Out of 30 million hectares culturable land, dryland agriculture is practiced on about 12 Mha which is 40% of the total culturable land. This is the area where livelihood is totally dependent on rainfall. This is the area where poorest of the poor lives and this is the area which has been neglected in the past as Pakistan’s maximum invest has been on the irrigated agriculture.
Rainfall is the sole source of water for human and livestock. The groundwater is either not available or if available is saline and mostly not usable. The rainwater is stored in natural depressions, locally called tobas and in underground dugwells called kunds.
Initially the population was small in these areas therefore, these tobas were sufficient to cater the needs of the local community and their livestock. Now the population and their livestock has increased substantially. Moreover, most of these tobas has silted up and the rainwater is available only small part of the year.
Once the water in the local tobas disappear, the local community (mostly nomads), have to migrate in search of water for themselves and for their livestock as their total livelihood depends on livestock. For example, in Cholistan desert there are 0.1 million human population whereas animal heads are around 2.0 million. Similarly, in Thar desert, the human population is 1.5 million whereas their animal heads are about 6.0 million. They also migrate if the rangelands are overgrazed in search of fodder for their livestock. During migration, the infants they suffer a lot mainly due to less immunity and malnutrition and number of casualties take place. Therefore, there is need to develop water resources rainwater ponds) close to their hamlets and also develop rangelands for their livestock.
The research and development activities are under:
- Rainwater Harvesting
- Sand Dune Stabilization
- Rangeland Management
- Grassland Development
- Saline Agriculture
- A network of rainwater harvesting system has been developed spreading over 26,000 sq.km in the Cholistan desert by developing specially design 110 reservoirs with water storage capacity of 440 million gallons.
- Twenty scientifically designed deep tubewells have been installed with annual discharge of about 1405 million gallons where groundwater is usable for drinking of human and livestock population.
- Due to rainwater harvesting system and installation of tubewells now drinking water is available through the year in the desert. Significant reduction of human and livestock migration, resulting saving of Rs. 6 billions annually.
- Developed and demonstrated desertification control technologies over more than 500 acres in the cholistan desert for making desert productive through rainwater harvesting, livestock production, saline agriculture, grassland, range management, arid horticulture etc.