Tough times ahead for
farmers in southern KP
By Intikhab Amir
Farmers in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts are
expecting low produce as standing wheat crop on over 100,000
hectares in irrigated and arid zones has suffered slow
growth due to water shortage.
Wheat growers from Dera Ismail Khan told Dawn that wheat
crop had not matured until now in the absence of irrigation
water and further damage had been caused by the windy
conditions that had gripped the southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
for the past few days.
The scarcity of irrigation water, they added, had badly
affected the growth of crop in Dera Ismail Khan and the
nearby Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, and Karak districts as
Wheat fields, according to the farmers, had been irrigated
last time in the canal command areas some two months back,
whereas, in arid zones the crop continued to be without
water since October last year.“Wheat crop yield in the
irrigated areas is likely to stand at five times lower than
the last year’s produce and in the arid zones farmers would
get a produce only sufficient for meeting their next
season’s seed requirements,” Samiullah Khan, a wheat grower
from Mauza Gundee Umer Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, said when
Except for 1 mm rain recorded in Dera Ismail Khan some 15
days ago, this southern district and its adjoining Bannu,
Tank, Lakki Marwat and Karak districts had received no rains
since early October last year, affecting standing crops,
including wheat, sugarcane and fodder.
Standing wheat crop in the canal command areas in these
districts has suffered due to the longer-than-the-scheduled
closure of irrigation canals, since January 1, 2012, for
carrying out the annual cleaning drive.
Weather experts said the
southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been experiencing dry
“In terms of agriculture, the southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
districts are experiencing drought,” a Peshawar-based
meteorologist said, when contacted.
He, however, said in line with the meteorologists’
definition of drought, Dera Ismail Khan’s dry spell ended
two weeks back when it received 1 mm rains.
The traces of rain in Dera Ismail Khan, he added, were far
less than the wheat crop’s requirements. Some 4 mm to 5 mm
rains a month would have been sufficient to help the crop
grow in November and onwards, he added.
“Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, and Karak districts, too,
received only traces (of rain),” said the meteorologist.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa annually produces slightly over 1 million
tons of wheat of which around 175,000 tons are produced in
its seven southern districts, including around 75,000 tons
in Dera Ismail Khan (the 7th highest wheat producing
district in the province), according to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Sheikh Mukkaram, president of Aiwan-i-Zarraat (Chamber of
Agriculture), told Dawn from Dera Ismail Khan that closure
of Chashma Right Bank Canal for the last two months and
ill-planning on part of the provincial irrigation department
had jeopardised wheat growers, pushing thousands of them to
“It means a difficult year ahead for most of small growers,”
Growers have been crying for 20 years but the irrigation
department never took note of their requests for planning
well in advance of the canal cleaning season, said Mr
Since the department, he added, closed down canals from
January 1 every year, it should advertise tenders for
awarding construction works’ contracts in December or at
least one month prior to closing the canals.
“Its planning process is flawed,” he said.
They (irrigation department officials) advertised the
tenders in January every year only after the closure of
canals took effect, he said, adding that it caused wastage
of 10 to 15 days (of the canal closure period) as the
government process took a lot of time before awarding
contract to the private parties, said Mr Sheikh.
He said the Chashma Right Bank Canal – a federal government
project – was scheduled to become functional from February
1, 2012, but it had not been restored by 100 per cent even
until February 24, 2012. The canal had partially been
restored, he added.
According to him, water has partially been released in 11 of
the 23 distributaries fed by CRBC, leaving the remaining
water bodies without flows.
“The 170 kilometers long stretch of CRBC that passes through
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will fully become operational by March
15, 2012, which means a majority of the farmers,
particularly small ones, at the tail end of the tributaries
would get only marginal produce,” said Mr Sheikh.
Farmer Samiullah Khan said last year, he made good money,
producing 980 wheat sacks of 100 kilogrammes each. “I’ll be
lucky if could get 120 sacks of wheat from 375 acres under
wheat crop in the arid zone,” he said, adding that the
quantity would only help him repay his interest-based loan
that he had taken to buy wheat seeds at the start of the
current cropping season.
Scarcity of water is not the only source of concern for the
southern districts’ farmers. Adding insult to injury, windy
conditions prevalent for the past couple of days have also
greatly disturbed them.
The Peshawar-based meteorologist said strong winds entering
from Afghanistan into Pakistan after being caused by high
pressure in Russia and Central Asia were expected to
continue at least for two more days in the southern Khyber
Farmers said winds had damaged wheat and gram crops alike.