After beating floods, one man in Sindh adopts ‘paradoxical farming’ to increase crop yield

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The collage of image shows the farmer Bhom Singh Sodho showing his produce in Umerkot, Pakistan, on November 17, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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This picture shows an agricultural land which is still submerged by flood water in Umerkot, Pakistan, on November 17, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 03 December 2022

After beating floods, one man in Sindh adopts ‘paradoxical farming’ to increase crop yield

  • Farmer named Bhom Singh Sodho uses organic method that combines raised bed cropping and hardpan breaking
  • Method was pioneered by a local agronomist and is now being promoted by Pakistan’s planning commission

UMERKOT: At a time when Pakistan is reeling from major agricultural losses due to worst-ever floods this summer that washed away thousands of acres of crops, a man in the southern Sindh says he is earning substantial cotton, sugarcane, and vegetable crop yields by using an innovative farming method that promises massive profits for agriculturalists.

Paedar Qudrati Nizam-e-Kashtkari (PQNK) – a term sometimes described as “paradoxical farming” – was pioneered in 2008 by a Lahore-based agronomist, Asif Sharif, who encouraged growers to adopt natural means to increase agricultural production.

Paradoxical farming combines farming practices like hardpan breaking, no tilling, raised beds, precision planting, and organic mulching to invent an effective cropping system.

It is this technique that is being used by Bhom Singh Sodho, a farmer from the district of Umerkot in Sindh where much of the agricultural land was submerged during the recent floods.

Sodho combined raised bed cropping, which helped reduce excess surface water, as well as hardpan breaking, which increased the absorption capacity of his land in the absence of thick agrochemical layers.

“The floods devastated thousands of acres of agricultural land which were using traditional production methods around my farm,” Sodho told Arab News. “However, PQNK saved me from incurring any losses. In fact, I earned substantial profit and was even preparing to cultivate my next crop when a majority of farmers were trying to drain water from their fields.”




This picture shows an agricultural land which is still submerged by flood water in Umerkot, Pakistan, on November 17, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Official estimates suggest the catastrophic floods in Pakistan inflicted more than $30 billion in economic losses while the agricultural sector suffered $3.7 billion in damages. Sindh was the worst-hit province, where a large number of farmers lost both crops and livestock.

Sodho said that he shifted to the new production method two years ago when he decided to employ it over 11 out of his 55 acres of land. The year 2022 was the best for him in terms of cotton, sugarcane, and vegetable crops even amid the unprecedented floods, he said. 

Farmers in Umerkot mostly complain of water shortages and Sodho’s decision to switch to the new farming technique was also prompted by the same reason since the innovative method could help him grow the crops by using much less water than was otherwise required for conventional farming. 

Speaking to Arab News, Sharif, the 71-year-old founder of the system, said PQNK was a “low-cost, sustainable agricultural technique.”

“This is a self-funded initiative and there is no commercial angle involved in it,” Sharif, who is also the founding chairman and chief executive of Pedaver Private Limited, said over the telephone.

He said his method did not employ agrochemicals “which are poisonous for the microbes in the soil.” With an emphasis on organic food production, a farmer’s yield can also be sold at much higher rates in the international market. Apart from that, the new method “helps reduce the seed and water requirements by about 80 percent each.”

He said local soil had developed hardpan layers of chemical pesticide and fertilizer deposits of seven to 19 inches since the green revolution in the 1960s in conventional agriculture farming. Hardpan, he said, was largely impervious to water and restricted the growth of plant roots which lowered crop productivity and decreased the nutrition level.

“PQNK is a permanent low-cost solution for water scarcity and flooding,” he said.

“Breaking hardpan means increasing the capacity of the soil to absorb water. The recent floods caused massive devastation which could have been avoided if there had been a breaking of the hardpan on a larger scale. This also becomes clear when we see Bhom Singh Sodho’s farms since he applied the same method.”

Pakistan’s planning commission, the apex policymaking body, endorsed the new agricultural mechanism in 2021, rebranding it as Regenerative Agricultural Production System (RAPS).

According to Dr. Hamid Jalil, who works with the commission as a member of food security and climate change, “RAPS is a climate-smart agricultural production system.”

“We are scaling up RAPS in the country and introducing it in all public sector research centers and universities for authentication trials,” he told Arab News.

“We have already had success in getting international recognition for it when the World Bank evaluated RAPS in April this year and included it in the upcoming agricultural projects in Pakistan.”

However, Jalil said the biggest challenge in adopting the farming mechanism on a mass level was the provision of seed-sowing planter machines.

