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Balochistan’s readiness towards modern agriculture

Balochistan government led by Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan plans to increase agricultural output by devising out of the box and effective solutions. The provincial government is taking radical steps to modernize dilapidated agriculture of the province and introduce latest equipment and techniques to cope with the drought areas of the province. The province plans to install innovative technology on each acre that would help increase production. Under the government’s initiative, proper training on latest parameters would be imparted to Agriculture Department officers at divisional headquarters in the first phase. These trained officers, in the second phase, would train and support the farmers to shift their agriculture practices on modern lines.

It is good that present provincial government has realized the need to bring about a shift from traditional to a technology based farming system in the province. This would require the use of appropriate agricultural inputs in technologically feasible and economically profitable manner. In context of chemical technology, the fertilizers offer tremendous scope and assistance to enhance agriculture production. Fruit crops are grown in the northern parts of the province. Its huge yield potential of high quality deciduous fruits can efficiently be tapped by making investments in establishing ‘crop specific zone’ and ‘fruit processing units’ in the province.

Chief Minister Jam Kamal may seek the help of the federal government in his modernization plan for the agro sector. Federal government can provide bulldozers, which may be hired out to the farmers at no profit no loss basis to facilitate them in reclaiming the cultivable wasteland. According to one estimate, around 146,250 hectares of cultivable wasteland in can be reclaimed through the use of 200 bulldozers in the province. The government should encourage the small farmers by initiating an easy loaning policy for them to get bulldozers and tractors so that acute problem of land leveling and land development in remote areas of the province, could be resolved.

There is a lot of potential for development in the agriculture livestock and dairy sectors, as Balochistan can earn a substantial amount of income by exporting the products in these sectors to the lucrative markets in the food deficit region — Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Balochistan provides greater opportunities for trade and commerce to all countries of the region by virtue of its strategic location. It has tremendous potential for development of horticulture, particularly the fruit farms. The land along coastal belt has enormous potential for development of shrimp farming and processing projects, which can play a vital role in fisheries development in the province.

The agriculture in the province, however, faces many serious challenges and constraints for future growth. These challenges include reclamation of cultivable wasteland, diversification of production from the low value to high value products in response to market demand. Increased farm productivity through sustainable use of natural resources and other inputs and the rising demand for agricultural products with the growth of population and incomes are all required. The major constraints include scarcity of water, unavailability of agricultural inputs and lack of a strong agriculture research system. The key ingredients of future agriculture strategy should be the reclamation of cultivable wasteland and development of water resources in the province. Reclamation of about 4.0 million hectares of cultivable wasteland is essential to enhance agricultural production in the province. The capacity of the Provincial Agriculture Engineering Department need to be enhanced by providing it additional machinery and bulldozers to reclaim the cultivable wasteland.

 

It is worth mentioning that international marketing specialist of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA) in 2013, sent a group of farmers, experts and government officials from Balochistan to Australia in order to educate over 20,000 local farmers in the province about latest agricultural techniques. This was a practical step towards modernization of agriculture in Balochistan. The farmers were selected for the project on the criteria of their ability to pass on the knowledge gained to their communities from different districts of the province. The provincial livestock department also benefited from this training experience. The FAO Balochistan Agri Business Programme, funded by the Australian Government is currently working in 6 districts of Balochistan. Since 2012 the project has been working on water resources management, community mobilization, Marketing, crop production, livestock and female income generating activities. Farmers Field Schools were introduced as extension approach and for training and knowledge development in Balochistan.

Despite having huge potential in the agro sector, water scarcity and prolonged drought adversely destroyed the agriculture in the province. The provincial government plans to settle the water shortage issue by ensuring that the province gained its due share of water. Secondly, the government plans to construct more dams in the province. In order to improve underground water level an integrated programme approach for water management needs to be adopted.

Balochistan is a water starved province the development of water resources should be the key to maximize crop production in Balochistan. This can be done through increasing surface water supplies and conserving water using the latest technologies and protecting land and infrastructure from water logging, salinity, floods and soil erosion. There is a dire need to overcome the scarcity of water through construction of medium and large dams and efficient utilization of irrigation water and restoring the productivity of agricultural land through control of water logging, salinity and floods. For the last two decades, Balochistan is trying hard to improve the management of scarce water resources. The key areas in this regard include increasing surface water availability and reducing groundwater depletion, increasing water productivity through a combination of engineering, management and agricultural measures and expanding local capacity and participation of farmers to implement similar schemes and formulate plans for sustainable water resources development and watershed management.

The province needs small-scale irrigation schemes, which can support the provincial government’s efforts for improving the management of scarce water resources in the rural Balochistan by reducing the overall impact of the water shortage. Such schemes can contribute to strengthening provincial water management capabilities. The similar projects were launched by World Bank in the past in north Balochistan. The project had three components that included partial restoration of the water storage capacity, developing small-scale irrigation schemes in the Pishin Lora Basin and strengthening and building the capacity of the Irrigation and Power Department, water management institutions, farmers and community organizations, and implementing studies.

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