Monday, August 14, 2017

camel4all: Hidden Treasure! The Camel Milk

camel4all: Hidden Treasure! The Camel Milk: Camel milk is a unique and incredible creature of God. Not only a food but a gift of nature for natural health and beauty. This hidden tre...

Monday, August 24, 2015

What is the Reality? Grazing Leads to Blazing

Is it really true that grazing leads to blazing? I think it is opposite. Today I read an article in "Wild Life News" 1, regarding the role of livestock grazing for fire hazards in forests, especially western region of USA. The now a days fire, burning thousands of hectares of forest daily in the United States.

 I astonished while seeing that author is blaming livestock for fire hazards. Before I seldom saw such a serious allegations on livestock as a key role in provoking fire hazard. Many other ecologists including me thinking otherwise exactly at 90 angle. The livestock is the best tool to control threats of fire by consuming forages (highly combustible) and minimize the chances of fire. The literature regarding the ecosystem services and fire hazard control is fortified with the role of livestock. There are many references
2,3,4,5,. See the role of goats as goats may be herded to control weeds and reduce fire hazard, often on steep hills where other brush control methods would be expensive and difficult 3. 
There are many other reasons and causes of the natural hazards, especially fire in the forests. Such reasons ranging from the introduction of the invasive plants species, global warming, restriction of livestock grazing, intensive agricultural operations up to post fire panting and logging. The references for such literature are given 6,7,8,.

1. Travis Bruner. 2015. Grazing leads to Blazing. Online.

2.Huntsinger L,California Mediterranean Rangelands and Ecosystem Conservation. Environmental Science, Policy and Management, MC 3110, University of California, Berkeley California: online

3. Eva. K. Strand et al. 2014. Livestock Grazing Effects on Fuel loads for wildland fire in Sagebursh Dominated Ecosystems. Journal of Rangeland Applications. Vol(1) pp:2331-5512. Online


5. Benefits of Grazing Animals. Online

6. Managing fire-prone forests in the western United States
Read More: 

7. An integrated Approach to the Ecology and Management of Plant Invasions. Online.

Increasing world consumption of beef as a driver of regional and global change: A call for policy action based on eon evidence from Queensland (Australia), Colombia and Brazil. Global Environmental ChangeVolume 19, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 21–33

Friday, November 7, 2014

Question of Food Security under the Shadows of Droughts, Wars & Climate Change

This simple question is very complicated now. The gateway between Central and South Asia (Afghanistan and mid-western Pakistan) once the home of traditional livestock agriculture (Pastoralism and Agro-Pastoralism) and unique livestock products; is now facing complex and multifaceted challenges, all are man-made.

The travelling Kochis (Afghan), the beautiful Balochis Gidans, the singing bells of chosen rams are now vanishing because of war and conflicts (born by the imperialistic global policies) and its allied consequences of deforestation, climate change and restricting of traditional routes which they had been using since centuries (their animal were selected for the traits of long walk and resistance to diseases). The livestock composition of traditional AnGR keepers is composed of 60-70 % sheep, followed by goat, camel, cattle, and donkey with few horses and dogs. Sheep (the major part) depends on grasses and herbs fauna. This precious fauna is the first prey of droughts and climate change. The historical Arya Warsha (mother grasslands cited in Avesta) cannot support herbaceous grasses for sheep culture because of many reasons like droughts, faulty agricultural operations, and creeping desertification.

Sheep husbandry was once the key institution of the region's pastoral people both as fabrication unit of consumer demanded products (Pesenda meat and Qourath) and cultural heritage. This heritage is now facing severe threat; droughts and war n conflicts are the majors' portion of these threats.

Traditional Livestock Agriculture always worked as strong bonding for communities on one hand and provided jobs and livelihood to thousands of families on the other hand. Their way of production is sustainable and their products are healthy promising. They are the true producers and their life is simple and incredible. They are the custodian of precious animal genetic resources (AnGR) and their life is in tune with nature.

The eradication of such unique institutions is resulting in many complex situations like provision of fuel (unemployed youth) to the already alarming war conflicts.

Coherence and sincere efforts for the solution of the political conflicts and a master plan (scientific study) to give solid programs for the conservation and development of this unique animal agriculture.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Climate Change Adaptation and Food Security Challenge

