ISLAMABAD: Though drip irrigation has gradually been braced by progressive farmers at some scale, the adaptation of this water-saving technology in the water-stressed regions of the country has been hampered by its high costs and lack of awareness.

According to Dr Munir Ahmad, Director of Climate Change, Alternate Energy and Water Resource Institute at the National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC) Islamabad, only 40,000 acres in the country is under drip irrigation.

In contrast, the total irrigated area in Pakistan is estimated to be 20 million acres.

A model pilot project has been launched at NARC to advise farmers on the efficient use of water.

Due to effects of climate change on agriculture, there is a need to bring high value crops under sprinkle and drip irrigation, expert says

The solar-powered project spreads over seven acres and comprises three components: citrus orchard on one acre, sprinkler orchard on 2.5 acres and raise bed on 2.5 acres.

As part of its ‘Caring for water initiative’, Nestle, one of the largest multinational food companies, has made an investment of Rs4.5 million in the project to promote the drip and sprinkler technology, said an official of the company.

The firm has already launched an agricultural efficiency project in Sheikhupura in collaboration with the Punjab government which has the potential to help save 54 million litres of water annually.

Talking to a group of newsmen during a visit to the pilot project, Dr Munir Ahmad said the institute had been mandated to develop and disseminate science-based effective technologies and innovative practical management of water, energy and resources in collaboration with provincial and national research and development organisations.

In view of the effects of climate change on agriculture, there is a need to bring high value crops under sprinkle and drip irrigation as well as solar pumping irrigation, he said.

Farmers in water-stressed regions of Balochistan have taken keen interest in the drip irrigation technology and have been visiting the pilot project to gain knowledge to adapt it to promote agricultural productivity.

High cost of imported valves, pipes, tubing and emitters from China is the major hindrance in the way of promoting drip and sprinkle irrigation.

Dr Ahmad suggested that the government should seriously consider encouraging the private sector to produce drip irrigation devices locally that can help introduction of drip irrigation at a massive scale, he said.

In the absence of local industry manufacturing drip irrigation devices, there is less availability of skilled manpower since the technology requires sediment-free clean water and hindrances in agronomic practices.

He said proposals had been submitted to the prime minister’s task force on agriculture and the recent measures to promote agriculture such as green technology would boost introduction of drip irrigation.

Explaining advantage of drip and sprinkle irrigation, Dr Ahmad said 40 per cent of irrigation water can be saved through this technology compared to flood irrigation.

The technology also helps efficient utilisation of fertilizer whereas crop yield increases by up to 40pc and water application uniformity reaches over 90pc, he said.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2019

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