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Catchment of farming happiness

Cultivation parameters on irrigation system are different in Sindh. Presently, on one side farmers are crying against the annual rotation started in the first week of January fearing loss of their standing kharif crops, mainly wheat, vegetables and pulses. On the other, small growers in catchment area of the River Indus are looking optimistic to have more yields of kharif crops this year, despite the fact they do not have proper irrigation system and mostly apply bosi cultivation methods.

Some influential growers in the catchment area pump water directly from the river by machines. They also sell surplus water to neighboring small growers against 25 percent of the harvest. These growers employ traditional cultivation methods. They use pre-sowing moisture to cultivate seasonal crops that too without having to invest in other modern agriculture aids.

That is why only growers of catchment area, in the entire province, produce organic food and do not apply pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Small growers in katcha area have their indigenous seeds for cultivation. Like for some varieties of wheat, they use their own seed, saying the genetically modified (GM) seeds are not reliable.

Qasim Khoso, a small land holder residing in Manjhand, Jamshoro District said he will have more yield from his crops mostly valuable pulses, coriander and wheat.

“We do not have more investment for fertilizer, pesticides and can’t spend on removing weeds like farmers do in barrage areas. We can only spend onetime on tractors for ploughing the land and sowing the seasonal crops,” he said.

“For irrigation we have to approach landlords to buy water against a 25 percent share of crops. On this condition, they provide us with water they pump through lifters from the river.”  This year, Khoso has cultivated pulses, wheat and coriander. Especially masoor (Red Lentil) is most profitable crop for growers in catchment area. Its average per acre yield is around 25-30 maund and is sold in the local market at around Rs5,000/mound.

Similarly, coriander is another valuable crop of the area, which gives a produce of 15–25 maunds/acre. Its price in local market is Rs6,000/maund.

“We do not take our produce to the urban center for selling. Traders pay us at our fields and take the produce away,” he said.

All these crops were sown in November and will be harvested in March. They are ready for reaping in only five months. During the harvest, traders from Punjab throng the area to buy the produce.  According to farmers, there is also a demand of dried fodder of pulse crops in international markets. Traders buy this fodder fondly.

Recalling the past, elderly growers said they had two major tributaries namely Sada Bahar Shakh and Makhdoom Sahar Shakh flowing directly from the river. But presently there is only one tributary, which is not accessible for them. These tributaries were damaged by the recent floods.

It is true that these farmers are exploited by the influential landlords, they have no other option but to use basic cultivation methods, they can’t spend on modern agricultural aids, they are always facing shortage of water, etc. but are still happy. It is a message for the barrage area farmers on how to use water efficiently.

The growers, who depend on irrigation system in barrage areas, are unsure because the weather change has damaged earlier sown wheat and other crops, which required proper temperature at the very outset.

The growers in Katcha areas have been at risk as they are living at the mouth of the river Indus as there is no embankment. Whenever the river receives flood water it creates problems for the local communities. Where there used to be thick forests a few years back is now a treeless area. People enjoyed more resources of income, but now there is no forest.  These people believe the flood is a natural phenomenon they have been facing through generations. Presently, they have built residences above six/seven feet high and are feeling safe with livestock and other assets from damages of the river floods.

During the floods, they always face crop damage, displacement, and joblessness for months, depending on the level of destruction by water. They have more horrible tales to tell from the recent years’ floods.

Anyway, these katcha area people are happy because they produce organic food, they have their own milk and butter and are enjoying safe environment. The only problem they face is the unavailability or non-functional education and health facilities for their kids. Despite their contribution to agriculture economy, the government has done nothing to recognise their efforts and provide them with their basic rights of education and health.

Khaskheli,Jan. Catchment of farming happiness. The News, January 8, 2017.

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