AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT OF BALOCHISTAN
PRESENT POSITION, PLANS AND POTENTIALS
M. R. CHAUDHRY
Feb 18 - 24, 2008
Balochistan, which has recently passed through great political turmoil, is the largest province of Pakistan, covering a vast area, measuring 347.190 square miles, equivalent to 34.720 million hectares. This accounts for 43 percent of the total area of Pakistan. Only 18.6 million hectares of land has been reported. Out of this only 4.6 percent i.e. 1.6 million hectares is under cultivation. It is the most sparsely populated province. Total population is around 7.5 million. Rural population is 85 percent, whose mainstay is agriculture and livestock. Iran and Afghanistan are in the west and north-west of Balochistan, the provinces of N.W.F.P. and Punjab are on its northern side, Sindh on its eastern side and Arabian Sea on the south. It has 832 kms common borders with Iran and 1160 kms with Afghanistan while Balochistan has 560 kms of coast commanding 1440 kilometers of Arabian Sea. Thus it guards the Gulf. Its geographical location makes it a strategic area, especially now because of the development of Gwadar Deep seaport. .
Balochistan is a land of contrasts so far its topography and landscape is concerned. It has lofty mountains, vast barren areas and lush green valleys, sunny beaches and Juniper clad of forests with extreme temperatures, 50 degree centigrade to 10 degree centigrade at Khan Mehtrazi. The average rainfall is 3 to 14 inches. Balochistan is a mineral rich province while it is popularly called "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" because of the production of the finest qualities of fruits.
Climatic conditions are arid, ranging from dry hyper arid and temperate regions from cool temperature of tropical. There is scarcity of irrigation water. Still there is amazing crops variety. Mostly irrigated and un-irrigated horticulture is concentrated in highland of Balochistan rain-fed, Sailabi/Kjushkaba areas.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the population of the province, which provides employment to 60 percent of its population. Agriculture is in practice in 70 percent of the high land cultivated areas (0.395 million hectares), whereas only 3 percent area is irrigated, where barley and pulses are the main crops. About 1000 square miles of land in Nasirabad Division is canal irrigated. The rest of the land depends upon irrigation water by tube-wells, wells, karez (underground water channels), springs, weirs and rains. Even without fertilizer per hectare yield of wheat in the rain-fed areas of Balochistan is the highest in the country because the lands are mostly virgin containing most of the nutrients to boost crops. Annual wheat production is about 300,000 tons.
Organic Farming: Balochistan is superlatively suitable province for organic farming as farmers, being resource-poor, seldom use chemical fertilizers and sprays and the land of the province is mostly virgin containing all the requisite nutrients, which befit this type of farming. Organic farming in the production of fruit and vegetables as well as for the major crops like wheat, rice, cotton etc. would prove a bonanza for the farmers as organic food fetches higher and better prices and is in high demand in big cities and towns of Pakistan and more so in the West because of its benefit for the health of consumers and environmental security.
Present land use statistics (source Agriculture Statistic of Balochistan 1996-97):
Area not available for cultivation (58.6%)
Cultivable waste (25.1%)
Fallows (6.5%) fallow
Total geographical area
Methods of irrigation include tube wells, Persian wells, karez (underground water channels ñ a great novelty as an irrigation system), springs, weirs, rains, dams and canals.
Construction of Mirani Dam in Kachhi of district Makran just north of Gwadar on Dasht River has been completed at a cost of Rs.6 billion including Rs.1.5 billion paid as compensation to the affectees. It has a storage capacity of over 300,000 MAF of water and catchment's area of 12000 Kms. This project was conceived in the year, 1956 and was launched in 2003. Dasht River brings water from Nihang River and flood water to irrigate lands of Dasht River basin in flat terrain of Kech area. An area of 33,200 acres of land in the basin will now be irrigated from this dam.
PATFEEDER CANAL SYSTEM:
Patfeeder Canal System was constructed as a part of Guddu Barrange Project in 1969 with a capacity of 3180 cusecs for irrigation of 1,42,510 hectares (3,52,000 acres) in Nasirabad and Jaffarabad districts of Balochistan. The canal and its system after remodeling has acquired a capacity of 6,700 cusecs sufficient for an additional area of 18,160 hectares (45,000 acres, with 164 minor canals. On completion of the project, the irrigation capacity will increase from 77 percent to 96 percent and the crop area in Kharif and Rabi will increase from 142,510 hectares (352,000 acres) to 179,000 hectares (442,000 acres). The main crops of these areas are wheat and rice. Recently cotton and other oilseed crops have also been introduced quite successfully.
