Climatic change and food insecurity

BARI BALOCH July 08, 2013

QUETTA – Ali Bakhsh is an aged farmer, based in Nushki district, which is about 148 kilometers southeast of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, the largest but least developed province of Pakistan.
Ali Bakhsh cultivates mostly wheat, cumin, watermelon and melon in his rain-irrigated lands that bring enough income to him to live a normal life with his family, but now he does not seem happy with farming since he is not able to cultivate wheat nor cumin because of extra-ordinary delay in rain and long draught.
Since last more than one decade, Ali Bakhsh says they are observing drastic change in weather conditions that is inflicting their centuries-old farming which is the mainstay of their economy.
“Our arid lands are stretched over thousands of acres and the source of irrigation is rainwater and tube-wells but because of unusual variation in weather and draughts we are unable to grow wheat, cumin, watermelon and other crops,” he says, adding that these crops used to give a boost to their economy but now they could not even grow wheat to fulfill their needs.
Ali Bakhsh recalls that he had witnessed long droughts consisting ten to 15 years but after long draughts the weather would return in its normal form and the rain would fall timely helping them to cultivate wheat, cumin and other crops.
“In past we have experienced enough rains with the beginning of November which is the best timing for cultivation of wheat and cumin in Nushki and its surrounding districts but during past 8 to 10 years we are going through uneven delay in rains,” he explains.
Like Ali Bakhsh there are hundreds of other farmers whom livelihood is linked with rainwater in most of districts of Balochistan which covers 44 per cent of Pakistan in terms of area and over 80 per cent of its population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture and livestock.
The arid lands of Balochistan which are dependent on rainwater produce thousands of tonnes wheat, cumin, watermelon and melon for the scattered population of Balochistan and farmers not only fulfill their own demands from these yields but also export them to other main cities of the country.
But when draught hits the areas, the farmers not only fall in starvation but are also compel to move to urban areas for search of food that makes their life more miserable.
Muhammad Azeem, another Nushki-based former says if there is timely rain on their apparently barren lands they could produce thousands of tons of wheat that would not only be sufficient for over 0.2 million population of Nushki district but it would also fulfill demands of rest of Balochistan population.
There is a serious shortage of power (energy crises) in the country and because of non-availability of electricity the agriculture sector is facing serious complexity particularly in Balochistan where agriculture in 29 out of 33 districts depends on electricity.
“Since 2001 various districts of Balochistan, including that of district Nushki are virtually passing through a long draught, thus no data of wheat and cumin yield of rain- irrigated lands has been taken,” Sanaullah Badini, an official of agriculture department in district Nushki told The Nation, adding that there are 21 per cent cultivated lands in Nushki which depend on rains while 60 per cent are irrigated through tube-wells.
“Nushki and many other districts have been passing through draught like situation for the last several years. The cycle of rain has also changed manifold as it rains heavily in the month of February instead of November and December which is considered the right time for cultivation of wheat and cumin,” he said, adding that due to variation in the cycle of rain the rain-dependent farmers could not cultivate crops and suffer a lot.
He says rainfall and temperature has a significant effect on wheat crop productivity.
Deputy Director Environmental Protection Agency and renowned environmentalist, Mehboub Baloch says delay in rainfall is all because of climatic change since a number of gasses, including Corbin dioxide and hydrocarbon were contributing in climatic change. “Climate change is a global issue and we have been observing a change in climate in Pakistan particularly in Balochistan and the heavy thunderstorm in Gwadar in 2011 and heavy floods in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad were its main example,” he added.
He says owing to climatic change the agriculture sector is also being affected because of which food insecurity is existing, however, if available water reservoirs are used properly and modern technology of irrigation is adopted the formers would be able to irrigate their lands and could produce maximum food. “Besides cleaning water channels (Karezats) delay-action dames should be constructed and the wastage of rain water should be protected from being wasted,” he added.

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