BAKRANI, Pakistan, March 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
Since his father died in 2011, Moeez Assadullah has been looking
after his family’s farm alone.
The 21-year-old tends the 3 hectares (7 acres) of land
without the help of his two brothers, who lost interest in
farming when they realised that more erratic weather was making
agriculture an unreliable source of income.
They now work at a brick kiln in the nearby town of Larkana.
But Assadullah has taken a risk, and come up with his own plan
to adapt to shifting weather patterns.
Three years ago he stopped growing rice on the farm in
Bakrani, a village a few miles from Larkana, in southern
Pakistan’s Sindh province. The crop was too labour intensive,
and took too long to get to harvest, he said.
Now he squeezes out a living for his family cultivating
vegetables that grow more quickly and require less water.
“In view of the rapidly changing weather and upheaval in it,
growing a six-month rice crop that requires huge irrigation and
care was not a viable option compared to growing vegetables,” he
Many of Pakistan’s farmers are trying to adapt to changing
climate conditions – a process that can prove difficult for
those with little in the way of education or savings to help
them make the required switches.
Richer farmers, with more land, money and education,
meanwhile, are finding the switch easier. That reality suggests
Pakistan may face a future where an uncertain climate forces the
poor – who cultivate over 80 percent of the country’s
agricultural land - out of farming unless they get help, experts
Failing small farms could undermine government efforts to
achieve sustainable agriculture and food security, and to
eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, experts warn.
“Providing the poor farmers with required technical,
financial and institutional support ... is key,” said Khuda
Bakhsh, an agriculture scientist at the COMSATS Institute of
Information Technology in Vehari, in Punjab province.
DRIP IRRIGATION, LASER LEVELING
In Bakrani, Assadullah, after abandoning rice, is growing
traditional varieties of cauliflower, spinach, green chilli,
cabbage, tomatoes and onion. He says that in his village many
farmers with larger plots of land are adopting water
conservation technologies, such as drip irrigation.
He would like to join them, but the installation costs – up
to $700 per hectare – are too high, he says.
But 80 km (50 miles) east, in Khairpur, 38-year-old Nawaz
Somroo is using lasers to grow more cotton on his father’s more
than 80 hectares of land.
Unlike the self-trained Assadullah, Somroo is a graduate in
agricultural science from Faisalabad Agriculture University, one
of the Pakistan’s top agricultural schools.
With his education and access to more money, Somroo has been
able to adopt improved cotton varieties with higher yields. He
uses the latest laser technology to make his fields level, which
helps him reduce water consumption by nearly 60 percent.
Somroo said that until 2012 his father cultivated a
traditional cotton variety. But at the university, Somroo
learned about a seed variety bio-engineered to be pest resistant
and introduced it on the family farm. Yields jumped by about a
Now, he says, other farmers consult him about ways to
achieve similar improvements.
Akhter Ali, an agro-ecologist and food security expert at
the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre’s (CIMMYT)
office in Islamabad, said Pakistani farmers who want to adopt
climate-smart agriculture are hindered by a lack of technical
know-how and financial resources.
But resource-poor farmers could be encouraged to stay in
farming through things like on-farm demonstrations, help
diversifying crops and adjusting the timing of cultivation, and
better access to new crop varieties and water management
techniques, he said.
Credit schemes for small-scale farmers and subsidised access
to technology could also help, he noted.
He said a recent CIMMYT study showed that farmers who
adapted to changing weather had achieved 8-13 percent better
food security than those who did not, and poverty was 3-6
EFFORTS TO HELP
Pakistani provincial agriculture departments have launched a
few programmes to boost farmers’ ability to cope with climate
Starting this year, a three-year World Bank-funded effort is
underway to help 16,000 small-scale farmers in Sindh province
adapt their livestock and vegetable farming, said Sohail Anwar
Siyal, the Sindh provincial agriculture minister.
The $88 million scheme aims to improve the productivity and
market access of small- and medium-scale farmers by improving
their knowledge and access to technology.
Late last year, Punjab’s chief minister also launched
programmes to help farmers with everything from new financial
support to a distribution of more than 5 million smartphones.
Apart from making up-to-date weather forecasts accessible,
the phones will be used to send information about the latest
cultivation technologies, farming methods, potential disease
outbreaks due to abrupt weather changes, and measures to protect
against extreme weather, he said.
The province will also make 1 million interest-free loans
available to small-scale farmers and give free farmland to
graduates of agriculture universities.
In 2016, the Gilgit-Baltistan provincial government
similarly launched a seven-year, $120-million initiative for
economic transformation through climate-resilient mountain
farming, in collaboration with the UN’s International Fund for
The effort has focused on everything from organising farmers
into producers’ groups to introducing high-value
climate-resilient cash crops, said Rai Manzoor,
Gilgit-Baltistan’s food secretary.
Such measures are seen as key in Pakistan as summer monsoon
rains, which have traditionally come in late June or early July
and ended in September, have for several years arrived only in
mid or late August and lasted into October.
“Focusing on young smallholder poor farmers and imparting to
them new knowledge about coping with climate change impacts” –
as well as helping with subsidised technology and small loans -
is “critical for achieving household food security and poverty
alleviation,” said Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, Pakistan’s
minister for national food security.
(Reporting by Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio; editing by James
Baer and Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers
humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights,
trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)