We must not feel shy to learn from China to overcome our problems in agriculture as well as soil and water management to maximize our efficiency in low cost farming.

Jan 22 - 28, 2007

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) ordained fifteen centuries ago: "Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China". There was no doubt a prophetic vision in what He commanded as China was to emerge as a great power in the world and was to project itself as a centre par excellence for acquisition of knowledge, information on science and technology. As the coming events cast their shadows before, that commandment is still valid, also because of the willingness of China to generously impart what it possesses in the form of knowledge, methodologies and technologies in different fields and areas. Of course, the first and foremost thing that we all, including our rulers and people, need to learn and acquire from China is their work culture, their devotion, dedication and commitment to their national goals and country, which has enabled them to reach at such a zenith of progress and prosperity. China now stands as the fourth largest economy in the world and optimistically it has the potential to acquire the first position in the world in the near future.

The visit of Chinese President in November last year was to revive and reaffirm strategic relations between China and Pakistan. Governments of both the countries as well as many private companies belonging to China and Pakistan signed many agreements. Chief Minister Punjab, Ch. Parvez Ellahi had already visited the province of Jiangsu in October, 2006 and was impressed to see the progress and prosperity of that province, which is serving as food basket for China, because of high production of vegetables, fruits, agricultural crops and animal husbandry. It is maintaining its enviable track of economic growth rate of 12.5 percent for the last 20 years. Great credit for this achievement goes to Jiangsu Academy of Agriculture and Sciences, which is well possessed of modern facilities. There the yield per acre is exceedingly high as compared to Pakistan. The Chief Minister Punjab in a recent meeting with Ambassador of China in Pakistan, Zhang Chunixiang, in Lahore had said that Jiangsu and Punjab have been declared as twin provinces and he was eagerly interested and was optimistic that co-operation between both the provinces in agriculture, textile, agriculture research and other sectors would go on unabated for ever. A good deal of progress can be made in agriculture sector and per acre yield can be wonderfully raised in Pakistan if the enrichment of cooperation that has developed in respect of agriculture, could be properly exploited.

In agriculture land-levelling plays an extraordinary role in saving irrigation water, labour cost in weeding out undesirable herbs, proper harvesting and getting better yields. Eighty percent of landowners in Pakistan are small land-owners possessing less than 12.5 acres of land but it is also an admitted fact that in spite of their scanty resources their production per acre is much higher than that of the big land-owners and feudal lords. This has already been commended by the World Bank and IMF. Although laser technology is being used in some areas of Pakistan, neither our farmers in the remote areas have access to this latest technology nor is it affordable for our small land-owners unless political and financial support is made available by the government.

China has manufactured agricultural machinery and equipment, which can be rightly called requirement-oriented. Of these, small bull-dozers are both economical and useful for levelling the land. If 600 to 1000 such bull-dozers are procured and used in Pakistan, hundred thousands acres of uneven and uncultivable land can be levelled and made cultivable. Chinese National Agro Technology Corporation and Cam-co International and other companies of China have sound international expertise and reputation to manufacture agricultural tools, dozers, tractors and other equipment suitable to meet our needs. These two companies are already co-operating with us in different projects in Pakistan. They can also be safely involved for land-levelling projects in Pakistan at a large scale, on sharing basis.

Agriculture sector in Pakistan is suffering from declining land and water resources, water-logging, salinity and inefficient irrigation system. China like other progressive agricultural countries realized the problem of shortage of water 25 years ago and went on trying and testing methodologies and technologies for getting maximum benefit from minimum irrigation water to overcome the problem of shortage of water. Instead of using ground water courses and flood irrigation, drip and sprinkling systems were put to use, which proved more effective. This has enabled China to save 60 percent of irrigation water as compared to conventional method of irrigation. This has also resulted in the increase of yield per acre to the extent of 20 percent. Now China is categorized as one of the most modern and progressive agricultural countries. China has now increased its production in cereals, cotton, pulses, ground-nut, vegetables and fruits at such a large scale that after meeting its indigenous requirements, it is exporting its surplus to foreign countries. On the other hand, Pakistan being basically an agricultural country, has not acquired self-sufficiency in agricultural production in the real sense - rather at times it needs to import wheat, rice, sugarcane, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, ginger etc. in millions of tons, worth billions of rupees. Economists are afraid that if this situation persists, Pakistan will be compelled to import one third of food products and essential commodities from foreign countries and our agro-based industries would suffer a great setback, leading to inadequate food supply, downfall of economic growth and widespread unemployment.

