The FAO delegation led by country representative in Pakistan, Ms. Rebekah Olivia Bell visited Thar and witnessed Biosaline Agriculture and Biosaline Fisheries pilot projects being carried out by Thar Foundation and Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) in Thar Coal Block II and in Gorano area.
The delegation included FAO senior officials Ashraf Ali, Amir Sultan, Ghulam Qadir Mangrio, Shariq Aziz, and Aamer Irshad. They were briefed on Apple Ber Orchards, Sindh’s largest private-sector saplings nursery, Thar Million Tree initiative, Green Park, and Gorano Pond where organic fisheries are being practiced. The delegation was also served cooked organic Gorano fish which has been declared fit for human consumption by a leading laboratory of Pakistan.
The delegation was told that the Biosaline agriculture pilots were being carried out in collaboration with Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), Livestock and Fisheries Department, Govt of Sindh and Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam, and Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization, University of Karachi.
It was further told that Thar has great potential for Biosaline agriculture and fisheries, as 80 billion cubic meters of water with 5000-6000 TDS available at the 3rd aquifer beneath the soil, which can be pumped out to water nutritive crops for the human and livestock population.
Speaking during the visit, Ms Rebekah Olivia applauded the initiatives and thanked them for showing the initiatives and explaining ambitious models. “The work carried out is critical to the success of this area,” she commented.” FAO provides technical assistance to the provincial and federal governments of Pakistan and has established its offices in Sindh to work closer in the areas of mutual interest.” she added and observed that such initiatives would greatly help promote such efforts in the rain-dependent arid zone of the country.
“Agriculture models should benefit local communities in terms of livelihood betterment and develop linkages with the private sector,” she added.Briefing the delegation about different initiatives, Thar Foundation and SECMC CEO, Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi said that all the community development initiatives undertaken by them have been linked with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We would like to aim at making Islamkot taluka UN-SDG compliant by the year 2025,” said Rizvi. And for this purpose, he added that a comprehensive house-to-house survey has been carried out by Thar Foundation in consultation with UN-SDG Cell P&D Dept and UNDP.
He said, they have received successful outcomes under pilot projects of Biosaline Agriculture and fisheries in Thar desert, which needs to be scaled up with the support of Govt of Sindh and technical expertly support from organizations like FAO.
“We have planted 850,000 trees under the Thar Million Tree Program and have also cultivated vegetables, fruits, moringa, multiple species of fodder like rhodes grass, corn, and jantar,” he added.