The business of 'Picnic Farms' in and around Karachi
is now on top among local investors. Businessmen from various sectors,
including marriage halls, catering service are rapidly shifting their
business into 'Picnic Farms' due to its increasing demand for recreation
purposes. There are many supporting reasons behind mushrooming picnic
farms from half acre to 28 acres, basic factor behind the business is
non-availability of parks and natural spots in the densely populated
Of the estimated 100 picnic farms around Karachi, a
majority of them, about 70, falls in Gadap area off Super Highway, while
the rest are scattered in Malir, Hub and Thatta. The fee for an
overnight stay is rather high, but cheaper than any holiday resorts or
hill-station in the country, so people prefer these picnic spots for the
weekends. They pay Rs4,000 to Rs10,000 for a daylong trip and an
additional Rs1,000 for overnight stay, or for booking on Sundays. The
size of most of these farms varies between one acre to two acres, and a
few even stretch over an area of 28 acres, cut like marriage gardens
into different sections.
Think of a farm picnic and the following come to
mind: birds, plants, orchards, thatched-roof village huts equipped with
modern-day facilities, tiled swimming pools, grassy fields for grazing
animals, horse riding etc.
"I had anticipated seeing a lot of trees,
orchards, animals and village life before going there, but I was
disappointed to see it was just like a residential compound enclosed in
a boundary wall. One may call it a rest house but not a picnic
farm," says Sadaf Siddique, who works in a private company. She
visited a farm in Gadap area with her family some weeks before the holy
month of Ramazan.
Sadaf, who visited the same farm thrice as the owner
being a friend of her uncle gave them discounted booking rates, says
they changed the water in the swimming pool only on the first day of the
week. "We found the pool clean when we visited the farm on Tuesday
but the water was very dirty on Sundays," she adds.
"Some farms even supply their pools with muddy
canal water, which is unhygienic and not fit for health. A few others,
however, have filter plants set up on the site to drain and release
fresh water into the pool," says Muzaffar Ahmed, a banker, who is
developing a 16-acre farm on Bhambhore Road off National Highway.
Muzaffar decided to invest in the agriculture farm
after he saw the overall situation in the city not conducive for
starting up a new business venture; later, moved by the trend, he
planned to use it also as a picnic resort for family, friends and
However, Valeed Arsalan Khan, a first year college
student, who has visited different picnic farms located in Hub and Gadap
as part of his school outings and sometimes with the family, has had
different experiences. "I had great time swimming in the pool,
playing indoor games at night, watching the deer in the open, and caged
monkeys mimicking the visitor," he says. However, he greatly missed
an artificial lake for boat pedaling and orchards.
According to Mohammad Rehan Khan of Al-Sayyed
Agriculture Farms & Resorts located on Gadap Road, winter is
off-season, however, visitors have to make booking a month before to get
the farm booked during summer vacations and weekends. The 28-acre farm
cut into three sections, each booked for a group of not more than 80
visitors for Rs6,000 on working days and Rs8,000 on Sundays. Families
are number one visitors, followed by college students and groups of
schoolboys. The proprietor, who also runs 'Modern Palace' marriage hall
in North Nazimabad, claims they offer 25% discount to students.
Karamat Bagh spreading over 14.5 acres in Gadap area,
however, stands apart from others in the vicinity in terms of plantation
and the number of trees laden with fruits and the variety of vegetables
grown in the field. Karamat, a retired government officer, raised it
laboriously, bit by bit, by cutting away shrubs, wild grass, by leveling
up depressions, removing stones etc on a piece of 3.5 acres of land some
28 years ago.
It has now 700 coconut, 150 cheeku and 100 imlee
trees in addition to ber, guava and banana. He procured coconuts from
Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, dug up two wells and developed
the farm. There are swings for children, a tree house, small cricket
pitch, washrooms, bathrooms, two swimming pools, electricity and, best
of all, thatched huts for privacy and relaxation.
When it became unaffordable to meet the expenses
after there were no sufficient rains in Karachi for several years, he
decided to offer it as a picnic resort as well to meet the expenses. The
farm is available on nominal charges, which is far less than the high
rates offered in the neighbourhood. A group of 25 is charged Rs3,000 for
daylong trip and Rs4,000 for overnight stay.
"This is a gentlemen's farm," says Dr.
Quraishi who has frequently visited the farm. The difference between
this farm and others, he says, is that they first made a picnic spot and
then started plantation, and Karamat first developed the farm and later
opened it as a picnic spot.
Karamat, also an artist, feels so proud of his
'creation' that he maintains a guest book for visitors to record their
comments before leaving the premises. Several scientific and literary
dignitaries have visited and recorded their impressions in the visitor's
book that Karamat is now planning to produce in the form of a book.
