LAHORE: Obaid ur Rehman hoped to develop water-hungry cucumbers and capsicum peppers on land he had purchased in an arid space of the nation — however the accessible water was not ample for conventional irrigation.

So, the 56-year-old farmer tried one thing new: A drip irrigation system, supported by a authorities initiative.

The system delivers small quantities of water solely the place wanted, and has helped him get greater yields on his farm close to Mari, in Punjab than on flood-irrigated land he owns elsewhere within the province.

The swap, in addition to permitting him to farm with 60 p.c much less water, has reduce the fertilizer he wants in half as much less is washed away and wasted, Rehman mentioned.

“Drip irrigation has come as a divine assist to me on this arid space,” he mentioned, sitting in a shed on his farm.

Rehman is amongst a rising variety of farmers who’re turning to water-saving drip irrigation and sprinklers, which agricultural specialists say can assist yields in areas the place seasonal rains are now not a dependable supply of water.

Pakistan makes use of 90 p.c of its water for agriculture, primarily as farmers flood their fields to irrigate their crops, mentioned Pervaiz Amir, director of the Pakistan Water Partnership (PWP), a non-governmental organisation.

A nine-year authorities effort to chop water waste, launched in 2012-2013, has to date helped 7,000 small-scale farmers make the transfer to water-efficient irrigation, mentioned Malik Muhammad Akram, head of the Punjab Agriculture Division’s water administration program.

‘MORE CROP PER DROP’:

Over the previous 30 years, the nation has gone from a rustic having fun with an abundance of water to at least one dealing with growing water stress.

Between 1990 and 2015, the quantity of water accessible per particular person dropped from simply over 2,170 cubic meters to about 1,300 cubic meters, in accordance with a 2017 report by the United Nations Improvement Programme.

That was the results of speedy inhabitants development, urbanization, industrialization and water-intensive agricultural practices, mixed with rising local weather impacts, the report mentioned.

Agriculture immediately contributes about one-fifth of the GDP, in accordance with a examine printed final 12 months by the World Financial institution.

However Muhammad Arif Goheer, an agriculture skilled on the World Change Affect Research Heart in Islamabad, a local weather change think-tank, mentioned altering patterns of monsoon and winter rains are an enormous downside for rain-fed farms in arid areas.

More and more, farmers both don’t get rain once they want it or get an excessive amount of rain when their crops want dry situations, he mentioned.

However entry to water-efficient irrigation can provide farmers in arid areas a dependable water supply and in addition enable them to develop high-value crops, similar to olives and grapes, that always require extra water, Goheer mentioned.

The Punjab authorities’s Rs67.5 million ($407,300) challenge supplies subsidies for small-scale farmers to put in sprinklers and drip irrigation programs, some utilizing solar energy to run them.

With the motto “extra crop per drop”, the Punjab Irrigated-Agriculture Productiveness Enchancment Venture, run in partnership with the World Financial institution, goals to have new irrigation programs put in on 120,000 acres of farmland by subsequent 12 months.

Akram, of the agriculture division, mentioned to date 66,000 acres of land have been switched to water-efficient programs.

Almost half of that was barren land that has been put again into use on account of the challenge in three water-scarce areas — Potohar, Thal and Cholistan — he mentioned.

Work has already began on changing one other 11,000 acres of land over to new irrigation strategies, he added.

On common, drip irrigation and sprinkler programs use no less than 50 p.c much less water than flood irrigation, Akram mentioned.

DRAWBACKS:

However sprinklers and drip irrigation don’t work for all farmers, famous Amir of the PWP.

After farmers lay the pipes for the irrigation programs, they have to stay undisturbed for 4 or 5 years as a result of digging them up and shifting them is so costly, he defined.

With vegetable and orchard farming, farmers can go away the pipes the place they’re, however for different widespread crops — like rice, wheat and cotton — pipes should be eliminated for plowing and land preparation prior to every new crop, he mentioned.

In accordance with Amir, solely 4-5 p.c of all of the agricultural land in Pakistan is used for greens and fruit orchards.

Farmers who develop low-value crops additionally wrestle to afford water-efficient irrigation programs, even with authorities subsidies, he mentioned.

However putting in the programs can enable farmers to develop higher-value crops that convey in additional revenue, Amir mentioned.

Pakistan’s agriculture business is value about $50 billion however may very well be value seven instances that a lot if farmers swap to water-saving strategies and better-earning crops, and the federal government helps construct higher entry to export markets, he mentioned.

“We have to swap to extra high-value crops, like olives, utilizing this know-how,” he mentioned.

At Rehman’s farm in Mari, two synthetic ponds that may maintain a complete of greater than 3.6 million gallons of rainwater, plus a cement water-storage tank, now present sufficient water to produce his 20-acre (8-hectare) drip irrigation system year-round.

“I all the time really feel pleasure after I see the brand new blossoms of my greens within the morning,” he mentioned, as he inspected ripe capsicum peppers on his farm.

However “this farm wouldn’t have been doable with out the drip irrigation system”, he added.