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Smart Agriculture In Balochistan: A Response To Climate Change And Drought - The Friday Times - Energy And Water Development Corp

Smart Agriculture In Balochistan: A Response To Climate Change And Drought – The Friday Times


Muhammad Bakhsh, a landowner in Chagai, has been hard hit by the climate change over the past decade. As in previous years, he is once again facing drought, which has reduced his agricultural production to less than half of what it was. According to Muhammad Bakhsh, agriculture in his region is not based on electricity but through diesel-powered generators, making farming far more costly for them.

On the other hand, due to lack of rains, crop production has come down drastically.

Muhammad Bakhsh says that if a landowner got 100 sacks of wheat from last year’s crop, this year they got 40 sacks from the same land. He adds that if a landlord has grown onions, and if one sack of it sells for more than 2,000 rupees, then the landlord can get some benefit. But if the price goes down, the landlord’s expenses will not be met: “What will he do then?”

Rabia Tahir, Head of Communications for WWF-Pakistan thinks that climate change-linked extreme weather changes present challenges to the province of Balochistan. The province has been repeatedly exposed to extreme events like droughts, flash floods, cyclones in the Gulf of Oman, coastal sea rise and general degradation of the environment resulting from continuous rise in temperatures and serious shortages of water.

“The province was famous for its delicious fruits and vegetables until the early 1990s, but it is now facing an acute shortage of groundwater to cater to the water demands for agriculture, due to repeated occurrence of intermittent droughts. Most of the province is now considered water-scarce,” she says. “Projected impacts of climate change – including desertification, erratic precipitation, sea intrusion, long dry spells and heat waves – are very likely to cause further stress to the availability of water, thus, negatively affecting the livelihoods of the local population. Similarly, the heavy floods of 2010 and 2007 and the 2011 cyclones caused heavy losses of lives, infrastructure and reduction in agriculture production,” she adds.

Shah suggests that in order to deal with this situation, agricultural policy has to pay attention to trees that need less water – such as olives, pistachios or almonds

According to Dr. Arif, Director at the Department of Agriculture Balochistan, “the early warning system is in vogue all over the world, which provides timely warning to landowners / farmers of possible hazards including torrential rains, hailstorms and other possible situations. But unfortunately, it is not yet available to us.” He says that at the national and provincial levels, many departments are working on climate change, but there is no coordination between them.

“As in Balochistan, there is no ideal communication between the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Authority and other departments,” he adds.

According to Rabia Tahir, WWF–Pakistan, under its Sustainable Agriculture and Food Programme, has been assisting farmer communities and relevant departments in combating climate change and its adverse effects through the following initiatives:

  • Promotion of organic cotton cultivation and other associated crops in collaboration with the Agriculture Extension Department of Balochistan.
  • Capacity building of farmers of few selected districts on standard practices of organic agriculture which prohibit use of GMO seeds and chemically treated inputs.
  • Promotion of use of bio-fertilisers and nature-based crop protection measures.
  • Demonstration of best crop management practices including water saving at farm level.
  • Training of farmers and line departments in sustainable management of natural resources.
  • Promotion of agro-forestry to improve the long-term sustainability of the environment and livelihoods of local communities.

The official of Meteorological Department alert said that agriculture and livestock would be affected by the drought in view of climate change. For which all stakeholders are directed to take precautionary measures to avoid further losses.

According to Prof. Dr. Din Mohammad Kakar, a well-known geologist of Quetta, “at one time, there were 350 ‘Karezat’ in Quetta but today their traces are not found.”

Ajmal Shah calls the reckless use of groundwater a sign of catastrophe: “Attempts are now being made to convert some tube wells to solar energy. This is our catastrophe,” he says and adds: “We’ll get the water out for a while. But after a while, we will turn our lush lands into deserts.”

He added that these canals diverted water from the foothills to the urban population, by using this water not only the agriculture land irrigated but also people used to take water from here for drinking.

“If water is not recharged in recent times, there will be severe water shortage in the whole of Balochistan and this will almost wipe out agriculture from province,” he says.

According to Dr. Arif, Director, Department of Agriculture, Balochistan, the Government of Balochistan is taking initiatives to cope with climate change and its effects. “Given the risks involved, the measures are extremely limited due to the fact that the department has very limited resources and we don’t have the knowledge and skills we need for climate smart agriculture”.

“The resources that we have are not being transferred to the farmers, due to which local people lack resources and information,” he further says. “Our marketing and productivity is too weak to address issues of climate towards agriculture,” in his view. He adds that if productivity and marketing can be increased to a certain extent and resources are better mobilised, then it will be easier to fix problems and shortcomings.

Dr. Arif adds that long-term research and new experiments are needed in Balochistan to promote agriculture in the context of climate change. “To tackle climate change, all departments, including the Agriculture Department, need to innovate and research for improvement,” notes Dr. Arif. He says that in this regard, “we do not have the technology that we can transfer to the landlords or farmers. There should be a government policy to solve all these problems. If we meet the criteria for dealing with all these situations, then we can overcome the difficulties and dangers we face. Because whatever difficulties we are facing are due to the lack of clear policy,” he notes.

The Director of Agriculture says that there are different fields related climate action, some of which are scientific and some are economic: “Climate change is a global problem. But to address this issue, these risks have to be addressed at the local level. In view of these threats, a team is needed at the provincial level, so that they can look at the problems carefully and find a solution.”

