AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT IN BALOCHISTAN: CHALLENGES & CONSTRAINTS
Mar 1 - 7, 2010
Agriculture development is the key to alleviate poverty in Balochistan and reduce its dependence on other provinces for its vital food requirements. More than 75 percent of its population heavily rely on agricultural goods and services for their livelihood. There is 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.
Balochistan is far behind other provinces in agricultural production. It covers 44 percent of the country's total landmass. A marked improvement in agriculture can make the province self-sufficient in food as well as produce a surplus for exports. The experts are of the view that agriculture sector in Balochistan is facing 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.
The major constraints include scarcity of water, unavailability of agricultural inputs and lack of a strong agriculture research system.
Agriculture in the province with respect to source of water may be classified as canal irrigated, Karezat irrigated, tube well irrigated and rain fed or barani agriculture.
Fruit crops are grown over an area of 149726 hectares in Balochistan and approximately 889490 tons of production is achieved annually. Apples, almonds, grapes, apricots, peaches, plums and dates are grown over an area of 48329 hectares, 10621 hectares, 12240 hectares, 10999 hectares, 3945 hectares, 3872 hectares and 43099 hectares, respectively.
Fruit production in highland Balochistan, which contains southwestern region, depends on the availability of groundwater. The region is famous for grape production of commercial varieties such as Kishmishi and Shundokhani.
Efficient crop management can increase the profits of local farmers and decrease their costs involved in fruit production. The experts believe that Balochistan's tremendous yield potential of high quality deciduous fruits can efficiently be tapped by establishing 'crop specific zone' and "fruit processing units" in the province. Each agro-ecological zone in the province presents specific agro-climatic conditions for production of different kinds of fruits. Grape, the low delta crop is grown in bulk in Quetta, Pishin, Kalat, Zhob, Loralai and Mastung districts. Zoning is essential for growing different fruit crops. The experts suggest that province should be divided into zones for quality fruit production. Generally, the local growers of fruit crops do not pay heed toward zoning for growth of different fruit crops.
Treatment plants are essential for preservation of fruits in Balochistan, mainly the apples and dates. Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) should take steps for setting up separate dates processing and apple storage projects in Balochistan. The experts should also introduce high yielding, and drought and disease resistance varieties of fruits. The positive steps to increase fruit production and export from the province will increase the country's foreign exchange reserves.
The reclamation of cultivable wasteland and development of water resources are the two key challenges for the development of agriculture in the province.
Shortage of irrigation water: The main problem confronting the farmers of Balochistan is the shortage of irrigation water. The long term water management program in Balochistan will meet a long felt need of the province for adequate quantity of water for agriculture, especially the expanding acreage of fruit orchards. The province depends on rain, Karezat and tube wells for irrigation. Over 50 per cent farmers rely on only irrigated crops, which are the main enterprise. Naseerabad, the only canal irrigated district, receives water from the tail end of the Indus River system at the time of sowing cotton and paddy.
Balochistan is a water starved province. The development of water resources should be the key to maximise 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. An integrated programme approach for water management needs to be adopted.
For the last many years, Balochistan government 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 former government had launched on-farm water management (OFWM) projects and the programme for the improvement and lining of watercourses all over the country. The programme envisaged lining improvement of 87,000 watercourses at a cost of Rs 66 billion within 3-4 years. The initiative was aimed at improving water supply at the farm gate through reduction in the seepage losses. During the year 2006-07, 18,390 watercourses have been lined and renovated against the target of 18,000 watercourses.
World Bank has reportedly committed to provide US$25 million for Balochistan Small-Scale Irrigation Project (BSSIP), which will support the provincial government's efforts for improving the management of scarce water resources in the Pishin Lora Basin in northern Balochistan by reducing the overall impact of the present water crisis. The project can contribute to strengthening provincial water management capabilities. The project has three components that include 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, and farmer and community organisations, and implementing studies.
Reclamation of cultivable wasteland: 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 needs to be enhanced by providing it additional machinery and bulldozers to reclaim the cultivable wasteland. Federal government plans to provide 200 bulldozers for Balochistan, which would be hired out to the farmers at no profit no loss basis to facilitate them in reclaiming the cultivable wasteland. According to the official sources, around 146,250 hectares of cultivable wasteland in would be reclaimed through the use of 200 bulldozers in the province. Minfal has approved a number of projects for crop maximisation to reduce poverty and food insecurity in Pakistan in PSDP 2006-07. A number of projects assisted by ADB, FAO and UN/WFP for crop maximisation are also under implementation.
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.