Pakistan Agriculture overview
Pothwar's agricultural potential
By Dr. Sardar Riaz A. Khan
POTHWAR plateau parallells the outer Himalayas and lies
between the rivers Jhelum and Indus. It includes all of Attock
and Rawalpindi districts except parts included in Murree zone
, besides 75 per cent of Chakwal district, 15 per cent of
Jhelum district and 20 per cent of Mianwali district.
It is about 250km long and 100km wide with elevations ranging
from 200metre along River Indus to about 900 metre in the
hills north of Islamabad with an average elevation of 457
The climate of Pothwar comprises of semi-arid in the southwest
to sub-humid in the northeast. The rainfall is erratic. The
monsoon rains are usually accompanied by thunderstorms and
occur as heavy downpours resulting in considerable surface
run-off and soil erosion in the hilly areas and uplands.
Most of the annual rainfall in the semi-arid region occurs
during June to September period. in Northeast about 70 per
cent of it occurs in summer. The winter rains occur as gentle
showers of long duration and more effective for soil moisture
re-plenishment then the summer rains.
Most of the agricultural soils have developed from wind and
water transported material comprising of loess, old alluvial
deposits, mountain out-wash and recent stream valley deposits.
Their texture mostly varies from sandy to silt loam and clay
loam comprising from poor to fertile lands. The plateau has a
flat to gently undulating surface broken by gullies and low
About 60 percent of the land area has been highly eroded
leaving the rest as a flat land which constitutes the main
cultivated area. Of the total area of 1.8 million hectares,
0.77 million hectares is cultivated, the remaining is mostly
grazing land. Again, of the cultivated area only 4 percent is
irrigated, while 96 percent is under rain-fed agriculture.
The irrigated farming system is currently practised on a
relatively much smaller scale from small and mini dams and
tube-wells. A natural lake namely Namal lake is located in the
extreme southwest of Pothwar. Part of water from this lake is
pumped for irrigation of adjacent areas but most of it is
conveyed through a tunnel through the Salt Range to irrigate
lands near Mianwali.
The major rain-fed crops grown in Pothwar are wheat, gram,
groundnut, millets, sorghum, oilseeds, fodders. Maize and
sunflower are grown on higher rainfall areas. Vegetables and
orchards are grown where access to cities and irrigation water
from dams and tube-wells are available. Very little of natural
vegetation remains except at a few protected and inaccessible
areas which have remnants of over thorn thicket savanna, while
in higher precipitation areas dense forests occur in scattered
Livestock production is also one of the major economic
activity in Pothwar which has over 25 percent of total
livestock population of the entire barani tract of Punjab.
Sheep and goats are the predominant species followed by
cattle, camels and donkeys. Buffaloes are kept mostly in
sub-humid areas or areas where water is readily available.
Although various breeds of cattle, sheep and goats are found
in this tract but it is the home of Dhani breed of draught
cattle and Pothwar breed of goat.
Suggestions: Keeping in view the above-mentioned background,
the following suggestions are made for development of Pothwar:
Intensive precipitation, steep slopes and erodible soils
without adequate protection have led to extensive soil erosion
and reduction in agricultural productivity in Pothwar uplands.
The soil conservation technology is well established, but in
spite of the efforts of various concerned government
departments and projects costing billions of rupees during the
last 54 years, soil erosion still continues to be serious
The government should constitute a highly expert scientists
committee to evaluate the impact of soil conservation efforts
thus far, determine various constraints and recommend new
effective technology based on the past experience. Targets of
soil conservation and the progress be monitored strictly.
Feasibility to live with those which are not economical to
reclaim be studied as saline agriculture technology has been
developed for those salt affected soils which are not
economical to reclaim.
Agricultural credit be given to farmers who are mostly small
for reclamation of their eroded soils. The return of loan may
be allowed on easy instalments when their lands become
productive. Alternately the Department of Soil Conservation
may take their erosion effected reclaimable soils on lease and
Harvesting of available surface, ground and rain water is
essential for quantum leap forward in agriculture. Storing
run-off water of hill torrents in small and mini dams has good
potential for irrigated agriculture.
