Pakistan is a place with an extreme climate that can go from scorching hot to cold pounding rains throughout the year. The hottest temperature on the continent of Asia and the fourth highest temperature in the world was recorded in Pakistan at 128.3 F. It also deals with cyclones and tornados with the onset of the monsoon season from April to July. However, the most devastating climate related event may be the flooding in Pakistan.
In 1950 flooding killed 2,910 people. In 1992 flooding killed 1,834. In 1993 flooding killed 3,084. Then in 2010 flooding hit and killed 1,781 people.
Besides the terrible loss of life homes, businesses, and crops are destroyed by these floods. The Sindh region, which is called the “breadbasket” of the country due to its fertile soil, was hit by flooding in 2011 and 1.7 million acres of arable land was destroyed. This destruction of farmland hurts not only the farmer who has his crops destroyed, but also the people that depend on the crops for food. After living through this flooding for years one Pakistani farmer has figured out a way to safeguard his livelihood from flooding.
Abdul Qadir Sha is a farmer in the Sindh region who traditionally grows cotton on his 14-acre plot of land. His crops were devastated in the 2010 and 2011 flooding leaving him with a net loss of 4 million rupees or $44,000 US. Fortunately for Qadir Sha he had planted mango, date and neem trees a few years earlier throughout his cotton crop and along an irrigation canal using a practice called agroforestry, and they had survived through the flooding. Although he had a huge loss on the cotton side of his farming he made up for it by selling the fruit from these tree’s saying they, “provided enough money to let me repair damaged water channels, buy cotton seed, farm tools and pesticides, and other inputs for cultivating my farmland again this year”. The trees had saved his livelihood.
Once this happened Qadir Sha realized that these trees were a great safety net for the years that flooding destroys his cotton plants, and now he’s letting others know it can help them too. He’s told his story and convinced a number of farmers in his area to plant trees along their crops as a safeguard against the flooding. Now Qadir Sha has 90 mango trees, 20 date palms and 25 neem trees that provide him with an income whether there is flooding or not.
Besides the benefit of income and sustenance trees help the environment. When trees are planted they help to lower soil erosion and reduce water evaporation, but there are other benefits too. Trees help to lower carbon emissions and combat climate change, they also help the fertility of the soil by giving birds and livestock a place to hang out which leads to their waste being dropped onto the soil.
The government of Pakistan has some ideas about how to use agroforestry too. Like much of the world deforestation affects Pakistan through urbanization, the timber trade, construction and large scale agricultural development. Pakistan wants to raise its forest cover from 2% to 6% by 2015 and they think that agroforestry may be part of making this goal happen. While as of writing this I cannot find any indication that agroforestry is being used on at a large scale hopefully the practice will spread through Pakistan and help them meet their 2015 goal.
I always find it really cool when someone does something small like planting trees around their crops for one reason (in this case to make money) and almost accidently it turns into something big that can help a lot of people. I guess that’s how a lot of discoveries are made; by accident. In this case farmers that adopt this method will no longer have to worry about floods destroying their crops or about not being able to provide for their family, and I think that peace of mind is probably priceless. And as an added benefit the trees are helping the environment. A win-win! Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.