Letter to the editor: Inamul Haq
The Express Tribune, May 14, 2016, Pakistan.
As Pakistan faces increasingly erratic weather patterns associated with climate change, peasants in arid regions here are going for drought-resilient crops like olives. Olive cultivation is very apt for arid and semi-arid areas because the plants need little water to grow and can also survive sweltering heat. There are vast tracts of land in the country that is arid, with there being too little rainfall in some areas to grow crops without irrigation. Increasingly unpredictable rainfall has decreased the yields of traditional crops such as millet, peanuts and wheat in arid areas.
Olive cultivation cannot only help farmers protect their incomes but could prove fruitful for the country’s food security as well. With high global demand and rising prices for its edible oils across the globe, I strongly believe that Pakistan could be one of the major olive oil producing countries by 2020, alongside Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Syria and Turkey, if all perceived projects are effectively implemented. It is commendable that farmers in potential olive cultivation regions are already being supplied with olive saplings free of cost by the government, for an area of two to three acres.
In my village, Bhagwal, located 40 kilometres northwest of Chakwal, one of my cousins cultivated 300 saplings of olives three years ago. His experience proved to be a successful one as these olive saplings are growing at a rate that matches the standards set by the agriculture department. The good thing with olive cultivation is that its saplings can be planted on wastelands not currently used for agricultural production, and farmers could also be trained to cultivate olives on marginal lands.