PROBLEMS IN AGRICULTURE
Agriculture still remains the largest sector of Pakistan's economy in terms of agricultural productions, population growth, employment and income generations
By S.M. ALAM
Feb 28 - Mar 06, 2005
Total geographical area of Pakistan (Sq.kms) is 796,096 (Punjab-205,344; Sindh-140,914; NWFP-74,521; Balochistan-347,190, FATA-27,220 and Islamabad Federal Area-906), corresponding to 80.0 mha, and (20.60 mha; 14.10 mha; 10.20 mha; 34.67 mha of the four provinces of Pakistan, respectively). Most of the areas in the Punjab and Sindh provinces are plain land, formed by the River Indus. Pakistan is known for its excellent network of canals and rich agricultural lands, with three major reservoirs — Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma, 23 barrages, 12 huge interlink canals, 62,800 kilometers canals length, 106 kilometers water courses and 107,000 Nos. of channels. The Northern Regions of Pakistan is famous for its high mountain ranges, the Himalayas and Karakorams. The highest peak in the area is Godwin Austin (K-2), which is 8610.60 meters above the sea level. This is the second highest peak in the world. The south western part of the country is a plateau with an average height of about 609.6 meters above the sea level. The Province of NWFP comprises of both hilly areas and fertile valleys. Balochistan, the biggest province of Pakistan is mainly an arid region with promise of mineral wealth. The hot summer months extended from April to June and the winter months are effective from December to February of the year. The climate in some areas of the country varies from -0oC to over 50oC.
Pakistan is basically an agricultural country. It contributes almost one-third of the gross domestic product (GDP), provides employment to 75 percent of the rural population and accounts for more than 35 percent of the export earning. Despite land reforms, socio-economic situation in the rural sector is predominantly feudalistic. Access of small farmers to civil administration or local bank management is very little, whereas, rural elites enjoy a privileged position in the local decision making. Agriculture growth has suffered a severe set back during 2000-2001 due to the unprecedented drought situation and shortage of irrigation water to the extent of 40 percent eventually causing a decline of 2.5 percent as against an impressive growth of 5.1 per cent growth of 6.1 percent last year. Among the major crop wheat production is estimated at 19,535 thousand tonnes in 2000-2001, as against 21,079 thousand tonnes last year, showing a decline of 12.1 percent. Cotton, the most important cash crop, its production decreased from 11,240 thousand in 1999-2000 to 10,732 thousand bales in 2000-2001 — a decline of 4.5 percent. Rice production is also estimated to have declined to 4,803 thousand tonnes in 2000-2001, as against 5,156 thousand tonnes last year, showing a decline of 6.8 percent. Sugarcane production has decline by about 5.9 percent in 2000-2001 or to 43, 608 thousand tonnes in 2000-2001 from 46,333 thousand tonnes last year. Minor crops, chillies production is higher by 42 percent followed by mung pulse (10.2 percent) and marsh pulse (8 percent). However, onion production is less by 9.2 percent, followed by potato (7.6 percent), and masoor pulse (5.9 percent) during 2000-2001.
Of the total geographical areas, 79.61 mha of Pakistan, the total cropped areas of Pakistan is 19.82 mha, of which the total cropped areas of Punjab is 11.04 mha; Sindh 5.45 mha; NWFP 1.93 mha and Balochistan 1.40 mha. Of this cropped area, only 25 percent is under cultivation, 4.5 percent under forest, about 57 percent is range land. The irrigated land is 75 percent (15.2 mha. of the total cropped area), 19 percent (or nearly 4.25 mha) is rainfed, while the other 4 percent is irrigated by tubewells and other sources. The main agricultural resources inputs are: fertilizers, water regimes, pesticides, weedicides, high yielding varieties, labourers, etc. Pakistan's economy depends on agriculture. The country is fortunate in that the soils, topography and climate are generally suitable for year round agriculture. Due to the existence of the country in arid and semi-arid climatic regions, artificial irrigation has been practiced for a long time. Rainfall in the country is sporadic and the annual rainfall distribution based on per cent of geographical area, which may be classified as, about 68 per cent of the geographical area lies under annual rainfall of 251-500 mm. This leaves only 8 percent of geographical area where the annual rainfall exceeds 500 mm. Climatic stress due to high temperatures and droughts are characterized as crop growth index and aridity index, respectively.
Pakistan is a land of promise and tremendous development possibilities by virtue of its unique geographical location, fast acquisitional talents of its people, and richness of natural and cultural resources. Most of the land area of Pakistan is classified as arid to semi-arid because rainfall is not sufficient to grow agricultural crops, forest and fruit plants and pastures. The culture able area of Pakistan is 35.4 mha, forest land 3.5 mha, culturable waste 8.6 mha, cultivated area 23.3 mha, waterlogged and salt affected area in the Indus Basin is 6.8 mha, salt affected area out side Indus Basin is 5.6 mha. The hot deserts extend over some western areas and Thar, Cholistan and Thal. Thar and Cholistan are part of the great Indian desert and cover the area east of the southern half of the Indus plains. The Thal area is between the Jhelum and Indus Rivers.
