By Pakistani correspondent Shah Khalid Shah Jee
Gohar Ali, a farmer from the Zorbandai village in Tehsil Khar (Bajaur district, Pakistan), has hundreds of acres of agricultural land but he is unable to get significant yields due to lack of water. Last year, he planted an olive grove on 4 acres (about 4000 square metres) of land with the help of the Department of Agriculture Extension of Bajaur. According to Gohar, he has planted the first garden of its kind since no one has planted an olive grove in Bajaur on such a large area. He said that when the Department of Agriculture Extension contacted him, they wanted to plant an ideal olive grove in Bajaur and had found that his land was suitable, so Gohar agreed without wasting any time. When the garden was planted, there were no special arrangements for watering it, but soon enough, his olive trees began to dry up because of the drought. He was very worried about this because the water level in his tube well has gone down and because of load shedding (electricity power shutdown) he is not getting the results he wishes for. Gohar Ali is not aware of the effects of climate change, but he said there has been a water crisis in his area for many years, due to which agriculture is being adversely affected.
Ghous-ur-Rehman, Senior Field Assistant at the Department of Agriculture Extension, said that he had planted an olive grove on 4 acres of land belonging to farmer Gohar Ali and there was a problem with irrigation water: ”The olive trees were gradually drying up, which was having a negative impact on the garden. Not only was the owner of the garden, Gohar Ali, upset, but we too were worried”.
But then, a few months ago, the District Director of the Department of Agriculture Extension, Zia-ul-Islam Dawar, was contacted by Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) Project Islamabad officials, which said they wanted to install a drip irrigation system in Bajaur. The director then visited several agricultural lands and, in the end, chose Gohar Ali’s olive grove for the installation of a drip irrigation system because it met his criteria and conditions. With the installation of the system on Gohar’s garden, all stakeholders are more confident now.
Ahmed Saeed, a representative of the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) who installed the first drip irrigation system in Bajaur and also an olive expert, said that the land of Bajaur is very fertile and suitable for olive trees along with other plants. But due to climate change, the groundwater level has gone down, which is having a negative impact on agriculture and orchards.
How does drip irrigation work?
With this system, water is conveyed from the main tank to the desired garden through a large pipe. From there it is distributed in a separate pipe for each line of plants with an automatic system. Each separate plant is given a water connection from this pipe. When the plants need water, they get it in a fixed amount from this automated system. As a result, water is not wasted.
According to Ahmed Saeed, each plant needs 6 to 15 liters of water per year. If more water is given, it is wasted, but a drip irrigation system saves 70% to 80% of water, which is substantial.
Why is drip irrigation important?
Not only in Bajaur but also in the rest of Pakistan, the cycle of rains has changed over the last several years due to climate change, which leads to untimely rains. There are no special arrangements for storing water and a lot of water is being wasted. This is why the groundwater level is constantly going down. On the other hand, people are not aware of the need to use water sparingly and not waste it. Since water is being wasted in so many ways, the drip irrigation system is very important in preserving it. This provides a ray of hope for the people dependent on the land.
How much does drip irrigation cost?
According to Ahmed Saeed, installing a drip irrigation system on an acre of agricultural land costs Rs. 1,200,000 (almost 70,000SEK). If the landowners are hard-working, they can get double the income from this one acre in one year and this will continue every year. So the benefits of this system are very high and can bring about an agricultural revolution in Bajaur.
Gohar said that after the successful installation of a drip irrigation system on his agricultural land, other landlords have contacted him and said that they also want to install similar drip irrigation systems on their land because this system saves a lot of water and also makes it very easy for plants to get the required amount of water automatically. Gohar asked the Department of Agriculture Extension to install more drip irrigation systems for the development of agriculture and horticulture in Bajaur.
District Director Zia-ul-Islam Dawar said that agriculture all over the world is using drip irrigation systems but unfortunately this method has not become common in Pakistan and, as a result, water is being wasted indiscriminately. This is a moment for reflection. He is now in touch with the concerned departments to get the second drip irrigation system installed in Bajaur soon. In addition, we are continuing our efforts to install drip irrigation systems on other suitable agricultural lands. Although Bajaur is very suitable for drip irrigation systems, their installation on a larger scale takes time, but the intention is certainly there to install more such systems in the region. With the help of these systems, garden owners can get good yields from crops and vegetables and also eliminate weeds more effectively.
Gohar now hopes that his economic life will improve because after installing a drip irrigation system on his land, not only are his olive plants getting adequate water but they will also provide good yields. The land has enough water for other crops and vegetables, so he will now be able to get good yields from his land and his hard work will not be wasted as before.