Transforming Agriculture In The Pothohar Plateau
The Pothohar plateau covers about 7 percent of all the cultivated land of Pakistan and most of it is very fertile. But this region does not have any proper irrigation system, with its main source of water being rain. Inappropriate construction, maintenance and management of dams is amongst one of the major problems encountered by the Pothohar region when it comes to agriculture. Despite its huge potential, the Pothohar region has always been sidelined in the agricultural sector.
Nestled in between the gigantic Salt Range and the Hazara Hills, Pothohar region is a land of unparalleled charm and glory. A huge portion of the population in this region is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture.
Despite its importance, agriculture in the Pothohar Plateau has not yet received enough attention from the government at any point in time. There are a number of problems that hinder the progress in agriculture sector.
First and the foremost comes the problem of irrigation. Almost all of the land in this region is barani and is dependent upon rainwater for irrigation. From a total of 1.8 million hectares of land, only 0.7 million hectares is cultivable. And even out of this, only 4 percent is irrigated while all the remaining land is rainwater dependent. Multiple dams and other water storage structures have been built from time to time, but almost one of these has proved to be fruitful. Hindrances have occurred at the primary stages just after land is acquired, say the locals. Even in those cases where work was started and to some extent completed, it was not up to the mark.
Secondly, the general level of farming of agriculture is very low as compared to the rest of Pakistan and the world. Farmers are generally illiterate and do not even have the basic knowledge of modern techniques that are required to cope with modern day requirements. Farmers cannot work to control the agricultural diseases. Moreover, they’re not confident enough to use modern methods of agriculture. Another reason of substandard agriculture is the poverty of farmers and they do not have enough resources to buy expensive modern machinery, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
Thirdly, the laws of inheritance which are generally in practice result in the division of land into smaller and smaller pieces and eventually it becomes impossible for a farmer to buy machinery for such a small piece of land, that too when they are expecting a very meager output.
Even with the farmers who produce a good yield, there lies the problem of communication gap. Road networks and railway networks are not developed enough so as to encourage or help farmers transport their processed goods.
Another big problem is that there’s a large number of members in the producer-consumer chain. These third-party members gain a huge profit margin, consequently leaving a very small profit for farmers which is not very encouraging for the farmers.
This uncertain situation neither creates incentives for hard work nor does it attract capital investment. Solutions to the aforementioned problems are possible. Though time taking and effort demanding, revolutionary changes can be brought in agriculture of Pothohar region.
First and foremost, the issue of water resources needs to be addressed. There’s a dire need of building new dams in the area which can store water and provide it in a timely manner to the plant or crop.
There’s a need to not only construct but also check the quality and standard of water storage structures, which can provide benefit to the people. Water needs to be used wisely; when we know that there’s a shortage of water, then the traditional floor irrigation method should not be used. Instead, new methods of irrigation should be introduced such as drip farming, sprinkle farming, tunnel farming etc.
This would aid in achieving the maximum output through a minimal use of water supplies. Farmers should be given basic knowledge of modern-day techniques and equipment, so that they are able to use new and improved types of machinery, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.
There should be a more scientifically directed, research-oriented work in this field. A number of institutions are required in this regard. Barani Agriculture Institute Chakwal is an institute playing its part to solve issues plaguing agriculture in the region. However, there’s a need for more institutes. Recently, it has been found out that the Pothohar region, especially Chakwal and its surroundings, are very suitable for olive farming.