Tales from the field: Queen Elizabeth Scholar in Pakistan

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sajida Awan, shares her time in the field in Pakistan’s southern province Sindh. 

Even just in the second month of me being in the field in Pakistan’s southern province Sindh and its historic city Hyderabad, I already started savouring the sweet test of the combo meal of cultural richness, marvels of diversity and a tricky collage of resilience and vulnerability. I was already so much overwhelmed to see many new things happening around since the last I visited this place in 2014. I met several people and conducted interviews to understand the dynamics of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) while the term itself not very common in use. CSA incorporates objectives and principles with sustainable intensification of crop production, which aims a productive agriculture that conserves and enhances natural resources. It emphasizes on the judicious use of land and external inputs such as fertilizers, irrigation, pesticides etc. to make agriculture production system less vulnerable to climate change (mitigation of GHGs emission) along with higher agricultural productivity.

Sajida Awan in Pakistan

During my research interviews, I met Mr. Mir Amanullah Talpur, who narrated a very interesting story of how he developed a seed on his own. Talpur is a direct descendant of the last kings of Sindh before the British annexed Sindh to the British Indian empire. Interestingly his village is called “Moar Jhango” which in Sindhi means “the abode of peacocks”. The place is famous for the presence of a large number of wild peacocks. He narrated his story right from the beginning when he got involved in agricultural farming after completing his MBBS degree. While on a trip to Australia he got to know about a very unique cotton seed variety famous for high yield. The variety was cultivated over the vast cotton fields in Australia. He bought the same formula (seed) from Australia to test it on the small piece of his own land in Sindh where it showed surprisingly great results. He then decided to use the same seed for rest of his land with few modifications that best suited to the local climate. The botanical name of this seed is “Brasica” and the local name is after his village “Moar Jhango.”

He kept on improving the seed to meet the local requirements and to produce a high yield with a short cycle. Over the number of years of experiment and efforts, “Moar Jhango” is now popular in many districts of Sindh (i.e. Mirpurkhas, Umer kot, Thatta, Hyderabad and other coastal districts) in addition to few areas of Baluchistan Province also.

Talpur’s Moar Jhango introduction was one of the pioneering activities in Pakistan. It can be considered as a best example under climate-smart agriculture practices. With the introduction of this new seed in Sindh many new cotton fields are established that are now more pest resistant, climate resilient and are adaptive to the season variations in Sindh. This seed has created a new hope for many farmers who lost their cotton fields due to the heavy impact of climate changes. Talpur can certainly not get his ancestral kingdom back but he has very successfully made a new glorifying identity for him and his village. An inspiration for several other farmers and researchers to come up with innovative solutions for climate-related agriculture challenges. The world is looking at an approach which should be climate proof and provide sustainable food systems. Climate-smart agriculture is a triple win as it provides appropriate production, resilience against climatic hazards and storage of carbon in soil, plants and trees. i.e. drought, salinity issue, heavy flooding and many more. Moore Jhango is also proven to be a non-hazardous to animals and human beings. It improved the overall supply chain and the economic condition of many families depending on cotton fields and factories for their livelihood.

Now his farm is being used as a model farm by university researchers and other relevant stakeholders. This seed is also being sold commercially in few districts on a cheaper rate as compared to conventional seeds in the market.