Ajmal Shah, an agronomist who monitors the effects of climate change on Agriculture in Balochistan, believes that the drought has human causes along with climate change: “When dry weather persists for a certain period of time, then there is drought. There are many types, including a meteorological one.” According to Ajmal Shah, “to know the reduction in production due to drought, one has to know the condition of the crops. If we take the example of wheat, it has five very important stages. If the crop does not get water during this period, it may reduce the yield. If you look at apples like this, their trees don’t need much water in the winter,” he says. “When its seeds grow in summer i.e. June-July. They add colour, increase in size. If the required water supply is reduced during this period, its production will be drastically reduced,” he adds.

From October 2020 to May 2021, Balochistan received 59.5% less rainfall. And from January 2021 to March, there was 61% less rainfall

Agronomist Ajmal Shah says that if we look at the geography of Balochistan, we will know that there are some areas like this, which are in the monsoon range, such as Zhob, Sherani and Musakhail, while there are some areas which are dry and are also affected by climate change. “I consider the causes of the artificial drought to be unnecessary drilling, which is damaging our groundwater levels.” Ajmal Shah adds: “In agriculture in Balochistan, we are still adopting flood irrigation method, despite the drought in our region and declining rainfall. Drought also forces people to relocate due to lack of fodder and food.”

Ajmal Shah calls the reckless use of groundwater a sign of catastrophe: “Attempts are now being made to convert some tube wells to solar energy. This is our catastrophe,” he says and adds: “We’ll get the water out for a while. But after a while, we will turn our lush lands into deserts.”

Shah suggests that in order to deal with this situation, agricultural policy has to pay attention to trees that need less water, such as olives, pistachios or almonds. On the other hand, he believes, it is also important to review the policy regarding the transfer of tube wells to solar energy.

Pakistani farmers harvest their wheat crop in a field in Chakwal district of Punjab Province, 100 km south-east of the federal capital, Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday, April. 14,2010. Photographer: Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg

According to agronomists, Balochistan has experienced droughts from 10, 20 to 50 years ago. This has had a very negative effect on agriculture, transportation as well as the social and economic conditions of these areas.

“WWF–Pakistan, through various projects, has been working with the government departments of Balochistan to enhance their capacities for sustainable development of the province. Moreover, the organisation has been providing policy inputs on key conservation issues and assisting in development of conservation strategies and management plans,” Rabia Tahir says.

According to Tahir, WWF-Pakistan has played key role in notification and management of important protected areas, like Hazar Ganji Chilton Nation Park, Astola Island (marine protected area), Hingol National Park, and many more. We have been proactively commemorating key occasions (such as world environment day, world water day, forest day, earth hour, etc.) in collaboration with governments departments/civil society to raise awareness and motivate communities for action against climate change and environmental degradation.

From October 2020 to May 2021, Balochistan received 59.5% less rainfall. And from January 2021 to March, there was 61% less rainfall.

The Government of Balochistan has allocated 4.12 billion rupees during financial year 2020-21 in the public sector development program for the development of the agricultural sector.

The agriculture minister believes that with the help and expertise of Chinese agricultural experts in overcoming the challenges in the agriculture sector, much progress could be made in the province. In his view, the establishment of an ecological agro-industrial park in Gwadar would benefit from China’s experience and expertise

According to Balochistan Agriculture Department officials, the government has allocated Rs 11.71 billion for the non-development sector, while Rs 640.775 million has been earmarked for rehabilitation of agriculture department in the province.

In contrast, the government significantly increased the budget allocated for the agriculture sector in the year 2021-22. In the budget of the current financial year, a total of Rs. 20 billion has been allocated for the agriculture sector.

According to Deputy Director Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Balochistan Wali Khilji, various measures are being taken to implement the government policy to promote ‘Smart Climate Agriculture’ in Balochistan.

“In this regard, they are promoting zero tillage wheat planting after rice harvest in Jaffarabad district, tunnel farming in the uplands of Balochistan, grape vineyards on trellising under drip irrigation system in district Pishin and the adoption of low delta crops like olive and pistachio. There are projects including laser land leveling, bed plantation of wheat crops, high density apple orchards under a drip irrigation system, establishment of cold storage and value addition of agricultural products. These are just some of the the initiatives taken by the department,” Deputy Director Agriculture adds.

For his part, DD EPA Wali Khilji says that farmers are being encouraged for organic cotton production, compost-making and its utilisation in orchards and the use of bio pesticides, as well as biological control agents in different orchards and fruit crops, to promote ‘Smart Climate Agriculture.’ According to Khilji, in the context of climate change, it is essential for various departments to take steps to promote agriculture in consultation with each other.

Provincial Minister for Agriculture Mir Asadullah Baloch has said that the federation should announce an agricultural package of Rs 50 billion for the agriculture sector of Balochistan which will bring about an “agricultural revolution” in the province. He emphasises that the climatic conditions of Balochistan are favorable for different crops throughout the year.

“In view of water scarcity in the province, special attention is being paid to olive, pistachio, grape, pomegranate and cotton crops. In coastal areas, attention is being paid to the development of mangrove forests and seawater gardens,” the provincial minister notes. “Flood water in the province is being used for the betterment of agriculture sector by making it safe,” he adds.

The agriculture minister believes that with the help and expertise of Chinese agricultural experts in overcoming the challenges in the agriculture sector, much progress could be made in the province. In his view, the establishment of an ecological agro-industrial park in Gwadar would benefit from China’s experience and expertise.

Balochistan is unique in terms of geological structure. There is also a long coastline with rocky mountains and sandy plains. The ecosystem of Balochistan has been unique, but because of this, the challenges posed by climate change are also complex.





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