The Small Dam Organization constructed a number of small dams
including Papin dam in Pothwar, but the life span of these
dams was reduced due to silting up by the rain and torrent
water inflow from the hill slopes and uplands. The Departments
of Small Dams, soil Conservation and Forestry should be made
jointly responsible for management of watersheds of the
existing and future dams for prolonging their life.
Again, surface storage may not be possible everywhere but
perennial and non-perennial rivers and streams running through
Pothwar plateau carry substantial water especially during
monsoon season. The feasibility of lifting this water through
hydroturbines or hydra-ramp pumps be studied. A single pump
may lift water upto 30 metre height on the side of river or
stream having cultivable area at 60-70 litres per second
besides producing 5 kw of hydro-power.
Installation of such pumps on seasonal streams may help to
lift and store water in storage tanks or ponds during rainy
season and to use it as supplemental irrigation to increase
the yield of rain-fed crops.
The drainage of the Pothwar is primarily through the Haro,
Soan, Kansi, Bunhar and Kahan river system. They flow mainly
in a southwesterly direction to the Indus River. As a result
there is good potential of using groundwater in riverine and
river plain areas of pothwar.
Turbine wells may be installed for bringing more area under
irrigated agriculture. Besides, the approach to agricultural
lands in these areas is difficult and the means of
communication needs to be improved for efficient production
and marketing. The government should ensure that the cost of
these turbine wells is reasonable as it is projected much
higher than the actual cost due to corruption in our system
thus causing problems for the interested farmers.
Again, indiscriminate land levelling with bull-dozers be
avoided. Before land levelling operations, the depth and
nature of the soil be analysed. If the sub-soil is rocky,
stony and gravelly then the surface soil should not be
disturbed. Natural vegetation such as grasses, forest or
orchard trees be grown on such soils to prevent their erosion.
Where sub-soil is normal such as in most of the riverine areas
and river plains there land levelling may be undertaken
followed by the required agricultural practices to maintain
The timely availability of improved seed, fertilizer
pesticides and credit is one of the major problem of the
farmers, especially the small and subsistent level farmers who
cultivate larger farm area resulting in lower crop yields.
The policy should be developed to provide all these inputs at
the door steps of the farmers well before the sowing season of
the crops. This can be done by opening distribution centres
within each five-mile radius after calculating the input and
credit requirements of the farmers within each distribution
centre as has been successfully done in Indian Punjab.
The Barani Agricultural Research Institute, Chakwal, is doing
a good job in spite of its limitations. It should also lay
emphasis on drought-related physiological research such as to
stress wheat seed with supra-optimal but sub-lethal
temperature for a specific period before sowing. It will
harden the embryo within the seed and it will not only
germinate faster but will also resist drought which is a
common feature of barani areas.
Due to increasing mechanised agriculture in the Pothwar as in
the rest of the country, the need for draught bulls has
significantly decreased. In their place high milk yielding
breeds of cattle such as Sahiwal and Red Sindhi be encouraged
as their milk yield is much higher than the local Dhani cows.
However, production of Dhani cattle may be continued to meet
the requirements of beef and draught cattle of Punjab which
still used some 500,000 draught bulls. Similarly high milk
yielding Nili-Rav and Kundi buffaloes be encouraged in
irrigated areas. Nevertheless the major livestock problems in
Pothwar are poor breeding, poor health, malnutrition and
inefficient marketing which need immediate attention of the
Poultry production also has a good potential in Pothwar The
availability to the farm family of high quality protein in the
form of meat and eggs is one of the cheapest and best way to
improve the nutritional balance of rural diets in rain-fed
areas. However, in those areas not economical for commercial
poultry farming due to unsuitable marketing conditions or
harsh environments increasing of domestic poultry farming be
courtesy Daily Dawn, 24 May, 2002
Pak Agri Community
Agri Experts and Institutes Network)
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