The great Urdu fiction writer Ismat Chughtai, Jilani
Bano, Kaifi Azmi, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, Jamil Jalibi and others from
US, Canada and India are among the visitors who recorded their comments
in the book. "Apni baat kehnay kay liyay to yeh register bohat
mukhtasar hai (This register is too small to carry all that I want to
convey)," wrote Ismat Chughtai when she visited the farm on April
Once there about 1000 agriculture farms in Gadap area
for growing fruits and vegetables for Karachi. However, persistent
drought (three in a row) deprived the area of rainfall that also sucked
in subsoil reserve that trickled into the wells of these farms. Now
there is almost no water in these wells, which have dried out.
Formerly, there was subsoil water available at 80
feet depth. Now even at 400 feet there is none. A handful of farms are
making money by cultivation of coconuts and fodder. The rest are selling
them away or converting them into picnic resorts. Water, fertiliser and
availability of good quality seeds on low rates and high electricity
rates are the problems Karamat enumerates for the landowners.
"About 25 years ago we used to bore 40 feet for
water through diesel engine and now we get water after boring 400 to 500
feet," he says, adding that the landowners found it very hard to
manage these farms. After the yield went down, they started selling out
land and moving out to other places.
The situation became so owing to excessive excavation
for sand and clay for constructing high-rises in the city without giving
compensation to farm owners who were compelled to install submersible
pumps that can draw water from 300 feet depth.
There are only two factories manufacturing
submersible pumps in Pakistan whereas India has 400 factories to
manufacture submersible pumps. A submersible pump, which is available
for Rs25,000 in India costs Rs150,000 in Pakistan.
Digging up of a well costs Rs450,000 now. A sack of
urea, which previously was available for Rs250 now costs Rs1000.
Pesticides, on the other hand, are so expensive that they have almost
become out of the reach of an ordinary farmer. Even the landowners
having 100 acres of land cannot afford to go on, says Karamat. Which
means farming is not practical for an ordinary farmer owning five acres
of land in Pakistan.
"Being an agrarian country, our survival lies in
agriculture," he says. "As such, government should encourage
the trend of raising farms by offering them incentives like fixed rate
electricity and provide pesticides, fertilisers and seeds on discounted
"Have you ever seen or watched any programme on
TV or articles appearing in the newspapers for farmers? Newspapers have
entire pages reserved for sports, women, fashion and religion and not
even a single column space for the farmers," Karamat complains
bitterly. Even the articles on agriculture appearing in the weekly
business sections are too technical and hardly address the needs of the
About employment opportunities for the locals, Dr.
Quraishi says they are compelled to hire the locals but wages are low
and output is also low because these are sick people as they are not
eating enough and they are not getting proper nourishment. So they
cannot work hard and get tired soon.
No farm is able to produce a cash crop. Cash crops
are those, which mature quickly and reach the market early. They will be
sold quickly and they will get more than what the farmers invested.
"Almost 99% of vegetables in Karachi are laden with pesticides
because vegetables will not grow without pesticides due to insect
infection. If these farms can guarantee pesticide-free vegetables, they
can sell it for five times the cost of the market value. People will
purchase it because there is no pesticide in it," observes Dr.
Quraishi. Apart from pesticide-free vegetables, they should also grow
seasonal flowers, he added.
One acre is good and five acres is the right one that
can be exploited into growing all this produce plus cost-effective cash
crop, says Dr. Quraishi when asked about the appropriate size of a
He suggests that farm owners should diversify their
farms by giving more recreational and amusement facilities like horse
rides, pedal boats for children, and slides for swimming pool. Not just
a plain pool to jump into but there should be a little adventure for
kids in to swimming pools.
And, most of all, there should be a whole model of
village life — farm animals, huts/shacks, hand mill, ox-driven cart,
and trees for the children to climb up as a city child hardly gets such
opportunities. They should also, if possible, showcase local cottage
industries like embroidery and clay tiles, he says. There should be lots
of fruit and shady trees like pakhar (which is a cousin of banyan),
gooler and peeple for the birds to nest in. "A world without birds
can never be a beautiful place to live in," remarks Dr. Quraishi.
Muzaffar suggests there should be adequate security
arrangements, proper access roads and a cook to be provided to the
visitors who stay overnight in addition to a lot of greenery. Trees like
neem and coconut should be planted. "Neem provides shade and
coconut has decorative properties," he observes. He further
suggests that the government should provide some legislation or
constitute a controlling authority to keep a check on picnic farms
operating on commercial basis so that the proprietors ensure quality
service, security and basic facilities to the visitors, and they do not
allow the visitors to indulge in illegal activities like gambling etc.