The importance of agriculture is acknowledged since prehistoric era. It is now realized more than ever that agriculture is not only source of income and employment but sustenance of human verve. Safe, sufficient, and quality food stuff is one of the most important agenda of the governments and the UN. Unfortunately this sector has many challenges, all are manmade. One of the core challenges is the consequences of climate change. Human interfere in natural ecosystems resulted in many adverse affects in the form of erosion, degradation of soil fertility and polluted croplands. Agriculture is not only affected by the climate change, but also contributes to about 20% of the emissions of greenhouse gases, notably methane and nitrous oxide.
The overall driving force in agriculture is the globally increasing demand for food and fiber. This is primarily caused by a growing world population with a high demand for food production and a wealthier world population with a higher proportion of meat in the diet. The result is that agriculture globally exerts increasing pressure on the land and water resources of the earth, which often results in land degradation, e.g. soil erosion, salinisation and pollution.
Many scientists are concerned that the burning of the fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere, which could cause the surface temperature of the earth to rise. Atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased from 280 to 350 ppm over the last century. At present rates of increase, atmospheric CO2 may double in the next 75 years compared to pr-industrial levels. Concentrations of other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbon) are also increasing. These gases absorb thermal radiation which subsequently warms the earth’s atmosphere.
General circulation models suggest that average global temperature will increase by as much as 3-5 ◦C as atmospheric CO2 levels double. The impacts of global warming may be felt in a wide variety of social, economic, and environmental sector, including coastal infrastructure, marine life, water resources, energy usage, human health, forestry, rangeland ecosystems, crop production and livestock production. In recent years, considerable research has been directed at a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on most of these sectors.  However, the potential impact of climate change on livestock has not been adequately assessed; only a few studies have been conducted.
Industrial/Intensive Farming System Produce more Emission
The agricultural ecosystems vary from highly intensive farming systems such as the arable cropping systems of Western countries to the low-input farming systems such as subsistence farming in parts of Asia and Africa. The highest emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture are generally associated with the intensive farming systems, whereas the extensive farming system is the most severely affected by climate change.
Climate Change Affects and Response
Climate change is expected to affect agriculture very differently in different parts of the world. The resulting effects depend on current climatic and soil conditions, the direction of change and the availability of resources and infrastructure to cope with change. The main drivers of agricultural responses to climate change are biophysical effects and socio-economic factors. Crop production is affected biophysically by meteorological variables, including rising temperatures, changing precipitation regimes, and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Biophysical effects of climate change on agricultural production will be positive in some agricultural systems and regions, and negative in others, and these effects will vary through time. Socio-economic factors influence responses to changes in crop productivity, with price changes and shifts in relative benefit.

High temperature and atmospheric CO2 will negatively affect agriculture in dry and warm regions of the world (dry ecosystems). Contrary to dry ecosystems, it will put rather positive impact on agricultural productivity in very cold ecosystems like North Europe and America. CO2 has some biophysical effect. Most plants growing in atmospheric CO2 higher than ambient exhibit increased rates of photosynthesis. High CO2 also reduces the stomatal openings of some crop plants. By so doing, CO2 reduces transpiration per unit leaf area while enhancing photosynthesis. Thus it may lead to improve water-use efficiency (the ratio of crop biomass to amount of water used in evapo-transpiration). As a result of these interactions, elevated CO2 alone tends to increase growth and yield of most agricultural plants.
a.     Climate Chang Affect on Water
Agriculture of any kind is strongly influenced by the availability of water. Climate change will modify rainfall, evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture storage. Changes in total seasonal precipitation or in its pattern of variability are both important. The demand for water for irrigation is projected to rise in a warmer climate, increasing the competition between agriculture and urban as well as industrial users of water. More water will be required per unit area under drier conditions, and peak irrigation demands are also predicted to rise due to more severe heat waves.
b.     Climatic Abrupt and Severe variability
Extreme meteorological events, such as spells of high temperature, heavy storms, or droughts, can severely disrupt crop production. Recent studies have considered possible changes in the variability as well as in the mean values of climatic variables. Where certain varieties of crops are grown near their limits of maximum temperature tolerance, heat spells can be particularly detrimental.
c.      Soil fertility and erosion
Soil organic matter plays a key role in building and sustaining soil fertility, affecting physical, chemical and biological soil properties. Increased temperature will increase the turnover rate of organic matter. The effects are likely to be highest during winter time, and increased turnover may lead to buildup of inorganic nitrogen in the soil and increased risk of nitrate leaching.
According to scientists, this may lead to enhanced CO2 emissions, which probably will be most pronounced from peat soils and also affect the use of these soils for agricultural purposes. N2O emissions may also be enhanced under some conditions affected by both changes in temperature, soil moisture and carbon input. Drier soil conditions will increase the vulnerability to wind erosion, especially if winds intensify.
d.     Crop protection
Conditions are more favorable for the proliferation of insect pests in warmer climates, because many insects can then complete a greater number of reproductive cycles. Warmer winter temperatures may also allow pests to overwinter in areas where they are now limited by cold, altered wind patterns may change the spread of both wind-borne pests and of the bacteria and fungi that are the agents of crop disease. Higher CO2 concentration will stimulate growth and water use efficiency in both C3 and C4 species. The control of weeds, pests and diseases is also likely to be affected by these changes.
e.      Constraints on management
The weather directly affects the ability to manage soils, crops and livestock properly. Detrimental soil compaction can occur, if tillage and traffic is performed when the soil is too wet.

