Farmers work in a greenhouse in Garam Chashma. — Dawn
Farmers work in a greenhouse in Garam Chashma. — Dawn

CHITRAL: Greenhouse farming is bringing about a change in the lives of farmers in the high altitude areas of the Chitral district, where normal growing season is limited to only two months due to extreme weather conditions.

Rahmat Gul, a farmer in Nogh Pheti area of Garam Chashma valley, who has set up a solar greenhouse, told Dawn that he earned handsome cash by selling the vegetables.

“For the last two years, I did not go to other parts of the country to work there as labourer in construction industry as I am earning enough to support my family and afford the expenses of my son studying in a college by selling the vegetables in the market,” said Mr Gul.

He said the whole arrangement consisted of a 35-by-16-foot room covered by glass sheets on the sides facing the sun, and plastic sheets on the other with a plastic-coated wooden door on one side and a thick wall to the opposite to trap the heat radiated by sunrays during daytime.

Mr Gul said the concept was introduced by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme officials.

“It is quite amazing to see that vegetables of different kinds are growing inside the glass house even during the month of January when the area receives heavy snow and temperatures plunge to below freezing point,” Mr Gul said while harvesting vegetables inside his greenhouse.

Jalaluddin of Gobor village has also raised the solar greenhouse in his field, which produces enough vegetables for him to sell to neighbours and in the market, earning enough to support his family.

He said the solar greenhouses were equally helpful in speedy growth of seedlings of different vegetables, including tomato, onion, eggplant and others, whose seeds were usually sown in March.

He said growing off-season vegetables had also helped improve nutrition levels of the locals as in the past they depended only on meat and milk products.

When contacted, Attaur Rahman, senior agriculturist of AKRSP, told Dawn that his organisation had introduced the facility in the high altitude valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral as part of the efforts to alleviate poverty and improve nutrition.

He said so far such facilities had been provided in Baroghil, Yarkhoon, Khot, Rech, Garam Chashma and Gobor valleys.

“People in the snow-bound areas were not familiar with vegetables as they grew only potatoes, beans, wild wheat and barley for sustenance apart from livestock keeping. The greenhouse facility has become popular with the locals,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2020