Climate Change Challenges Potohar Farmers’ Livelihood

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 29th Apr, 2024) In the Potohar region, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and historic significance encompassing cities like Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, agriculture relies solely on rainfall. However, farmers in this area face a formidable adversary: climate change. This silent foe poses a significant threat to their way of life, silently impacting their livelihoods.

In a region, spaned over 28448.9 sq km famed for cultivating staples like wheat, maize, pearl millet, gram, barley, and groundnuts, the impact of climate change is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Nowhere is this more evident than in the dry Barani region nestled within the heart of Potohar. Here, water scarcity and erratic weather patterns, exacerbated by climate change, have become grim realities faced by farmers and the entire population on a daily basis.

Naseer Memon, a renowned expert on climate change and natural disasters, emphasized the critical link between weather patterns and agricultural outcomes. He pointed out that the delayed snowfall this year could lead to a thin layer of snow, which might swiftly melt as temperatures rise. Additionally, April witnessed an unusually wet spell, causing significant damage to ripe wheat crops in Punjab. Memon warned that if climate change leads to heavy monsoon showers and subsequent floods, it could wreak havoc on crops, as was witnessed in 2022 when Pakistan incurred substantial losses in the agriculture sector due to abnormal rains, particularly in Sindh. Moreover, the intrusion of cold weather into the summer months could adversely affect the production of mangoes and dates.

Highlighting the economic ramifications, Memon underscored Pakistan‘s heavy reliance on agriculture, which forms the backbone of its economy. Any adverse impact on agricultural production due to climate change would directly affect markets, as the purchasing power of citizens would decline sharply. Notably, agriculture accounts for over 40% of rural employment, implying that any setback in this sector would lead to a surge in rural unemployment and sluggish urban markets.

Memon emphasized the urgent need for Pakistan to adapt to the realities of climate change and implement smart agricultural practices. This entails aligning crops, varieties, and water management strategies with the rapidly shifting climatic patterns. He stressed the necessity for increased investment in research to tackle these challenges effectively.

A well reputed farmer specializing in wheat and groundnut cultivation in rain-fed agricultural area of Gujar Khan, Lumberdar Raja Tassadique Hussain shared his community´s concern over climate change and said, local farmers have been deeply affected by the impacts of climate change.

The erratic weather patterns, especially concerning rainfall, have become increasingly unpredictable, posing significant challenges to our farming practices and livelihoods.

The delayed onset of rainfall disrupts our planting schedules for both wheat and groundnuts, leading to reduced yields and compromised crop quality. Conversely, sudden downpours and flooding events during critical growth stages drown our crops, washing away months of hard work and investment in an instant.

Dr. Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar, an agricultural expert and Director at Agriculture University Tandojam, advocates for Pakistani farmers to adapt to climate change by implementing various strategies. These include efficient water management practices like drip or sprinkler irrigation, alongside rainwater harvesting and constructing small water reservoirs to ensure water availability during dry spells. Diversifying crops, focusing on heat and drought-tolerant varieties, and promoting research on climate-resilient crops are also essential. Utilizing improved meteorological services aids informed decision-making. Conservation agriculture, which minimizes soil disturbance and maintains soil cover, is crucial. Dr. Kumbhar underscores the severe, multifaceted consequences of climate change on food security and livelihoods in Pakistan. Diminished water availability from retreating glaciers threatens irrigation, while erratic rainfall intensifies soil erosion and degradation. Livestock farming faces challenges due to pasture and water scarcity, with increased disease prevalence. Dr. Kumbhar emphasizes the need for comprehensive adaptation strategies, including sustainable agriculture practices and robust disaster preparedness, to ensure food system resilience and livelihood sustainability.

In the last five years, global change has inflicted catastrophic impacts worldwide, affecting nations like Pakistan, China, India, Bangladesh, and Dubai. Devastating floods, extreme weather events, and deadly heatwaves have become increasingly frequent and severe. Pakistan faces recurring floods, displacing millions and damaging infrastructure and agriculture. China grapples with heatwaves and torrential rains, causing widespread destruction. India and Bangladesh suffer from cyclones and rising sea levels, displacing coastal communities and worsening poverty. Even Dubai experiences unprecedented flooding, revealing the vulnerability of rapidly expanding urban areas to climate risks. These crises emphasize the urgent need for global action. The United Nations must prioritize decisive measures to mitigate climate change and protect vulnerable populations.
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