With Water Scarce, Now farmers grow more with less. Obaid ur Rehman hoped to grow water-hungry cucumbers and capsicum peppers on land he’d bought in an arid area of eastern Pakistan – but the available water wasn’t sufficient for traditional irrigation.
So the 56-year-old farmer tried something new: A drip irrigation system, supported by a government initiative.
The system delivers small amounts of water only where needed, and has helped him get higher yields on his farm near Mari, in Punjab province, than on flood-irrigated land he owns elsewhere in the province.
The switch, besides allowing him to farm with 60% less water, has cut the fertiliser he needs in half as less is washed away and wasted, Rehman said.
“Drip irrigation has come as a divine help to me in this arid area,” he said, sitting in a shed on his farm.
Rehman is among a growing number of Pakistani farmers who are turning to water-saving drip irrigation and sprinklers, which agricultural experts say can support yields in regions where seasonal rains are no longer a reliable source of water.
Pakistan uses 90% of its water for agriculture, mainly as farmers flood their fields to irrigate their crops, said Pervaiz Amir, director of the Pakistan Water Partnership (PWP), a non-governmental organization. A nine-year government effort to cut water waste, launched in 2012-2013, has so far helped 7,000 small-scale farmers make the move to water-efficient irrigation, said Malik Muhammad Akram, head of the Punjab Agriculture Department’s water management programmed.