In developing countries of Asia and Africa, climate change severities are predominantly more visible. The water shortage is one of the critical problems of Afro Asian region of the world and many countries are proceeding towards water conflict. Other consequences of climate change are visible at all levesl. New diseases are documented and reported both of livestock and agriculture from different parts of the world. The only way for conditions to adopt is adaptation to climate change. In this respect native genetic resources of both livestock and agriculture can be pivotal to adapt with the climate change calamities. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A letter from the Food Think Tank

Dear Dr. Raziq,

This week, Ellen Gustafson and I are pleased to announce that Food Tank is partnering withAVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, a worldwide leader in the promotion of vegetable production and consumption!

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 2.7 million lives could be saved every year if vegetable consumption was increased. And a lack of vegetables, according to the World Health Organization, causes 14 percent of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11 percent of heart disease deaths, and about 9 percent of stroke deaths globally.

And in developing countries, vegetable production can be one of the most sustainable and affordable ways of alleviating micronutrient deficiencies among the poor. Often referred to as hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiencies—including lack of Vitamin A, iron, and iodine—affect at least two billion people worldwide. They lead to poor mental and physical development, especially among children, and cause poor performance in work and in school, further crippling communities already facing poverty and other health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vegetables are crucial for optimal child growth, weight management, and chronic disease prevention. In developing countries, lower rates of vegetable consumption are linked to higher rates of mortality in children under five years. AVRDC Director General Dyno Keatinge says, "vegetables are our best source of the vitamins, micronutrients, and fiber the human body requires for health. They add much-needed nutritional diversity to diets."

Vegetables are not only nutritious and a necessary party of a healthy diet, but they are an important way to protect the environment, preserve biodiversity, and raise incomes.

Unfortunately, many research institutes and the funding and donor communities still tend to focus on calories, rather than nutrients. Starchy staple crops—wheat, maize, rice, and cassava—receive the bulk of research dollars, and there is very little investment in what makes those crops taste good or nutritious. Over the last 30 years, the food output of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America—and North America—has become more focused on raw commodities, and less on more nutrient-rich crops such as protein-rich grains and vegetables.

But vegetables are less risk-prone to drought than staple crops because they typically have shorter growing times and can help maximize scarce water supplies and soil nutrients.

AVRDC works with farmers not only to grow vegetables but also to process and cook them. Often, vegetables are cooked for so long that they lose most of their nutrients. To solve that problem the Center works with women to improve the nutritional value of cooked foods by helping them develop shorter cooking times. And eating is believing—when cooks find out how much better the food tastes, and how much less fuel and time it takes to prepare, they don’t need much convincing about the alternative methods.

In India, the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VPCK)  empowers vegetable farmers by offering production and marketing support, including training, seed supplies, and access to markets.

And in the United States, the Urban Nutrition Initiative in Philadelphia works with more than 10,000 students and their families to teach urban residents the importance of incorporating vegetables into their diets. And Native Harvest is helping save and preserve seeds of indigenous vegetables. 

Vegetables are not only a key ingredient in healthy diets, but they can also improve economic and environmental sustainability in rich and poor countries, helping nourish both people and the planet.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Drought Striking Livestock Production in Pakistan

by: M. Younas, M. Yaqoob, A. Raziq

 Department of Livestock Management University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-38040, Pakistan


Pakistan has been under attack of severe drought conditions in the country until the last year. Especially, North-east Balochistan (Loralai, Musakhail, Zhob, Kohlu, Barkhan, Qillasaifullah and Hernai) is under the severe attack of drought. This article deals with the process of desertification and the reasons for occurrence of droughts in the region. The importance of water has been delineated. Current situation of water shortage affecting the production of agriculture as well as livestock production has been dealt with. Desertification process has been defined to understand the phenomenon and its main players. This desertification process has affected the existence of the biodiversity especially in rangeland areas of the country. It’s affects on the desert environment particularly affecting the livestock production in the country has been enumerated. Drought situation over the years has been reviewed at length indicating the extent of damage occurred on livestock production. Recommendations to combat the process of desertification have been summarized and the measures taken by the policy makers show the interest of the present Government to combat the effects the process of desertification.

Keywords: Water; Desert; Livestock; Baluchistan, Pakistan

1. Preamble

Droughts are the result of water scarcity. Pakistan has been hit hard due to continuous droughts and has been in the grip of dry spell during the previous years. Sporadic and scanty rainfalls, lack of planning and action on our part are the main reasons for it. Reservoirs, dams and rivers have been dried up. Extensive pumping and exploration has pushed the groundwater table deep down. Summer span has become long and monsoon rains come at a small scale and after long intervals. Winters are getting very short, winter rains have become the story of the past. Above all we are not keeping pace with the recent ecological and climatic changes. Resultantly, in some part of the country we are facing the situation like of Ethiopia and Somalia, where people are dying of thirst and hunger because of the long and dry weather.