KIRTHER CANAL SYSTEM:
Kirther Canal System branches off from the North West Canal approximately 36 miles down the Sukkur Barrage. The barrage was designed and constructed in 1932 for a capacity of 1164 cusecs to irrigate cultivatable command area of 74,700 hectares (184,500 acres) in Balochistan and 55,870 hectares (1,38,000 acres) in Sindh province. The system was re-modeled to increase its capacity from 1200 cusecs to 2400 cusecs. The area to be irrigated has increased to 77,146 hectares (190,550) acres)
UCH CANAL, MANUTHI CANAL, KHAN WAH AND DIRECT OUTLETS FROM DESERT CANAL:
Uch and Manuthi Canals, and part of Desert Canal system were constructed in 1901 before construction of Guddu Barrage. These branch off from the Desert Canal at 44 and 52 miles with a total length of 32 and 15 miles respectively. The present capacity of the canal is 732 cusecs, which is sufficient to irrigate 17570 hectares (434,000 acres).
KACHHI CANAL PROJECT:
This is the largest single project under construction in Balochistan with an allocation of Rs.31 billion. It is supposed to irrigate 712750 acres of land in Dera Bugti, Nasirabad, Bolan and Jhal Magsi districts of Balochistan. The capacity of this canal is 6000 cusecs, with a total discharge of 2.021 MAF of which 0.452 MAF is perennial and 1.57 MAF as flood flow. It takes off from Indus River at Taunsa Barrage in Dera Ghazi Khan district. Its length would be 500 kms, 3 hundred kms in the province of Punjab and 200 kms in Balochistan. Kachhi canal will enter Balochistan close to Sui and would flow in a westerly direction towards Kachhi district.
Drip/trickle irrigation is most probably the most suitable method in view of the shortage of irrigation water in Balochistan for irrigating crops and fruit and vegetables. However, NGO's and extension service of the Agriculture department should create awareness amongst the farmers to adopt this useful technology in their own interest.
The government has also started work on land-leveling and lining of water courses through On-Farm Water Management Projects besides introducing and developing irrigation system as a scientific and effective measure to economize on irrigation water.
The quality of its deciduous fruits is as good as of the fruit anywhere in the world.
The monetary benefits per acre earned by the growers are probably the highest in the world, which are about:
Apple: Rs.60,000, Cherry: Rs.50,000, Almond : Rs.60,000.
Balochistan contributes about 45 percent of the total fruit produced in Pakistan. About 220,000 acres of warmer parts of the province like Makran, Kharan, Noshki and Khuzdar are well known for dates. Balochistan also produces cash crops including potato, onion, melon and cumin in good qualities. Nurseries have been established at Pishni, Loralai, Ziarat and Mastung, which are proving helpful for increasing fruit production and improving quality of fruits.
Deciduous Fruit Development Project was started about 12 years ago with assistance of United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is proving instrumental to enable the farmers to improve the quality of their fruits. The second phase of the project started about 8 years ago.
These fruit need to be scientifically picked to avoid wastage and deterioration of quality, graded, polished, wherever necessary, and suitably packed before marketing. Establishment of processing plants for value addition would prove beneficial in increasing earnings and employment opportunities to the local population. Since under the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan, Zarai Taraqiati Bank and other banks are providing credit for agriculture related facilities, fruit and vegetable processing plants can be established by the interested parties in the province. The relevant information and awareness needs to be provided by the Agriculture Extension Service.
An overwhelming majority of its rural population is engaged in sheep breeding and raising livestock. According to an estimate, there are 3 sheep and goat heads per person in the province of Balochistan as against 0.7 per person on all-Pakistan basis. Increase in pastoral and grazing areas need to be developed at suitable places to adequately cater to the food and feed requirements of the livestock, besides establishing livestock breeding centres and arranging for mobile veterinary dispensaries.
Meanwhile poultry population has increased three folds during the last 10 years. Two major poultry populations are working in the private sector. In the public sector, Balochistan Livestock Development Project and Karakul Sheep Breeding Project have been implemented with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and European Economic Community.
Fish culture and fishing are part of Balochistan's economy. In 1987 Balochistan Coast Fisheries Development Project was launched to equip fishermen with modern tools, equipment, other facilities and know-how for modern fishing. Eight years ago Pasni Fisheries Development Project was undertaken with the assistance of Asian Development Bank. For successful implementation of this project, Pasni Fisheries Harbour Authority has been set up. There is still a great scope for modernizing the fishing, storage and marketing facilities.
Although the President of Pakistan on 17th November, 2007 reiterated at Gwadar that massive development funds are being spent in the province on a number of mega projects like coastal highway from Gwadar to Turbat- Khizdar and Ratodero to bring about development in the province and happiness to its people, besides many on many projects for agricultural and live-stock development, reservations and misgivings of the local population of Balochistan need to be addressed as a first priority to bring them in the mainstream as one nation. That is only possible if our elected rulers (after the general elections) come forward, with a broad mind, to appease all the aggrieved parties and communities and mitigate their sufferings by using peaceful and harmonious ways to give them a sense of one-ness with people of other provinces including that of Punjab, Sindh and NWFP. That is the first requirement for the economic development, progress, prosperity, stability and sovereignty of the country to remove their feelings of deprivation and estrangement.