For a greener and richer Gwadar: B&R Tropical Arid Non-wood Forest Center
GWADAR, Jun. 15 (Gwadar Pro) – “In the eyes of outsiders, high temperature and scorching sun may be a disadvantage of Gwadar, but in our view, the light and heat conditions here are a natural advantage for the development of agriculture and non-wood forest”, noted Zhang Saiyang, vice director of the Belt and Road Engineering Research Center for Tropical Arid Non-wood Forest and doctoral candidate of Central South University of forestry and technology, in an exclusive interview with Gwadar Pro.
The Belt and Road Engineering Research Center for Tropical Arid Non-wood Forest was jointly initiated and established by Central South University of forestry and technology, China Overseas Ports Holdings Co., Ltd. and Yulin Holdings Co., Ltd. for Gwadar ecological construction and industrial development. Since 2018, it has systematically improved the local soil conditions in Gwadar. Zhang told Gwadar Pro that the Chinese team combined the organic fertilizer collected from local sheep farm and leaves and other humus to mix with local soil in a certain proportion to improve the fertility and pH of the local soil. Besides, the local soil conditions were greatly improved by the team members planting legumes to use the nitrogen fixation of legume rhizobia.
Local farmers pick bananas in the Belt and Road Engineering Research Center for Tropical Arid Non-wood Forest [Photo provided to Gwadar Pro]
“In addition to the soil, moisture is our long-term focus as well. With arid climate here, the irrigation method appears to be particularly important,” Zhang said, “after enhancing the soil water retention capacity through soil improvement, we mainly use a combination of sprinkling irrigation and drip irrigation to maximize water conservation. Not to mention that our selected varieties are drought tolerant crop with very developed root systems.”
By now, nearly 100,000 seedlings such as bananas, dates, orchid and figs have been cultivated here. Among them, bananas (Musa nana) are selected local varieties that can adapt to drought and high temperature and produce a large amount of fruit. In May, the center successfully held the first non-wood forest products-banana harvest festival in Gwadar Port. “Our production of bananas has attracted the attention of local farmers, who hope to buy banana seedlings to grow on their own land,” Zhang mentioned.
Moreover, figs are also a key economic crop here. Hundreds of fig seedlings have already produced a lot of fruit in just one month. More than 10 hours of sufficient sunlight per day and the temperature difference between day and night in the Gwadar region allow figs, a drought-tolerant and light-loving plant, to accumulate more sugar. According to the promotion plan, the fresh and dried figs launched by the center will have a place in the market.
Figs are seen in the center [Photo provided to Gwadar Pro]
“In addition to bananas and figs, which are familiar to Chinese people, the endemic crops of Pakistan, including Sesbania grandiflora and Ziziphus spina-christi, can also give full play to their economic value through our breeding techniques,” Zhang listed the local valuable economic crops one by one, “the leguminous plant Sesbania grandiflora is resistant to high temperature and drought, and has a large amount of fruit. It is a very good tree species for ecological greening and economic forest. Its fruit, as a woody vegetable, has been widely promoted by us in Gwadar, and then sold in the market. The local unique Ziziphus spina-christi is also drought-tolerant and light-loving, which can bear fruit several times a year. The seedling breeding, fresh fruit sales and juice processing of it have also been put on the agenda.”
As for the future planning, Zhang Saiyang mentioned that the center has set up “Gwadar Classroom” to train local workers. Opened in March this year, it has trained the first batch of modern agricultural skilled workers in the local area, laying a solid foundation for the local development of agriculture and non-wood forest industry, as well as promoting farmers’ employment and using their own land to start businesses.
Pakistani technicians learning agricultural science and technology [Photo provided to Gwadar Pro]
Because China lacks experience in ecological environment improvement and forestry engineering construction under tropical arid climate conditions, a series of scientific and technological exchanges and research results in Gwadar Port will provide germplasm resources and technical support for ecological construction and economic forest industry development in China’s arid areas. On the other hand, Pakistan is known as the “fruit basket” of the East, with a wide variety of high-quality fruits. Thus, the research on tropical arid non-wood forest carried out here can benefit the people of both countries.
Plant tissue culture lab in the center [Photo provided to Gwadar Pro]
At the same time, as a country with a large population, Pakistan has limited arable land, and the food and clothing problems of some people have not been solved. However, there is still a large amount of land in the dry tropical regions of the country that is not being used. Research on economic plants in these areas will greatly improve the ecological environment and people's living standards in the entire tropical arid region of Pakistan, including Gwadar.
“The economic forest effectively combines ecological benefits, commercial benefits, and social benefits. For a greener and richer Gwadar, we are duty-bound,” Zhang concluded at the end of the interview.