CHITRAL: The farmers in central and lower parts of Chitral are hesitant to grow paddy and have switched over to vegetables despite the fact that the lower half of the valley has suitable climate for the crop.
The deputy director of extension wing of agriculture department, Mohammad Rafiq, told Dawn that the area under cultivation had drastically dropped to the lowest level over the last couple of decades as the process of cultivation was laborious and painstaking for the farmers.
He said that the farmers had to cultivate paddy at the cost of other crops and vegetables as they had to spend most of their time in the process. He added that transplantation of paddy plants required a lot of manpower concurrently.
He said that several villages in Lower Chitral including Ayun, Drosh, Arandu, Broze, Koghuzi and Shali were known for the bumper crop of paddy every year with superb taste and flavour.
Mr Rafiq said that about three decades ago, almost 80 per cent local farmers used to grow paddy for their household consumption and the surplus was sold in the market. He said that paddy cultivation in Upper Chitral was not popular due to the climatic conditions and scarcity of water.
In Lower Chitral, paddy cultivation has dropped to 1,800 hectares over the years and its average production has been calculated at 5,000 metric tonnes.
The locally produced rice is hardly available in the market now despite its high demand as the cultivation has been reduced to abysmally low level.
The official said that modern technique of farming could multiply the product thereby tempting the farmers to bring more land under cultivation of paddy.
He said that agriculture department helps the paddy growers in different ways ranging from free distribution of fertilisers and pesticides to imparting them on-farm training.
Muhkamuddin, a farmer of Ayun village, said that the vast fields of the village used to be covered by paddy crops wholly and solely three decades ago but presently more than half of them carried vegetables. He said that he himself started growing vegetables at commercial scale and earned a handsome amount.
He said that he had only one worker to look after the vegetables. He said that paddy cultivation was decreasing every year owing to small landholding due to the division of lands, requirement of heavy manpower and high productivity of vegetables with less toiling and expenses coupled with the tendency of the youth to seek job in public and private sectors in cities.
The farmer said that no machines were introduced in the area for easing different stages of the cultivation of paddy resultantly the farmers found it difficult to carry it on with less manpower.
Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2021