“With the assistance of Pro Nature Alliance, the planning commission manufactured four planter machines recently on an experimental basis whose testing was successful,” he added. “Pakistan needs 20,000 planter machines across the country to adopt RAPS. We have made PC-1 [or project feasibility report] that after approval will allow starting local production of planter machines. We can make the required number of machines in five years.”

Sharif added that the farming system could help Pakistan “generate an estimated $20 billion exportable food surplus in just a few years, provided that the country takes well-planned initiatives.

“At present, I have millions of followers across the world who are learning PQNK techniques online,” he said. “In Pakistan, there are about 100,000 farmers who are linked with PQNK and their number is increasing.”


Army chief visits suicide blast site in Peshawar, praises police as ‘frontline force’

Updated 03 February 2023

Army chief visits suicide blast site in Peshawar, praises police as ‘frontline force’

  • Gen. Munir’s visit comes at a time when PM Shehbaz Sharif announced ‘zero-tolerance policy against terrorism’
  • The prime minister expressed his resolve not to let armed groups reverse the country’s recent ‘anti-terror gains’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir praised Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police for playing a critical role in fighting extremist violence on Friday while visiting the site of a deadly suicide blast in Peshawar where over a hundred people were killed during a prayer congregation.
The incident took place when an explosion ripped through a crowded mosque in Peshawar’s police headquarters on Monday after a suicide bomber managed to enter the facility in police uniform.

Pakistan's army chief Asim Munir, third left, visits the site of Monday's suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 3, 2023. (Photo courtesy: social media)

According to a statement released by the military’s media wing, ISPR, the army chief met with police personnel and praised their bravery in the “war against terrorism.”
“The [chief of army staff] said that KP police is one of the most brave and has fought as a Frontline force against terrorism,” the statement added.
He appreciated the morale of police personnel and paid tribute to the martyrs who “laid down their lives for the defence of motherland.”
“We as a nation together will root out this menace of terrorism till enduring peace and InSha Allah we shall achieve this,” General Munir was quoted as saying.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a high-level meeting to review the security situation of the country which agreed to adopt “a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism.”
“Those who attacked innocent citizens will be brought to justice,” he said in a Twitter post. “We will not allow anti-terror gains to be reversed.”

The prime minister said the participants of the meeting also considered proposals to revise the National Action Plan, announced in December 2014 to crack down on militant networks, and approved “a slew of measures to improve investigation, forensic & working of [counterterrorism departments].”
“The meeting agreed to institute implementation mechanism for the decisions,” he added.


Pakistan’s UN envoy apologizes for comments on Pashtun culture in women education comments

Updated 03 February 2023

Pakistan’s UN envoy apologizes for comments on Pashtun culture in women education comments

  • Munir Akram called keeping women at home ‘distinctive cultural reality’ of Afghanistan, Pashtuns
  • Pakistani envoy to the UN says he ‘misspoke’ his words as he had deep respect for Pashtun culture

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Munir Akram, on Friday apologized for his comments about the Pashtun culture which drew flak on social media after he termed the Afghan Taliban government’s ban on women’s education and work a “distinctive cultural reality” of Afghanistan.

The Pakistani diplomat briefed member states on two high-level UN visits to Afghanistan on Thursday and said the Taliban’s decision to bar women from seeking education and employment did not stem from religious beliefs but was an aspect of the Pashtun culture that required women to stay at home and had remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

Akram’s statement was widely criticized on social media by both Pakistanis and Afghans, with Afghanistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka asking the UN to “immediately refute this piece of disinformation” and saying Pashtun girls had been attending schools and universities since time immemorial.

In response to the criticism, Akram issued an apology, saying his words “did not accurately reflect Pakistan’s position.”

“My apologies for the hurt caused by my comments at the humanitarian briefing on Afghanistan,” he wrote on Twitter. “I [misspoke] & my words did not accurately reflect Pakistan’s position.”

“I have deep respect for Pashtun culture,” he continued. “Denying women & girls access to education is neither Islamic nor Pashtun culture.”

 

Earlier, Akram said he meant “no disrespect” to the Pashtun culture which was “highly progressive and deserves all respect across the world,” the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency quoted him as saying.

The Pakistani envoy said he had referred to a “peculiar perspective” of a small minority, which had resulted in restrictions on Afghan women, according to the report.

The restrictions were “not consistent with Islam and the Sharia, which provides all rights to women, including to work and education,” he added.

Last year, the interim Taliban government in Afghanistan provoked anger in many parts of the world when it issued edicts banning women from attending universities and secondary schools. The Afghan government also ordered local and foreign aid organizations to ban women from working in their offices.

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers justified the move by saying some women had not adhered to their interpretation of the Islamic dress code.


