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Mountain Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan- II

Mountain Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan- II (Published in The Nation dated  August 1, 2002)



As far s agriculture department is concerned, the same is reportedly engaged in supplying certified-pest-free potato seed for cultivation in collaboration with the ‘seed certification department’ Gilgit. As emanating from a report published here recently, they have established a number of stores all across the region – in places like Gilgit, Skardu, Ghizer, Chilas and Gojal. The seeds as they claim, are supplied at subsidized rates to the farmers.The current research work as they assert, would soon get broadened when deck are cleared for building more such ‘Complexes’ in Skardu, Ghizer, Chilas which tremendously be profitable for giving a genuine boost to ‘mountain farming’.

According to an estimate, potato cultivation across the country is being made over an area of one lac hectares (20 lac kanals) for which 30 ton potato seed is needed annually.

Since the potato produced in the plains is said to be often pest-laden, the government was constrained all along in the past, to spend a colossal two billion in foreign exchange on the import of potato from Holland every year.

This was regardless of the fact this imported potato too, was not wholly pest-free either. Given this, it is a very happy augury the respective government department in collaboration with leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has been able to cater to the growing demand of pest-free seed domestically.The present potential as they say, is around five thousand ton compared to mere four thousand ton used to be imported from Holland for seeding purposes. This is in addition to the hugely marketed quantum of seventy thousand ton meant for home-consumption.

Leaving the fore-going aside, there are much more prospects of increasing fruit yield in this region. As brought out by a regional weekly, there exist 42 fruit nurseries across the region which supply fruit saplings to the farmers. This is in addition to a number of such nurseries established by the Agha Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP).A number of programmes were introduced in the past to cater to the growing demand for fodder as well. These repaid well but nonetheless, still much more is required to be done in the field for doing away with the deficiency.It would be a sheer injustice not to make any mention of the ongoing flurry of activity on the part of the nongovernmental organizations -NGO sector - the pioneering AKRSP that has been contributing a lot in terms of mobilizing the rural masses and creating awareness among them.It is this organization which successfully persuaded and motivated the rural communities aiming at a switch-over from the primitive or traditional ‘mountain farming’ to the modern one, during the last two decades. What signifies these hectic endeavours is the success attained in helping the rural communities and increasing their income.

There can also be no denying the fact that livestock breeding and mountain farming inexorably work in tandem in the life of the mountain communities. Given this, paying heeds to one while discarding the other cannot at all bring about any prosperous socio-economic change. Alive to these imperatives, the respective department as well the AKRSP, have been responsive by introducing innovative techniques for giving a boost to livestock and poultry development in the region.

The department animal husbandry, Gilgit as apprised Dr Ghulam Abbas - has introduced a woolly goat (angora) in the area with a number of he-goats given to various communities. The prospective ‘crossing’ as they maintain, would bring about a gradual change and the people would be in a position to replace their herds as envisaged by the scheme. Such a breed when get popularized here would be greatly instrumental in income generation of the livestock-breeders.

But since a very limited number of such goats were supplied to the communities, efforts must be made to procure a sizable flock for distribution among the communities.

The other experiment of milch-sheep too, is quite encouraging but nonetheless, these too are required to be supplied in an increased number if at all the targets set are to be made achievable.

This scribe very well remembers when the department of animal husbandry here first introduced the woolly goat some two and a half decades ago exactly in the same manner as remains the case with the present breed. Sadly, this maiden experiment yielded no tangible results perhaps because the respective departmental authorities utterly failed to monitor the progress obviously with a nonchalance.

Care is therefore, to be taken to the effect that this time round the department gets constantly in touch with the respective communities to whom these have been entrusted in order to monitor effectively the results associated with acclimatization or otherwise of the goats and whether or not the projected breeding is going on satisfactorily.

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