In a tech-savvy world where interactive screens and dynamic content are dramatically changing every city’s landscape, using hand-painted murals to communicate a message may seem counter-intuitive for a brand. Why then, would a company that can easily afford to spend millions in tech-based marketing, choose something that has a fairly uncertain shelf life, particularly due to it being susceptible to the hazards of weather?

Ever since I saw the ad for “Sarsabz Canvas Wall” on Instagram, my inquisitiveness developed. As an attempt to satiate my curiosity, I found myself standing outside the vicinity of Pak Arab Plant by Fatima Group in Multan. In the tail end of November, a two-day wall paint activity had just kicked off. The “Canvas Wall” situated outside the plant’s gate, facing the main Multan-Khanewal road, acted as a creative outlet for young, enthusiastic painters. They used street art where words failed to pay tribute to their subject – the farmers of Pakistan.

At the wall, I ran in to Mobeen, the brand manager for Sarsabz. Upon my keenness, he expounded the theme, “Salam Kissan – Sarsabz Pakistan” in the following words:

“Growing up, we often heard that agriculture is Pakistan’s backbone. Let’s admit though, no one gives farmers due importance; they’re rarely a priority. You hear stories of the losses they face, of protests and sadly, suicides as well. However, when you asses our country’s agriculture policy it’s negligent even towards a crop as important as cotton. I mean, look behind you – you’re standing outside a plant that’s been shut down since three years, despite the fact that it produces fertilisers that give 10% more yield than conventional ones. Our government is forced to import those order to meet the shortfall.

It’s unfortunate to see farmers at the bottom of the economic and financial pyramid. As a brand, we believe we can change that and are committed to the cause. These students have come from all over Pakistan to join us in this initiative. This is the start of something beautiful.”

It was after hearing these words that I understood why this activity managed to bring together youth from all over the country for a moving tribute to farmers. Its impact was far greater and meaningful than a pretty ad on a billboard.

The competition, which featured over 40 teams and almost 125 students from cities as far as Karachi and Islamabad, started at 11am on the first day and ended at 5pm on the second day. During this time, splendid pieces of art were created. The organisers provided every facility to the participants – from paints and brushes to accommodation for the night. The partakers seemed quite happy with the event and remained engrossed throughout.

The digital and electronic engagement of the event was also commendable. RJ Sophiya Anjam was present at the scene, interviewing contestants and giving shout-outs in support of farmers. A time-lapse video of the key visuals being painted by an artist for Sarsabz fertilisers was also recorded and shared on social media by leading influencers, making others curious enough to visit the site. Multiple TV channels showed up as well to broadcast this unique effort.

Taking advantage of the number of participants, the management provided 300 saplings to be planted along the borders of the vicinity, an act that is in line with the company’s vision of caring for the environment. The spirit of togetherness was further strengthened with the participation of representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment Protection Department in the tree plantation activity.

The first day ended with dinner, followed by an entertaining stand-up comedy show put together by a young group called “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Comedy.” Just when I thought I had experienced it all, the event touched its highest note with a drum circle organised by Haider Jamil around a bonfire. Everyone joined in to create rhythmic beats and learn the amplified impact of working as a team for a cause.

 

On the second day, the artwork was completed and after careful consideration, three groups were shortlisted as winners by the judging committee. The criteria was based on:

1)            Effective portrayal of the theme “Salam Kissan, Sarsabz Pakistan”

2)            Level of skill employed by the artists

3)            An out of the box approach

The first position was bagged by a team of two people, Waqas Ahmed and Waseem from Sialkot – a duo who claim to be Pakistan’s first 3D artists. They impressed the judges with their skills and earned themselves a PKR 250,000 reward. Maryam Rana, Sumaira Munir and Waseema Khalid from Multan won PKR 100,000 at second position, while Abu Bakar, Mamoona, Maryam and Muqaddas took home PKR 50,000 as winners of the third position.

All contestants were given certificates of participation, along with hi-resolution prints of their artwork. The prizes along with trophies were handed out by Mr. Inamullah Naveed, Head of the Fertiliser Plant at Fatima Group. Throughout the activity, he kept dropping in at the Canvas Wall to encourage students.

As I networked with marketing team members of Sarsabz on the final day, I was told by the Digital Brand Manager, Hassan Amjad, that this Canvas Wall Paint activity was just a kick off for the “Salam Kissan” campaign. It will continue to gain momentum in Sukkur, Multan, Hyderabad and Sialkot to engage local communities and equip farmers to voice their concerns at a policy-making level. The essence of this campaign lies in a recently released music video which pays an ode to the small-scale farmers in the most beautiful way, depicting the hardships they go through to provide food and clothing for the whole nation while living the hardest lives themselves.

The entire event was very well managed, especially in comparison to other street art competitions. It managed to successfully make people like me, who live in the comforts of their urban homes, realise the importance and struggle of farmers, for a better, stronger and Sarsabz Pakistan.

Good Times

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