Greening the desert | Political economics

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he United Arab Emirates is greening the desert and meeting its food security needs through Reactive Drip Irrigation (RDI), which is the world’s first irrigation system that allows plants to regulate water supply. Decreasing fresh water, climate change and world hunger threaten the planet and Pakistan.

In hyper-arid environments like Abu Dhabi, Cholistan, Thar and southern Balochistan, extreme temperatures and sandy soils make it difficult to grow sustainable crops. For generations, people living in desert and water-scarce regions have had to work diligently and strive to create productive agricultural land in the harshest environments.

The plant-responsive and nature-based responsive drip irrigation (RDI) system has delivered impressive results.

With RDI, date palm, fig, sweet corn, watermelon and many kinds of vegetables have been successfully grown in open field as well as green tunnels in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan and many other parts of the world. world. The pilot projects saved 40% water, 70% energy and required 50% less fertilizer.

It is a complete climate-smart technology that not only requires low energy consumption, but also requires minimum tillage and tillage. It is a complete regenerative technology. Many large farms are adopting RDI for the production of field crops and vegetables under controlled conditions.

Pakistan Agricultural Research Council has successfully tested RDI in NARC research farms and farmers’ fields in Potohar and Bhakkar (Thal) for growing tomatoes, cauliflower, bitter cucumber, broccoli, garlic and citrus with less water, energy, fertilizer and labor and improved yields.

The RDI will be best suited for dry, hot and water-scarce regions including Balochistan, Sindh, South Punjab, KP, Thar and Cholistan. The RDI will demonstrate more water savings through controlled evaporation in this hot, dry environment. This will be a blessing for vulnerable and water deprived communities in Thar and Balochistan.

It has a high initial investment cost, but the government can provide grants to generate livelihoods for poor communities. This will also be applicable and beneficial for Thar and Cholistan salt water for vegetable garden, arid horticulture, fodder and rangeland.

If we are to achieve food security and social equality and increase economic opportunity, we need solution-focused thinking that empowers stakeholders and communities to act. If farmers in fragile regions are to thrive in the face of climate change, we need to take the risk out of their innovation efforts.

The provision of innovative irrigation technologies such as RDI, an arid horticulture production technology, is key to reducing risks to livelihoods, agricultural enterprises and value chains. A small public investment in RDI can not only improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and ensure their food security, but also, with proper planning, boost rain-fed agriculture.

RDI can address urban food security by growing vegetables in controlled tunnels in peri-urban and green spaces. Responsive Drip Irrigation is committed to building a greener future for generations to come.

RDI can address urban food security by growing vegetables in controlled tunnels in peri-urban and green spaces. It can help build a greener future. There is hope to emerge from the global crisis by working together. We just need to plant the seed.

Israel, China and India have successfully advanced large-scale irrigated agriculture in arid and semi-arid lands, with intensive use of technology and capital, and firm government-led irrigation policies. ‘State. For this to happen in Pakistan, there needs to be a clear roadmap and a strategy that enjoys popular support. The strategy and approach should be simple, consistent and holistic.

Some main points of the policy can be:

The RDI can be limited to horticultural crops, including fruits and vegetables. Priority may be given to desert regions (Cholistan, Thar, Thal) and water-poor Balochistan, Potohar plateaus and control areas of mini and small dams.

Targeted smallholder landowners, government grants and support for 1-2 acres on RDI will not only support the livelihoods of disadvantaged communities in Cholistan, Thar, Thal and Balochistan, but also improve their resilience to drought.

Encourage local manufacturing of RDI and other micro-irrigation technologies to make it affordable for smallholder farmers. This will not only lower prices and increase production, but also create jobs. The government should facilitate low-cost local manufacturing of micro-irrigation equipment and encourage service and supply companies.

Training farmers in the use of this new advanced technology with advice on agronomic practices, crop varieties, diseases and post-harvest will be an important measure to build confidence.

These suggestions on adopting RDI, if carefully implemented for fruit and vegetable production, offer the potential for great socio-economic improvement.

Conventional irrigation systems are based on timed irrigation intervals for the distribution of set amounts of water where human estimation decides when and how much to irrigate based on plant health or moisture sensors, while RDI is based on organic chemistry, interacting directly with plant roots. provide water and nutrients on demand. There is no human involvement in deciding when to irrigate and how much to irrigate, only plant roots and microspore RDI interaction and decision making are involved.

It will always be necessary to ensure 24/7 water availability in the tubes. The supply of water and nutrients fluctuates depending on the plant. Each plant regulates its own water supply, adjusting as needed based on weather conditions and stages of development etc.

The RDI tube has millions of microscopic openings along its surface to release water and requires no filtration unlike earlier drip systems which are prone to clogging and malfunctioning.


The author is the Director of Climate Energy and Water Research Institute of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council. He has 25 years of experience in micro-irrigation and water management


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