Monsoon Season Poised to Cause Havoc for Farmers in Pakistan

Historically, the monsoon season provided Pakistan’s farmers a much-needed reprieve from the typically hot and dry conditions. Not this time.
(AP Photo)
By Wasim Shahzad
Jul. 25, 2023 18:09 UTC

Floods are not a new occur­rence in Pakistan. However, the relent­less rains that fell dur­ing the 2022 mon­soon sea­son proved dis­as­trous.

The record rain­fall caused exten­sive dam­age to vital infra­struc­ture, result­ing in immense loss of life and prop­erty. From June to August, the peak of the mon­soon sea­son, more than 1,160 peo­ple died, and 3,500 were injured.

The olive oil har­vest was also dam­aged last year because of the mas­sive rain­fall. There was a hor­ren­dous loss of 17.504 mil­lion Pakistani Rupees (€55,000) in total.- Muhammad Tariq, project direc­tor, PakOlive

The Pakistani gov­ern­ment esti­mated that 33 mil­lion peo­ple, 13 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, were affected by the floods, with at least 1 mil­lion homes and 5,500 roads, bridges and shops sus­tain­ing dam­age. The World Bank esti­mated that the flood­ing caused $30 bil­lion (€27 bil­lion) in dam­age.

According to Anja Katzenberger at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the impacts of cli­mate change have made Pakistan’s cli­mate even more extreme, with drought and sear­ing heat waves now fol­lowed by tor­ren­tial rain.

See Also:Extreme Weather Events Are Getting Worse, Affecting Food Availability

Due to its loca­tion between the Indian Ocean and the Karakoram range, home to five of the world’s 14 tallest moun­tains, Pakistan has always been vul­ner­a­ble to nat­ural dis­as­ters such as floods and tsunamis.

Global warm­ing linked to cli­mate change has increased aver­age air and sea tem­per­a­tures, which cre­ates more evap­o­ra­tion. Additionally, warmer air tem­per­a­tures allow the atmos­phere to hold more water, sig­nif­i­cantly increas­ing pre­cip­i­ta­tion vol­umes.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the eighth most vul­ner­a­ble nation to cli­mate change. However, European Union data shows that Pakistan is respon­si­ble for less than 1 per­cent of green­house gas emis­sions.

With the 2023 mon­soon sea­son already under­way, Pakistanis are wor­ried that more tor­ren­tial rain and flood­ing are com­ing. According to a national dis­as­ter man­age­ment offi­cial, already, 50 peo­ple have died, and 87 have been injured in var­i­ous rain-related inci­dents across the coun­try since the mon­soon sea­son began on June 25.

While the mon­soon sea­son has tra­di­tion­ally pro­vided a life­line to the country’s mas­sive agri­cul­tural sec­tor, it has done more harm than good in recent years.

Pakistan is an agri­cul­tural econ­omy, with the sec­tor account­ing for about 19 per­cent of its gross domes­tic prod­uct (GDP) and employ­ing 42 per­cent of the labor force, accord­ing to the coun­try’s finance min­istry.

The South Asian coun­try has always relied on the mon­soon rains to fill water reser­voirs, irri­gate farm­lands and sup­port crop growth by replen­ish­ing ground­wa­ter reserves.

However, the inten­sity of the most recent mon­soon sea­sons has swelled the banks of the Indus River and oth­ers, result­ing in dev­as­tat­ing floods that have washed away the crops and infra­struc­ture.

While cot­ton, sug­ar­cane, rice, maize and wheat are Pakistan’s most impor­tant crops, the coun­try has planted olive trees to pro­duce olive oil in the past decade.

The gov­ern­ment has spon­sored mas­sive olive tree-grow­ing pro­grams to help farm­ers diver­sify their agri­cul­tural hold­ings and pre­vent deser­ti­fi­ca­tion. The sec­tor has gained momen­tum recently and attracted local and inter­na­tional invest­ment.

However, the tor­ren­tial rains caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to last year’s har­vest, accord­ing to Muhammad Tariq, the national project direc­tor PakOlive. In the 2022/23 crop year, Pakistan pro­duced 86 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil.

It was esti­mated that 31,580 olive trees were dam­aged in Balochistan, 1,377 trees in Sindh, 2,500 trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 5,730 trees in south­ern Punjab,” he told Olive Oil Times. The olive oil har­vest was also dam­aged last year because of the mas­sive rain­fall. There was a hor­ren­dous loss of 17.504 mil­lion Pakistani Rupees (€55,000) in total.”

Again, the mon­soon poses a sig­nif­i­cant threat to Pakistan’s future of olive oil farm­ing. Tariq said flood­ing is likely to cause more olive tree dis­eases, espe­cially anthrac­nose, which dete­ri­o­rates the fruit qual­ity.

The chal­lenges do not stop there. The replace­ment to olive cul­ti­va­tion will cause high eco­nomic losses to the farm­ers and national exche­quer [trea­sury],” he added.

This raises con­cerns as Pakistan is again on the verge of being harshly affected by the mon­soon.

For farm­ers and olive sec­tor offi­cials, the ques­tion is whether the author­i­ties have taken the nec­es­sary steps to mit­i­gate the impact of tor­ren­tial rains or whether Pakistan will expe­ri­ence more losses again this year.


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