With water scarce, Pakistan helps farmers develop extra with much less

MARI, Pakistan, Sept 30 (Thomson Reuters Basis) – Obaid ur Rehman hoped to develop water-scarce cucumbers and capsicum peppers on land he’d purchased in an arid space of jap Pakistan – however the obtainable water wasn’t adequate for conventional irrigation.

So the 56-year-old farmer tried one thing new: A drip irrigation system, supported by a authorities initiative.

The system delivers small quantities of water solely the place wanted, and has helped him get greater yields on his farm close to Mari, in Punjab province than on flood-irrigated land he owns elsewhere within the province.

The change, moreover permitting him to farm with 60% much less water, has minimize the fertilizer he wants in half as much less is washed away and wasted, Rehman mentioned.

“I’ve obtained drip irrigation as a divine assist on this water-scarce space,” he mentioned, sitting in a shed on his farm.

Rehman is amongst a rising variety of Pakistani farmers who’re turning to water-saving drip irrigation and sprinklers, which agricultural consultants say can help yields in areas the place seasonal rains are not a dependable supply of water.

Pakistan makes use of 90% of its water for agriculture, primarily as farmers flood their fields to irrigate their crops, mentioned Pervaiz Amir, director of the Pakistan Water Partnership (PWP), a non-governmental group.

A nine-year authorities effort to chop water waste, launched in 2012-2013, has to this point helped 7,000 small-scale farmers make the transfer to water-efficient irrigation, mentioned Malik Muhammad Akram, head of the Punjab Agriculture Division’s water administration program.


Over the previous 30 years, Pakistan has gone from a rustic having fun with an abundance of water to 1 dealing with growing water stress. web site

Between 1990 and 2015, the quantity of water obtainable per particular person dropped from simply over 2,170 cubic meters to about 1,300 cubic meters, in keeping with a 2017 report by the United Nations Improvement Programme.

That was the results of fast inhabitants progress, urbanization, industrialization and water-intensive agricultural practices, mixed with rising local weather impacts, the report mentioned.

Agriculture right now contributes about one-fifth of Pakistan’s GDP, in keeping with a examine revealed final 12 months by the World Financial institution.

However Muhammad Arif Goheer, an agriculture knowledgeable on the World Change Influence Research Centre in Islamabad, a local weather change think-tank, mentioned altering patterns of monsoon and winter rains are an enormous drawback for rain-fed farms in arid areas.

More and more, farmers both don’t get rain once they want it or get an excessive amount of rain when their crops want dry situations, he mentioned.

However entry to water-efficient irrigation can provide farmers in arid areas a dependable water supply and in addition permit them to develop high-value crops, equivalent to olives and grapes, that always require extra water, Goheen mentioned.

The Punjab authorities’s 67.5 million rupees ($407,300) challenge offers subsidies for small-scale farmers to put in sprinklers and drip irrigation techniques, some utilizing solar energy to run them.

With the motto “extra crop per drop”, the Punjab Irrigated-Agriculture Productiveness Enchancment Challenge, run in partnership with the World Financial institution, goals to have new irrigation techniques put in on 120,000 acres of farmland by subsequent 12 months.

Akram, of the agriculture division, mentioned to this point 66,000 acres of land have been switched to water-efficient techniques.

Practically half of that was barren land that has been put again into use because of the challenge in three water-scarce areas – Potohar, Thal, and the Cholistan – he mentioned.

Work has already began on changing one other 11,000 acres of land over to new irrigation strategies, he added.

On common, drip irrigation and sprinkler techniques use no less than 50% much less water than flood irrigation, Akram mentioned.


However sprinklers and drip irrigation don’t work for all farmers, famous Amir of the PWP.

After farmers lay the pipes for the irrigation techniques, they have to stay undisturbed for 4 or 5 years as a result of digging them up and shifting them is so costly, he defined.

With vegetable and orchard farming, farmers can depart the pipes the place they’re, however for different fashionable crops – like rice, wheat and cotton – pipes must be eliminated for ploughing and land preparation prior to every new crop, he mentioned.

In response to Amir, solely 4-5% of all of the agricultural land in Pakistan is used for greens and fruit orchards.

Farmers who develop low-value crops additionally wrestle to afford water-efficient irrigation techniques, even with authorities subsidies, he mentioned.

However putting in the techniques can permit farmers to develop higher-value crops that convey in additional revenue, Amir mentioned.

Pakistan’s agriculture trade is value about $50 billion however may very well be value seven occasions that a lot if farmers change to water-saving strategies and better-earning crops, and the federal government helps construct higher entry to export markets, he mentioned.

“We have to change to extra high-value crops, like olives, utilizing this know-how,” he mentioned.

At Rehman’s farm in Mari, two synthetic ponds that may maintain a complete of greater than 3.6 million gallons of rainwater, plus a cement water-storage tank, now present sufficient water to provide his 20-acre (8-hectare) drip irrigation system year-round.

“I at all times really feel pleasure after I see the brand new blossoms of my greens within the morning,” he mentioned, as he inspected ripe capsicum peppers on his farm.

However “this farm wouldn’t have been potential with out the drip irrigation system”, he added.

($1 = 165.7000 Pakistani rupees) (Reporting by Imran Mukhtar; Modifying by Jumana Farouky and Laurie Goering. Please credit score the Thomson Reuters Basis, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of individuals world wide who wrestle to stay freely or pretty. Go to web site

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