Water is a unique natural resource. In Pakistan, conservation and management of water supplies is crucial as the demand for water continues to rise because of burgeoning population. Pakistan agriculture is predominantly irrigated. Water is one of the most limiting constraint for agricultural production in Pakistan. Pakistan is blessed by nature with fertile lands, network of rivers, sunshine, versatile climate, and vast potential of agricultural production. The country's major agricultural areas lie within the smooth plains formed naturally by mighty Indus River since time immemorial and its several tributaries such as Kabul, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej, which flow in southwardly directions, finally enter into a single stream and flowing into Arabian Sea near Karachi. However, due to mismanagement of water resources, inadequate drainage systems, poor performance of existing irrigation and drainage systems, the agricultural production is far below its potential. High yielding resistant varieties of seeds, farm mechanization, expansion of irrigation, good quality of certified seeds; land preparation, planting time, management inputs, weed control, use of weedicides; skill and knowledge of production technology, plant protection techniques, brining new land under cultivation; proper ratio and use of balanced of chemical fertilizers agricultural extension services; multiple cropping systems, control of post harvest losses.
Agriculture still remains the largest sector of Pakistan's economy in terms of agricultural productions, population growth, employment and income generations. The main and macro cereal crops of the country are wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, etc., which play pivotal and vantage role in the economy of the country. These crops cover a very large areas in term of cultivation. So, their productions are also very large and phenomenal. Cotton and rice are the main exportable cash crops. In addition, fruits and vegetables are also produced in sufficient quantities, which are also exported to foreign markets.
The science-based agriculture has generally meant higher and more stable production and a better way of life for billions of people. The most important development had been our ability to produce continually larger harvests, ensuring food stability and security for a constantly growing population. The green revolution in agriculture during 1960 conducted research to enable new procedures to be adapted to local conditions to increase and diversity crop yield in Pakistan. Although, human numbers have doubled since 1960, reaching 6 billion in 1999, food production has out placed population chiefly as a result of the development and use of improved plant varieties, a seven-fold increase in the nitrogenous fertilizers, a doubling of irrigated area, more effective control of insects and diseases, improved strains of livestock and poultry and wider use of nutritionally balanced feeds. In Pakistan, the green revolution has resulted in tremendous yield increases in case of wheat production has gone up from 3.9 million metric tonnes to 21 million metric tonnes. Rice has progressed from 1.3 million metric tonnes to 5.1 million metric tonnes. Maize production also short up from 0.7 million metric tonnes to 1.35 metric tonnes and sugarcane production from 22 million metric tonnes to 46.3 million metric tonnes. In Pakistan, the total area under cultivation has not decreased but at least for the last 10 years, it is almost the same i.e. 21 million hectare. And with the population explosion, it has also posed a serious threat to our economy, as this cultivated area is very difficult to increase because of water limitations.
The farmers of our country are still unaware of the proper fertilizer usage. We are still far off from the potential of our agricultural produce. We have achieved 2.2 tonnes in wheat, 2.8 tonnes in rice, 1.3 tonnes in maize and 50 tonnes in sugarcane per hectare against the potential of 6.4 tonnes in what, 6.8 tonnes in rice, 6.9 tonnes in maize and 166 tonnes in sugarcane per hectare, respectively. Now the compete with the water shortage, increasing population, threat for decreasing land for cultivation and above all to see a prosperous. We should follow the best management practices in all the sphere of farming system. It includes good land leveling soil and water analysis, timely sowing of crops, adequate and balanced fertilizers, good irrigation management good rotation and better storage of the produce. All these practices are indispensable for better produce but chemical fertilizers and their usage is much more important as they act as the instant energizers and ultimate growth enhancer for the plants.
In Pakistan, production of fertilizers is not meeting the demand and in the near future, the situation seems to remain the same. So, we should utilize the presently available fertilizer quantity in an adequate and balanced manure to keep the soil in a good condition. It has been estimated that more than two million tonnes of nutrients are removed from our agricultural soils each year in farm product alone. A balanced combination of fertilizers is needed for good crop harvest. In Pakistan, the current use of straight fertilizers which ultimately provide N, P and K to the soil is 110 kg/ha as compared to 300-600 kg/ha in Western Europe and 300-350 kg/ha in China and Egypt. In our country where the organic matter is already less than 1 percent in the soils, the use of N and P is between 1:3.35-4.03 as compared to recommended quantity of 1:2-2.5. It means if a farmer is using 1 kg of P, he should use 2 or 2.5 kg of N for a balanced from the canal head to the crop root zone is as low as 35-40 per cent i.e. out of 93 MAF water, which comes from the rivers into the surface irrigation system only 35-40 MAF reaches the crop root zone. The remaining 56 MAF is lost to water course losses, canal seepage and breaches, etc. We have to develop new reservoirs for storage of surplus water for timely supply to crops during growing seasons.
