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January 4, 1998

Social & Economic transformation of Gilgit-Baltistan - II

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Social & Economic transformation of NAs-II (The Muslim - January 4, 1998)
By Syed Shams ud Din

As carried out by the newspaper, Dr. Shaheena Hafeez Malik – perhaps the  first Pakistani women of the world repute having acquired immense expertise in ‘mountain farming’ techniques is currently serving with the “International Cnetre for Integrated Mountain Farming Development” (ICIMFD) based in Nepal. She certainly has to her credit a varied experience of closely monitoring mountain farming particularly in Gilgit-Baltistan where she has been working with the Agha Khan Rural Supports Programme (AKRSP) prior to her present assignment in ICIMFD. She has thus had an opportunity of carrying out ample research in this region in the context of how to give a boost to mountain farming aimed at positive socio-economic transformation.

What is nevertheless of more significance is the raison d’etre of the organization she is presently attached to that solely aims at bringing about revolutionary change in mountain cultivation at a par with the plains where agro-economy having been catapulted to unimaginable level of development with the use of modern technology. The said organization is resolved to undertake successful schemes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Burma with a view to bring about a prosperous socio-economic change in each country. On her way back from Nepal recently, the said scientist reportedly disclosed the immense prospects of a stupendous mountain farming in Gilgit-Baltistan which, according her, would not simply augur well for the respective populace but its impact would be felt at national level provided the Chinese pattern of such farming is adapted in regard to the ‘mountain farming’ in Gilgit-Baltistan.

She was proud to single out Gilgit-Baltistan as ‘the best’ for the proposed agricultural activity. What a blessing indeed! We own such a land which constitutes veritable El Dorado on various counts which can propitiously help revolutionize our economy in case if concerted efforts remain underway to tap the gigantic natural resources on one hand, while giving a genuine boost to agricultural activity by inducting and popularizing mountain farming technology on the other. It is really creditable to her to have discovered a variety of species of evergreen ‘magic plants’ called ‘Seabuck Thorn’ – being grown in abundance in the mountainous regions of China which she proposes quite optimistically, for replication on  a large scale throughout Gilgit-Baltistan. She was proudly convinced that the proposed plantation would revolutionize the whole of the region to such an enormous extent that would prove a veritable bounty to the growers in bringing about a miraculous transformation in the present grim socio-economic landscape.

The plant, as she told, is fructiferous as well and its fruit is being used by the Chinese for making jams and jellies besides using as a herb for medicinal purpose, to cure canceric ailments and also for decreasing sugar level in human body.

It is said to have the capability of growing on arid, barren land where there may be scant rain-fall like that of most Gilgit-Baltistan. In addition, its wide plantation would be equally conducive to help overcome fodder deficiency for the livestock. Thus it can fruitfully be transplanted in the entire Gilgit-Baltistan . The said lady also perhaps, called on the President to apprise him of the advantages of ‘mountain farming’ in Gilgit-Baltistan as has been reported by the newspaper. The Chinese also call the plant under reference as ‘magic plant’ perhaps in the sense that it has a multipurpose utility.

In view of the wide prospects of its replication and sustainability in Gilgit-Baltistan by all counts and the prospective advantages to accrue from its wide plantation here, Dr Shaheena Hafeez Malik is optimistic about a successful experimentation and replication here which she sanguinely believes would undoubtedly boost the agricultural economy in Gilgit-Baltistan – a change to be felt at the national level.
As divulged by her, there are some experiments already underway perhaps with the Agha Khan Rural Supports Programme (AKRSP) in Gilgit-Baltistan for the discernment of its successful transplantation. The governmental organizations too, are required to immediately undertake similar experiments in this regard so that the plantation could be ensured without any inordinate delay. Other techniques being applied by the Chinese on the other side of the border too, can be revamped to achieve cumulatively fruitful results in the context of ‘mountain farming’.

Needless to say that one such species remains in abundant wild growth here in all the valleys and nullahs but nonetheless, its utility as an elixir is not yet known to the regional people. This species is deciduous and sheds leave in winters along with the fruits while the other species referred to for having been grown and popularized in China are said to be evergreen albeit with the same properties and one such species can be seen at what is called the ‘Chinese Graveyard’, at Danyore village and is evergreen,  comparatively less thorny with a robust stem and branches. And conspicuously, it makes one of the evergreen ‘seabuck thorn’ species. Strangly, it has seemingly skipped the attention of botanists and researchers of the relevant quarters inspite of the fact it has acclimatizer over the years and remains in existence for about three decades here. Had any one ever observed it, the same would have surely have popularized and broadly replicated all across in this region by way of transplantation in the sense its saplings can easily be imported from China by the respective authorities. This species, it may profitably be mentioned, has the wide prospects of abundant growth as well as profitability because of its evergreen properties to meet needs of fodder round the year. This is unlike the indigenous one which being deciduous simply caters to mere seasonal needs. The latter forming an exclusive subject, needs be dealt with separately and extensively elsewhere for the information of the readers.
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