This is Abdul Qayyum’s story from the village of Gharbai, Shirani district.
In recent years, the threats posed by climate change, environmental degradation and food security have become a global reality. For a developing country like Pakistan they hit hard, but in the rural setting of Balochistan the situation can leave people desperate. Impoverished families residing there require practical solutions to the challenges of their habitat such as unproductive soil, scanty rain and inadequate yields.
Good farmers are more than just cultivators, they contribute to the welfare of society in multiple ways. Directly by contributing food produce and alleviating hunger, and indirectly, by conserving soil, water, wildlife, open spaces and the landscape. Abdul QayyumShirani is one such farmer residing in the small village of Gharbai, Shirani district. He was one of the first farmers of his village to cultivate an olive orchard.
“Traditionally the wild olive of our area was used only as fodder or fire wood.”
It was in 2009 that Qayyum, integrated high-yielding, grafted olive with other fruit plants that he was cultivating. But it was years later that this orchard of grafted olive trees in the undulating local terrain became profitable.
To achieve his target, Abdul Qayyum implemented soil and water conservation methods, including stone-pitched bench terracing and storage pits for rain-water. One of the pivotal success factors was an improvised pipe-irrigation system. In a region where water is a precious commodity, this system prudently irrigated five hectares of olive orchards. To Abdul Qayyum’s credit, he had the experience and wisdom to combine all these components in a manner that enhanced productivity and profitability to the maximum.
The switch to exclusive olive farming became possible after a few iterations. Abdul Qayyum learnt about ways he could efficiently harvest his yield, process the olive fruit, extract olive oil and the requisite marketing skills.This was relatively easy because Qayyum was ambitious and a keen learner, and a combination of all these skills helped stabilize his financial situation. This dedication ensured that he became self-sufficient in processing and value addition of his produce. Moreover, the production of olive oil served the invaluable dual purpose of a sustainable and significant income source, all the while conserving local tree species and wildlife habitat.
Abdul Qayyum’s life changed for the better and olive oil production remains a rewarding venture. He is currently serving as master trainer for WWF-Pakistan’s agri-business activities and is passionate about initiating other conservation efforts for his area. His entrepreneurial spirit rendered him open to new ideas and his success has inspired others to emulate him.
The average production from Abdul Qayyum’s orchard is about 108 litres and he obtains a competitive price, even in the market area of Zhob, where he is offered PKR 1,600 per litre (an average of $16). In 2014, Abdul Qayyum earned approximately PKR 172,000 from his olive orchards.
“Five years ago, I could not have imagined earning thousands of rupees from these wild trees, which we used to chop without a thought. We were destroying nature and opportunities!” says Abdul Qayyum.
Syed Kamran Hussain is Manager Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, WWF-Pakistan.