Pacer Shaheen Afridi ties the knot with Shahid Afridi’s daughter in intimate Karachi nikkah

Updated 03 February 2023

Pacer Shaheen Afridi ties the knot with Shahid Afridi’s daughter in intimate Karachi nikkah

  • The young couple got engaged two years ago and their wedding reception was held amid sophisticated floral decoration
  • The marriage ceremony was attended by several Pakistani cricketers, showbiz personalities, officials and other athletes

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s legendary pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi on Friday tied the knot with the daughter of former skipper Shahid Afridi in a ceremony attended by some of the top players of the national cricket team along with other prominent personalities.
The engagement between the Pakistan quick and his wife, Ansha Afridi, took place about two years ago, and their nikkah ceremony was followed by an outdoor reception amid sophisticated floral decoration.
While the national team captain Babar Azam, wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, leg spinner Shadab Khan and fast bowler Naseem Shah were present at the gathering, several other cricketers sent their greetings to the young couple since they could not attend the gathering.
“Prayers for you my baby brother @iShaheenAfridi,” Pakistan’s leading batter Muhammad Rizwan said in a Twitter post with a brief congratulatory statement recorded in a video. “May you and your wife be the source of happiness and joy for each other, Ameen.”

 

 

Shaheen, who also plays for Lahore Qalandars, got video messages from his local and international teammates who shared their best wishes with him at the occasion.

 

 

According to the local media, the event was attended by former director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Saleem Bajwa and squash legend Jahangir Khan.
There were also showbiz personalities, such as Adnan Siddiqui, who took pictures with the groom and his teammates.


Survey shows 68% young Pakistanis want to stay in country despite economic, political instability

Updated 03 February 2023

Survey shows 68% young Pakistanis want to stay in country despite economic, political instability

  • British Council survey calls young Pakistanis politically passive and apathetic, with little or no trust in the system
  • 69 percent young Pakistanis have positive outlook about the country while 73 percent hope for good careers

ISLAMABAD: A British Council survey report launched on Friday found 68 percent of Pakistan’s young population willing to stay in the country in spite of the current economic and political instability while 73 percent said it was optimistic about its future and expected to live a better life in the coming years.
Pakistan has been grappling with tough economic challenges amid growing political uncertainty after a rapid depletion of foreign currency reserves which has also put its national currency under pressure.
According to a Reuters report published last month, data compiled by the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment showed that more than 800,000 Pakistani had left their country in 2022 to take up jobs abroad.
However, the British Council survey, “Pakistan – The Next Generation Report 2023,” showed the country’s youth between the ages of 15 and 34 were optimistic about the future of their country.
“[Sixty-eight percent of the respondents] wish to stay in Pakistan than move abroad, while 69% are optimistic about the future of Pakistan,” the report said.
When asked about their lives and employment opportunities in the country during the upcoming years, 69 percent said they had a positive outlook while 73 percent expressed hope in their future careers.
While the country’s next generation said it was hopeful Pakistan’s betterment, it expressed its dissatisfaction with the country’s political system.
“They are politically very passive and apathetic, with little to no trust in the political system,” the report added.
The survey showed that almost nine in ten young Pakistanis saw the economy as a key voting issue at the national level, while the majority of respondents said they felt their voices were not being heard by the country’s leadership.


Ex-PM Khan’s party refuses to attend national conference on growing threat of militant violence

Updated 03 February 2023

Ex-PM Khan’s party refuses to attend national conference on growing threat of militant violence

  • Asad Umar says government inviting PTI leaders for dialogue while registering treason cases against them
  • PM Sharif called the all-parties conference next week, asking political leaders to rise above their differences

ISLAMABAD: Former premier Imran Khan’s political faction announced on Friday it would not attend an all-parties conference (APC) arranged by the government next week to discuss the growing threat of militant violence in the country.
The invitation to the event was extended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday who called for national unity over the issue while asking Pakistan’s top political leaders to rise above their differences and collectively tackle the threat against the state and its people.
He also invited Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to the conference which would be held on February 7.
“How can we sit with the government which is registering cases against us,” asked PTI general secretary Asad Umar while interacting with the media outside the Lahore High Court.
He acknowledged the growing threat of violence but pointed out that state resources were used to file treason cases against the leaders of his political party, instead of fighting the scourge of militancy.
The government decided to call the APC in the wake of a deadly suicide attack that killed at least 100 people at a mosque at Peshawar’s police headquarters during a prayer congregation Monday afternoon.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in extremist violence since a fragile trace between the government and a proscribed militant faction, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), came to an end last November.
A TTP commander also claimed the attack on the mosque before his group distanced itself from the incident by issuing another statement.