Sustainable Livelihoods in Balochistan
The Balochistan province has a history of suffering from droughts with prolonged dry spells and desert like climate making sustainable livelihoods, in the form of agriculture and livestocks, extremely difficult.
The most recent of those was long drought that badly hit Balochistan from 1997 to 2005 causing a famine like situation in the province.
The province is particularly large in terms of land mass, making up almost half the land of Pakistan. The region needs a focus on how best this land can be utilised to help and promote agriculture.
Abdul Manan, 45, a farmer by profession, in KIlli Gulzar Ziarat District is suffering from stress and anxiety as in the recent drought conditions his crops have all failed to fruit and dried up.
“Though we irrigate our lands through the use of tube-wells, the drought like conditions in Balochistan for the last couple of years and lack of rain have left negative impacts on the crops of wheat, cumin and watermelon,” he stated.
The Home Minister Saleem Ahmed Khiosa stated in December 2018 about the latest situation in the region, “, a drought-like situation has reportedly affected over half a million people and had a severe impact on the agriculture and livestock sectors”
He continued “around 109,000 families have reportedly been hit by a drought-like situation in 20 districts of the province. “These statistics are based on reports given by the deputy commissioners of the 20 districts,” the home minister added.
Chaghi, Noshki, Killa Abdullah, Awaran and other areas of Balochistan continue to suffer from drought-like situations. “Rainfall during the last one decade has reduced drastically,” said the minister.
According to a United Nations Report, a total of 0.798 million hectares remained uncultivated in Balochistan and more than 2 million livestock perished by 2005 because of the drought.
The shortfall of rain in the region is creating a humanitarian crisis with food shortage and the outbreak of diseases taking the toll of affected people into millions.
“Over 80% of the province’s population lived in rural areas and affected by drought most of them started migrating towards cities in order to survive,” said Shakila Naveed, an environmentalist, adding that this influx of internally displaced persons in the cities caused social and economic problems in the province.
According to metrological officials, the arid region receives a very low average of only 2 to 25 mm rain monthly even under normal circumstances. This average is by far the lowest compared to other provinces of Pakistan.
“Our livelihood is completely dependent on rain but for the last five years we are experiencing either complete draught or erratic rains,” said Qasir Khan Mir Zahir, 46-year-old farmer residing in killi ghosabad quetta.
“It hasn’t rained here for the last seven months now. I and many other farmers couldn’t sow any crop this year which would cause food shortage for us in upcoming days” he added.
Balochistan known for its wealth in gas, oil, coal, gold and many other riches has very little to offer to its inhabitants. Most of the people of the province make their living through agriculture and livestock.
Droughts in Balochistan
The fall in precipitation in Balochistan has resulted in the drying up of water sources.
After the severe droughts of 1997-2003 the number of tube-wells in Balochistan increased rapidly.
The International Water Management Institute estimates the presence of over 23000 tube-wells in the province. Over 40% of the irrigated land is now watered through tube wells and that source is also drying down fast as rain becomes scarce and unreliable with every passing year in Balochistan.
The underground water level is decreasing rapidly due to insufficient rain.
Many tube wells have dried up and farmers are digging deeper in search of water that has further aggravated the situation.
Balochistan needs investment urgently. Farmers require tools, training and the ability to be able to provide for themselves. Lands need to be utilized and livestocks need to be prioritized to help facilitate livelihoods.
In addition to agricultural support, the people of Balochistan need support in other forms of livelihoods including training centers, assistance in facilitating skilled workers and appropriate essential tools so that the population can prosper.
Women empowerment will be critical for any poverty reduction program, without which Balochistan will not be able to move out of the vicious circle of poverty and under development. Skills based training interventions for women will have to be prioritized for the future.
Skilled development streams such as training of nurses/midwives and for a wider coverage of beneficiaries including components of micro- finance and skill development in crafts as well as other livelihoods needs to be planned and initiated. The nurses/midwives training will improve employability chances of women and will provide the direly required workforce for health sector.
Lack of financing for Agriculture; livestock; fisheries; crafts as well as other sectors is believed to be a major constraint to enterprise development and its expansion in the province.