Efforts to begin olive tree plantation in drought-hit areas being stepped up

Published October 14, 2019
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam being briefed during his visit to olive orchard research gardens. — APP
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam being briefed during his visit to olive orchard research gardens. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s adviser on climate change said on Sunday that efforts are being stepped up to begin a large scale olive tree plantation programme in parts of the country hit by recurring water shortages, droughts and plunging groundwater levels.

Directives have already issued to climate change ministry’s forestry officials to roll out a viable national plan to cultivate 50 million olive trees as part of the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme.

This will be carried out in consultation with provincial and federal stakeholders on an urgent basis, targeting small farmers in particular, in areas hit by drought in Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Malik Amin Aslam told the press upon his return from a visit to olive-growing areas in the Chakwal district.

Ministry officials have been directed to roll out viable plan to cultivate 50m olive trees, adviser says

He said that since olive is a drought-tolerant staple plant, steps would be taken to increase olive farming area in the Chakwal, Attock, Jhelum and Rawalpindi districts.

Mr Aslam said olive tree plantation at a large scale would be boosted with the construction of rainwater harvesting storage ponds in these areas, as well as the use of efficient irrigation technologies and practices.

Rain dependent regions, including the Potohar region, can be turned into ‘food baskets’ by promoting olive tree plantation where the agriculture sector is struggling with frequent drought conditions and a shortage of water for irrigation, he said.

The prime minister’s adviser said that rain-dependent regions including Potohar region across the country can be turned into ‘food baskets’ by promoting large-scale olive tree plantation, where agriculture sector was struggling with frequent drought conditions, and shortage of water for irrigation.

“The programme will be replicated in other water-stressed districts of Balochistan and KP, which suffer frequent drought conditions because of declining rainfall,” he said.

Climate Change Joint Secretary Suleman Warraich said the olive tree is known worldwide as a plant that can withstand various negative effects of climate change.

“Olive farming can easily be carried out in the country’s areas that witness frequent droughts, frosts, heat waves and warming-caused fire events. Olive trees grow well even with low water irrigation and are naturally capable to regenerate despite these harsh conditions,” he explained.

Mr Warraich, who is also the acting inspector general forests and leads the 10 Billion Trees programme, said Pakistan is witnessing frequent and intensifying droughts as a consequence of climate change, with declining rainfall patterns in the last few years.

As a result, the country’s agriculture sector has experienced crop failures and falling crop yields, particularly in the highly climate sensitive drought-hit regions in almost all provinces, he said.

According to the ministry, this initiative will aim to control soil erosion in parched lands, promoting soil conservation, increasing tree cover in drought-hit areas and boost the production of olive on a local basis to offset local climate change impacts as well as reduce the burden of the edible oil import bill on the national exchequer.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019

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