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March 22, 2020

Irrigation rehab channels life back into Sindh’s parched fields

Business

March 22, 2020

HYDERABAD: A small-scale farmer of Runn Distributary, Mithoo Khaskheli says he has received the wheat and mustard crop products after around 32 to33 years gap.

Amidst hue and cry all around due to coronavirus, the farmer has reaped and wrapped up the exceptional yield on the wheat crop quite recently, expecting to receive at least 30-35 maund/acre.

The rehabilitation of irrigation system has helped farmers in the extreme tail-end area to cultivate crops and get productivity. Khaskheli, who works a piece of ancestral land, calls it a ray of hope.

Following rehabilitation of the distributary, water now reaches the extreme tail-end area of Mirpurkhas district, bordering Thar desert.

Reports gathered by The News through farmers learned that under Sindh Water Sector Improvement project (WSIP), farmers at tail end area of Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Sanghar, Ghotki, Badin, parts of Tharparkar and Tando Muhammad Khan districts, who previously had faced shortages of water are the beneficiaries.

They have been blessed with water to cultivate their pieces of lands and reap a crop after three decades. That’s indeed a very long time for farmers whose livelihood is water dependent. More than two hundred thousand farmers who had migrated due to non-availability of water in tail end areas for an elongated period have come back to their home towns, they said.

Thirty years infact is a lifetime for a few who had experienced the difficult days after losing the source of drinking water where several wells turned into reservoirs of saline water. Beside agriculture they also keep animals for livelihood and water consumption for animals and humans was not possible. Now the situation is favorable and they are able to receive water in watercourses and therefore can cultivate crops and raise livestock.

According to Mithoo, the area is quite fertile for all crops. Presently, they have started cultivating wheat, cotton, chilli and vegetables like onion and tomato.

Sugarcane is not an option as, he said sugar mills do not take their products at rates similar to the ones paid to bigger farmers, who possess hundreds of acres land. Thus, they are reluctant to cultivate sugarcane and mainly rely on wheat, mustard, cotton and vegetables.

These tail end farmers are advanced in cultivation compared to other areas. For example, they had cultivated onion in August--September and received high rates of the product in the market. Likewise, they remained beneficial to have received a higher price for tomato and chilli after a long time.

This time around, the farmers are again preparing to develop chilli nurseries for the next crop season.

The area is known for vegetable production and farmers depend on these products for better livelihoods.

Jalil Unar, another grower at the Bugi Minor, the part of Jamroa canal, was expecting to receive products of tauri (ridge gourd), tinda (apple gourd) and other vegetables and also preparing for a chilli crop.

The Bugi minor growers had cultivated tomato in July and August, yielding product in September-October, the peak season for this attractive food crop.

Jalil Unar belongs to Nau Kot area, which had experienced devastated flood in 2011, causing colossal loss to growers.

“We have experienced acute water shortage for several years due to political maneuvering. Furthermore, the devastating rain-flood 2011 had destroyed the irrigation infrastructure, leaving farmers in helpless situation,” Unar said. “Then the self-motivated farmers rebuilt the structure with the help of World Bank-funded project. Now the water body (Bugi minor) irrigates more than 6000 acres land in the area.”

Unar, chairman Farmer Organization (FO) at Bugi Minor, said the area farmers used to cultivate sugarcane for many years but now the situation is not favourable to get proper rates of the product “and therefore many seem reluctant to grow sugarcane”.

Another farmer Khalid Sadaf of Jhudo area also gave credit to rehabilitation and remodeling of the irrigation system, which has helped the farmers to utilise their lands after a very long time and have also received proper yields of onion, chilli, tomato and wheat.

Earlier, the farmers used to receive water once in 21 days or in some cases once a month, which created problems to receive proper yield of crops. Delayed cultivation always worsened the situation for farmers, who depended on agriculture solely.

Recalling the past difficult days, due to persistent water scarcity in these water bodies, the farmers said they experienced tough days and witnessed successive governments neglect for a long time.

More than 4000 watercourses outlets have been rectified with adopting strict monitoring system and mobilization of FOs to stop water theft and let water flow to tail end areas without disturbance. This has resulted in farmers getting adequate share of water in time.

However, these farmers have little understanding about the recently erupted global crisis following coronavirus and seem busy in wrapping up wheat and arranging machinery for food stock.

Nature conservationists seem disappointed to cancel all face to face events in connection with World Water Day celebrated on March 21 following a global outbreak of coronavirus believe they can still meet virtually to highlight nature and extent of global crisis in water and sanitation. Right now they are focusing on standing together to fight CONVID19 pandemic while keeping a close eye on water issues.