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Sindh farmers demand promotion of intercropping | The Express Tribune

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KARACHI:

Progressive farmers and agricultural experts are calling for the promotion of intercropping, one of the traditional farming systems, to boost the agro-ecosystem and ensure food security in Sindh, where there is significant water scarcity .

Intercropping, which involves growing two or more crops simultaneously in the same field, is a traditional agricultural system that has been used for a long time. However, it is not yet very popular due to some vested interests of the Zamidars (owners).

This agricultural practice can help promote agro-economy, ensure and enhance food security, especially in the left bank canal areas of Sukkur Dam, which covers eight full-fledged districts of Sindh. These eight districts, including Sukkur, Khairpur, Naushahro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Matiari, Tando Allahyar and Mirpurkhas, have very fertile agricultural lands.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Nabi Bux Sathio, senior vice-president and progressive grower of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), said that intercropping is a beneficial cultivation practice that can help conserve the water, reduce the cost of fertilizer, land preparation and labor as farmers grow. two or three crops simultaneously while using resources for only one crop.

Under this method, a farmer applies fertilizer, water, performs soil preparation and uses labor for one crop, while one or two other crops do not require water, fertilizer and other resources. He further said that this farming system is suitable for the entire canal command areas of the left bank of Guddu Dam where the land is fertile. However, growers have not practiced this system in recent times, mainly focusing on high-delta crops where intercropping cannot be applied due to vested interests.

Experts and academicians from Sindh Agricultural University (SAU) mentioned that SAU and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have launched a project titled “Transforming the Indus Basin with a climate-resilient agriculture and water management”. This project aims to provide training to smallholder producers on intercropping to improve economic prosperity in rural areas.

“We are promoting intercropping of sugarcane and wheat in the first phase and will apply this cultivation method to cotton and rice in the second phase,” said SAU Department of Soil Science Professor Dr. Ghulam Murtaza Jamro. “We have identified 22 farmer demonstration plots or sites in three districts of the province, including nine in Badin, nine in Sanghar and four in Umerkot. We have trained a total of 660 farmers who are direct beneficiaries on these 22 sites, with 30 producers on each site.

FAO covers the costs of land preparation, seeds, fertilizer and training, while SAU provides expertise and training to farmers. Local farmers in these three districts received seeds, fertilizer and the cost of land preparation, through the establishment of agricultural field schools. Under the project, one acre of land owned by farmers at 22 sites across three districts was selected, with growers hoping to get production.

Prof. M Mithal Jiskani of the Department of Plant Pathology, Faculty of Crop Protection, SAU mentioned that the trained farmers reported better yields and increased satisfaction with this agricultural technique.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th2024.

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