Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan: a glimpse of resilience

Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan: a glimpse of resilience

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Zuhair Hussain

A novel look over agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan implies subsistence farming that is as hard as the mountains of the area, and people are contented with it. Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan is both rain fed as well as irrigated with agronomic and horticultural crops being the two most important pillars. In agronomic crops mostly the indigenous cultivars and even the wild relatives of many crops are grown with the idea of ‘food for own’ whilst the horticultural crops that includes fruits and vegetables are the mainstay of northern areas economy. Need of the time is to call the imperative efforts for the indulgence of self-sufficiency factor in the agriculture of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in world with 2.03% population growth rate (Economic Survey of Pakistan-2012) cannot endure the idea of subsistence farming, in any part, that can impose a big threat to the very edifice of agriculture, thus food security. Efficient resource utilization for resilience is the basic pillar of today’s agriculture as the future prosperity and economic stability mainly depends upon the quantum of material resources and their judicious exploitation and utilization. So in current era, sustainable agriculture is required that should not only be proficient but also profitable.

Current scenario of agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan is miserable and requires immediate attention. Primitive vis-à-vis native cultivars are used in cropping pattern and poor crop management practices are followed in raising of agronomic crops. No innovations for major field crop production and soil management are in practice thus an ecological agricultural pattern is prevailing. Besides limited land holding, quality seed, traditional systems, and untrained labor are a big hindrance in step to progressive farming. As far as horticultural crops are concerned, fruits and vegetables are highly valuable cash crops grown largely throughout the northern areas and are a major source of livelihood. Again the yield is very low that could not meet market demand, and the crops grown are not well received in market. Obsolete practices, local varieties and post harvest losses are very much common prevailing everywhere throughout the area thus causing the decline in quality and perishing the product before marketed.

Realizing the above facets, a big gap is there to fill in order to boost up the agriculture of northern areas on new lines and ultimately improve the economic conditions of people. In fact this requires the participatory approach involving all disciplines directly or indirectly linked with agriculture. Firstly I would like to highlight the research wing as researchers are the nib pins in process of food production. We will have to change our research patterns and stop working on all the obsolete lines as no further benefit we can have from repeating the existing.  New horizons in research focusing the needs of area should be explored and fund based projects should be run in collaboration with Research and Development Institutions.  Next to Research it begins the turn of extension department who are the front line soldiers in dissemination of all research output given by researchers. Existing weak and rudimentary type of extension system has to play a vital role for the uplift of system that includes technology transfer, training of farmers and advice, provision of helping material, and supply of good and quality agricultural inputs (seed, fertilizer etc.). A meagre role of Agriculture marketing can be seen in down country parts but this wing should be strengthened enough in northern areas because a big potential is there for the produce to be marketed in national and international markets. Local as well as foreign based Stakeholders can be invited by creating interest factor thereby providing a room for industrial growth that correlates directly with employment and income generation.

Here I would like to appreciate the efforts made by different NGO’s for the agriculture, sustainable development, and food security. Likewise our state-owned agencies should be interconnected and work together for the betterment and mutually agreed benefits.  Finally keeping in view the environment sensitivity, all steps taken for the vertical move should be eco-friendly and conservation of nature should be given due diligence.

Pakistan is agro-based country and as per Economic Survey of Pakistan 2012 agriculture contribution to GDP is 21%. About 75% of the total population is directly or indirectly linked with this industry so every move should be made in boosting up the overall system and it’s up gradation. Our valuable farmer is practicing agriculture since centuries so what all we need is to create the awareness and exposure to new horizons that will act as spontaneous chain reaction for a better future.

The writer is an agriculturist working in Sadpara Development Project-SDP (USAID-funded project) at Skardu-Baltistan, Pakistan. He can be reached at zuhair.hasnain@gmail.com 

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Pamir Times is the pioneering community news and views portal of Gilgit – Baltistan, Kohistan, Chitral and the surrounding mountain areas. It is a voluntary, not-for-profit, non-partisan and independent venture initiated by the youth.