Lining of the water courses can also overcome the current enormous losses. To avoid a huge expense on lining at farmer's field, geo-membrane-PVC sheet can be used to reduce water losses. Public and private tubewells should be encouraged to increase the water availability. The fertilizer would keep soils fertile by replacing the already replenished nutrients by the produce and would definitely flourish the idea of adequate and balanced fertilization. This fertilizer would also improves the water use efficiency. A well-fed crop produces a healthier and more extensive root system, i.e. capable of extracting water and nutrients more efficiently than a nutrient deficient crop. It is stated that, this adequate and balanced fertilization practice, if properly understood and adopted, will definitely prolong the period of green revolution, food production can keep face if not outpace with the existing population growth in the next half century. This adequate and balanced fertilization has the ability to completely overcome the Pakistani soil fertility problem and cope with the irrigation problem in agricultural areas pretty well fertilizer status in the soil. The prevailing irrigation water inadequacy can check the area under cultivation, proper crop growth and ultimately the production. Approximately 90 per cent of the agricultural production come from irrigated land supplies.
Soil salinity is a major problem in arid and semiarid regions, where rainfall is insufficient to leach salts and excess sodium ions down and out of the root zone. These areas often have high evaporation rates, which can encourage an increase in salt concentration at the soil surface through capillary rise. The presence of a cemented hardpan at varying depths and insufficient precipitation for leaching often adds to the problem. Newly established irrigation projects, with improper planning and management practices may also add salts to soils. Historically, soil salinity contributed to the decline of several ancient civilization. Despite the advanced technologies available today, salinization of millions of hectares of land continues to reduce crop productivity severely worldwide. The climate of Pakistan is arid to semi-arid. Annual rainfall over much of the Indus Plain is erratic and uneven and not more than 150 mm while evaporation is high (1,250 mm to 2,800 mm).
The Indus Basin has a flat topography, poor natural drainage and a semi-arid climate with high evaporation. Such an environment, irrigation with inadequate drainage has inevitably resulted in the twin-problem of water logging and salinity. Increase in diversion in river flows and seepage from canals, watercourses and irrigated areas have led to gradual rise in groundwater levels. Within 100 years, water table has risen from 40 to 300 meters on about 42 per cent area of the Indus Basin. The situation is worst in Sindh province, where water table is within 3 meter on 57% of irrigated area. The high water table creates problems of oxygen deficiency, salt-built up in the soil profile and poor workability with soil. Salinity has become a menace to the agriculture in Pakistan. The problem is quite common throughout Pakistan but it is especially acute in the Punjab and Sindh, where extensive areas have gone out of cultivation and every year few thousand acres are added to this figure.
Major bottlenecks causing decline in crop production are: poor methods of seed bed preparation; poor methods of planting seed at optimum time; shortage of water for irrigation; non-availability of seed of improved varieties and distribution system; late sowing; delay in cultural operation; water logging and salinity problems; increasing land degradation and soil fertility status; non-availability of water for irrigation close to farms; vagaries of weather; cultural practices imbalanced fertilizers; weed competition, insufficient trained personal; shortage of skilled labour; insufficient trained personal; insect and plant diseases losses; post harvesting losses; poor quality of research and extension services; no proper education and organization of farmers; distance between farmers and irrigation officials; diminishing professionalism and sense of responsibility; lack of commitment and will among the irrigation hierarchy; frequent transfer of officials; unhealthy union activities; too much political activities; political influence of feudal lords, waderas, chaudhuries etc; failure of electricity at peak water requirement of standing crops or when growing period sets in , which brings substantial reduction in yield; untimely irrigation; non-availability of fertilizers.
We can increase the agricultural productivity by bringing new lands under cultivation; ploughing of land in a befitting manner; land leveling for efficient use of water; balanced fertilizer application, types and their methods of use in right proportion and at right time; introduction of high yielding and resistant varieties; good quality certified seed; use of improved seed; timely sowing; use of weedicides to weed control; use of pesticides and right plant protection techniques; cropping systems and multiple cropping; water regimes, expansion of irrigation, adequate quantity of water; agricultural extension services; post-harvest techniques; skill and knowledge of production technology; management of inputs, larger labour inputs resulting in better tillage operation; education and extension training services; strictly following the crop calendar; optimum plant protection, etc.