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March 9, 2019

Farmers rejoice as heavy rains raise hopes for bumper harvest


March 9, 2019

MARDAN: The most-awaited and needed recent spell of rains helped the crops, particularly wheat to flourish and raised the expectations of growers for better yields this year.

"You can see the crops are growing rapidly after the recent rains. Earlier we were afraid that the crops would not grow as there was no rain and water to irrigate our fields," said Behroz Khan, a farmer and resident of Shamozai village in Katlang tehsil.

He said that though the Baizai Irrigation Canal project was completed some four years ago and water was released, yet the farmers could not irrigate their land as the irrigation department was yet to build the water channels.

"We have time and again asked the officials, particularly the patwari to visit the village, carry out the demarcation to build a water channel from the canal to our fields. We cannot do it on our own as it could lead to disputes with the landowners," he lamented.

Behroz Khan said he was concerned that the wheat crop in his fields would dry up or fail to attain proper height but the long spells of intermittent rains proved a blessing.

Another farmer Rahim Shah of Mian Khan village said he too could not irrigate the land from the Baizai Canal as his land was situated at a high altitude in the foothills of the mountain and the canal was built at least eight feet below his field.

"There is no way to irrigate our land from Baizai Canal. We still depend on rains to grow crops. If there is no rain there will certainly be no crops with no choice but to buy wheat or flour from the market," he added.

He was happy, satisfied and hopeful for better yield of wheat and other crops that would be enough for him till next season.

"God willing and from the look of things we are expecting a bumper harvest this time," he remarked. Completed with an estimated cost of Rs3.5 billion, Baizai Irrigation Channel Project is aimed at irrigating 25,000 acres of rain-fed agriculture land in Mardan and Malakand districts.

The canal starts from Wartair Dobandi in Malakand district and ends at the Matta village of Katlang tehsil in Mardan district.

The previous coalition government of Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2008-13) had launched the project and water was released in the canal on May 31, 2015.

Raham Shed, another grower and resident of Babuzai village expressed the same feelings.

"We pray to Allah Almighty to now protect us and our crops from hailstorm and other natural calamities as such disastrous happenings can dash crush hopes of getting good crops. The wheat crop is in full bloom and greenery can be seen everywhere after the recent rains," he added. The farmer said that rain was good for growing better crops, but the recent rains also turned the weather cold and pleasant.

"The heavy rains, snowfall and cold winds in upper parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are keeping the weather chilly and is helping prolong the winter season that usually ends after February 15. The Sakra mountain peak, the highest in Babuzai village and Mardan district, has received heavy snow at least three times after February 15. This is something rare," he remarked.

Sher Muhammad, a farmer who belongs to Shamozai village, referred to an old proverb concerning rains to explain the folk wisdom of the people in the past. "If it rains in the month of Paganr, a calendar used by farmers falling roughly from February 15 to March 15, the bumper crops cannot be accommodated in the fields. And if there are rains in the month of Chitar (March 15 to April 15), the yield of grains cannot be accommodated in the granary," he explained.

"The bumper wheat harvest we are expecting is testimony to the truth of this old saying," he added.