This has been sorrowfully noticed that out of 103 maf of water resource available in our canal irrigation system, 60 maf of water is wasted each year in Pakistan from the source to the farms and fields by evaporation, leakage and seepage of canals and water channels. Taking cognizance of the situation and getting inspiration from the government and people of China, we need to construct new dams, arrange lining of our canals, distributaries and water courses on war-footing (as we have already wasted lot of time and valuable water resource for years and years), besides switching over to sprinkling and drip irrigation systems wherever it is economically, ecologically and geographically possible. This would save almost 60 percent of irrigation water besides increasing yields per acre up to 20 percent, as already estimated by FAO experts in Balochistan. These systems of irrigation can be equally and efficiently practiced in deserts and sandy areas in Cholistan and Thal, some areas of Sindh as well as NWFP, where conventional system of irrigation is not feasible. In mountainous areas Chinese Hydra ramp pump should be adopted for irrigation purposes proficiently.

In order to introduce and popularize modern methods of irrigation, the Government of Pakistan has facilitated signing of an agreement in 2006 between National Centre for Irrigation Engineering of Pakistan and Technical Research Sankiang, whereby drip and sprinkling irrigation projects will be installed on 2500 acres of land for demonstration, as a gesture of cooperation between China and Pakistan. Of this, 1000 acres of land has been allocated in the province of Punjab and 500 acres each in the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh and NWFP. Under this agreement, a training course termed as International Training Course will be arranged to create awareness and to acquaint the participants about the benefits of modern irrigation systems. For execution of these demonstration projects, the Government of Pakistan will provide 156.5 millions of rupees. Besides, another irrigation project will be completed in Balochistan, which will cater to irrigate 22500 acres of land by drip irrigation through pipelines, for which funds would be provided by PSDP. It may be of information to readers that in China, a free international course was carried out for apprising the participants of modern technologies of irrigation, which was attended and participated by Pakistani agriculturists and six agricultural experts from Punjab and three from the province of Sindh, besides experts from other countries. It would be appropriated if the information and technical know-how acquired by our agriculturists and experts by virtue of this course is invariably passed onto our farmers through print and electronic media and extension service for application thereof in their fields and farms.

Pakistan has 10.6 million hectares of sandy land and deserts, where average rainfall per annum is very little and in most of the areas underground water is brackish, which is unfit for irrigation. But luckily the composition of sand particles is such that it is suitable for agriculture if we adopt drip and sprinkling irrigation systems. With the co-operation of China, this large tract of land is being brought under cultivation by applying sulfuric acid, gypsum etc. through the aforesaid irrigation systems for water and soil treatment. These systems of irrigation have proven successful in growing fruit gardens, forestry, vegetables, cereals and other food crops in Abu Dhabi, Israel, America, Australia and China in their desert areas and can prove equally effective and productive in Cholistan and Thal in Punjab, deserts of Thar in Sindh, Chaghi and Kharan in Balochistan and southern desert areas of NWFP.

Chinese industries have manufactured a combined-green-planter which, besides sowing seeds, burying them in the soil, levels the soil to avoid wastage of seeds by exposure so as to let seeds benefit from the moisture of the soil. This machine is economical and suitable for medium and large farms. For small land-owners China has manufactured a hand-driven small tractor, which is fit for 12.5 acres farm. This tractor serves the purpose of tilling the land as well as for sowing the seed. This is equally economical and time and labour saving device, meant to reduce the cost of inputs. It also increases production by 20 percent. It may suit small land-owners very much.

It will be opportune if we avail these technologies, know-how and agricultural machines and tools from China and endeavour to have them adjusted to our local requirements. We must not feel shy to learn from China to overcome our problems in agriculture as well as soil and water management to maximize our efficiency in farming at low cost.