PKR 2.5 Billion pivot irrigation project converts Thal desert into cultivable land
THAL, Jun.8, (Gwadar Pro)-The Pakistan-China joint venture, a PKR 2.5 billion pivot irrigation project, has effectively transformed 5,000 acres of the Thal desert into fertile green cultivable land.
Dr. Rana Fartab Shoukat, the Farm Manager at Samsons Agri Farms Rungpur, expressed during an interview with Gwadar Pro that the two-year-long Centre Pivot Project, collaborated between China's Haier and Pakistan's Samson's Group, has resulted in the successful cultivation of various crops and trees, including Rhodes grass, wheat, alfalfa, orchards, citrus fruits, mangoes, guavas, bamboo, olives, dates, and Bari.
The satellite image of the green land in heart of Thal desert, Punjab Pakistan
The project is situated in the Thal desert of Rangpur Muzaffargarh, Punjab province, and is equipped with state-of-the-art agricultural water-efficient machinery known as a central pivot system.
Fartab, who holds a PhD in Agricultural Entomology from South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, mentioned that they have two central pivots covering an area of 100 acres each, while the remaining seven central pivots span 132 acres each.
"The land was entirely desert, so we conducted soil sampling. The water condition was extremely poor, with no nutrients present in the soil," Fartab explained.
The improved soil structure of the desert to cultivate more crops.
He stated, "We planted our own Rhodes grass on the central pivots, for which we prepare compost using animal manure, poultry manure, and sugar beet or sugar cane mud. We create a proper compost mixture that includes earthworms, which serves as a fertilizer, thereby reducing the need for basic fertilizers like urea or MP."
"In areas where central pivots cannot be used, we employ drip irrigation methods. Previously, another company handled this for us, but now we have our own team responsible for its preparation," he added.
Fartab further mentioned that in addition to various types of oranges, they also cultivate between 1,500 and 2,500 date plants and guava. They are also undertaking a bamboo pilot project, and if successful, they plan to expand it in the future.
He emphasized that in areas where pivoting was not possible, they were engaged in forestry and plantation activities to promote a natural and stable ecosystem in those particular areas of land.
He expressed his satisfaction that people have begun to pay attention to this aspect, stating that to effectively address food shortages, it is crucial to improve desert cultivation methods. He mentioned, "I have previously implemented the same approach in China as well. Essentially, if we want to avoid food security issues and ensure an adequate food supply, we must improve our desert cultivation practices."
This transformative initiative has not only created significant employment opportunities for local communities but has also resulted in a substantial increase in Pakistan's foreign exchange earnings. According to the Farm Manager, the joint venture has generated considerable employment opportunities for local residents, offering both permanent and daily wage jobs. The project employs approximately 270 individuals, including executives, farm managers, accountants, laborers, pivot operators, pivot maintenance staff, and 10 agrarians.
Center pivot irrigation systems have a longer lifespan of 40-50 years compared to drip irrigation systems, which typically last 5-8 years. This system proves to be efficient, especially in dealing with weather anomalies such as frost and heatwaves, thanks to its overhead irrigation systems with controllers.