Now he has dedicated all attention to improving the lot of farmers and educating them how to earn handsome profits in farm business.
Rehman says around 85% of farmers are small landholders who own less than 12 acres of land with a majority having only up to five acres. These farmers do not have adequate knowledge and awareness of sowing and harvesting crops and they end up suffering unbearable losses.
Sohni Dharti has hired agriculture experts for running different programmes, who also meet the farmers, impart training and tell them what is good for their crops.
Rehman stresses that prices of agriculture commodities are set by the people who unfortunately lack knowledge about the expenses made on the crops. His programmes hold discussions on seasonal and unseasonal crops, besides giving tips to the farmers how to reduce expenses and enhance productivity.
Farmers are also delighted to watch the channel launched exclusively for them. Sohni Dharti displays a price list for different green markets in all the four provinces 24 hours a day. This helps the farmers a lot as when they go to the green or grain market they already have enough information about price trends, enabling them to sell commodities at better margins.
The channel telecasts Passe Pardah (behind the scene), a field investigative programme designed to make farmers aware of fraud and criminal activities in the agriculture sector like sale of spurious pesticides, poor seeds, etc and prevent them from becoming a victim of these.
Another programme Dehat Sudhar (villages’ improvement) highlights the issues faced by village people. In this connection, a Sohni Dharti team travels to small villages and covers all sorts of community issues as well as efforts made by the government and non-government players to address the issues. It also suggests its solutions.
In programme Khait Say Mandi Tak (from field to market), farmers are provided with solutions to their problems pertaining to marketing their produce. In this programme, a character Chacha Khairdeen gives his opinions and suggestions for the farmers.
Programme Siyana Chaudhary (intelligent and cunning person) is not only informative but also entertaining. It is a character who gives thoughtful advice on various issues faced by the farmers. He addresses environmental concerns of agro and associated industries and about use of pesticides as well as suggests timely steps required at every stage of agricultural production for maximum output.
Another programme Meethay Loog (sweet people) promotes local singers who have a strong bond with the viewers at the gross roots level, which makes it highly popular.