2. Why droughts are common?

Many developing countries are facing drought situation. Pakistan is not exception to this. Why the droughts are common? These sufferings are due to recent ecological and climatic changes occurring around us on the globe. Main causes of these changes are immense pollution, greenhouse gasses emissions and depletion of ozone layers, etc. Industrialized countries are also putting their share in bulk. USA alone is responsible of 31.6 % of the entire world’s emission and environmental pollution. According to some reports (Ramzan, 2002), the USA is playing hell with the world by blatantly refusing to sign any pact or protocol to rectify the situation and to reduce pollution. Paying no heed to the environmental ethics by any country is a great crime against nature. Despite the opposition of a few developed countries, Kyoto Pact is expected to become enacted as law shortly by the European Union, which is a treaty aimed at reducing the level of greenhouse emissions.

Climatologists claim that recurrent droughts will bring heat and other unusual weather conditions and one dangerous effect of these climatic changes is that a handful of extreme hurricanes could kill million of people in the world, besides causing desertification of vast areas of land. There will also be salty water, intrusion of sea, damaging and destroying the already prevailing ecosystem and fertility of the land especially in the coastal areas.

2.1 Water  - too much or too little

The foremost cause of natural disasters is the water. When it is in excess, it brings floods and when it is in short supply, it invites droughts. Almost 1/3 rd of the world’s population was affected by the natural disasters in the last decade of the 20th century. Floods and droughts accounted for 86 % of them (WHO, 2002).

Disasters are of two types: (i) quick-onset like earthquacks, volcanic eruptions and landslides are more dramatic and take a very high toll in human life but the second (ii) floods and droughts often have long lasting and far-reaching effects on the health of their victims. The most vulnerable are the poor and the marginalized, most of whom live low quality housing in flood-prone or drought-prone regions. In the periods of droughts, desperation leads them to drink contaminated water and people fail to exercise personal hygiene. And those fleeing floods often drink unclean water too.

2.2 What happens during floods?

Statistical studies indicate that floods are becoming more frequent – from 66 major floods in 1990 the number rose to 110 in 1999. The number of people who died in floods in 1999 was more than double the number killed by floods in any other year in the decade of the 1990s. All this is happening on an increasingly crowded planet. And while the world’s leaders continue to debate long term solutions, what most needed are better preparedness and better prevention measures especially in the least developed countries and more generally from the vulnerable poor. According to WHO (2002) recent floods have been recorded in India (Orissa), Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Siberia, Angola, Brazil, Peru and China. While the other kind of disaster, the droughts, have occurred in Afghanistan, Cuba (the Horn of Africa), Central Asia (India) and in some parts of Pakistan.

Droughts are the biggest cause of deaths because they often lead to famine. Simple, practical measures such as teaching people how to conserve water and keep it safe from contamination and how to store emergency supplies of safe drinking water will go a long way to helping communities at risk. Chlorination reduces diarrhea, cholera and other diseases.

2.3 Drought readiness

Flooding is visible to everyone, but drought is a great deal more difficult to recognize. When does a dry spell in fact become a drought? Unlike a typhoon or an earthquack, a drought may occur in a large geographical area and take months or even years to develop. Decision-makers may put off acting until the effects are dramatic and that could be too late to do anything effective. Drought triggers or exacerbates malnutrition and famine. Accurate statistics for droughts are hard to come because deaths are mainly due to lack of food and the worsening of pre-existing malnutrition. Understanding the situation is further complicated by migration, homelessness, damage to public health infrastructure, water distribution problems and limitations in health care.

3. Water situation in Pakistan

Water is necessary for the livelihood of people in Pakistan. Water is most precious, important constituent of natural resources and essential ingredient of life. Rainfalls are the free gift of nature for all living beings but the judicious use of this resource is seldom made in the country. No storage of water for our present and future requirements has been envisaged. Once upon a time, Pakistan was water affluent country and now it is water deficient. Water Cycle has been disturbed due to urbanization, deforestation, misuse and miss management.

3.1 Water availability for Agriculture

The total geographical area of the country is 80 million hectares (MH), out of which cultivable area is 35.4 MH. Cultivable wasteland accounts for 8.6 MH while cultivated area is 23.3 MH (Anonymous, 2004). Water logged and salinity affected areas in Indus Basin amounts to 6.8 MH while salinity affected area out of the Indus Basin is 5.6 MH as depicted in Figure 1.
Droughts are affecting the agriculture as well as to the livestock. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and is a barometer of financial and economic stability. A population of 150 million in the country with a growth rate of 2.5 % per annum, agriculture employees more than 50 % the labor force. Agriculture supports 68 % of the population for their subsistence directly or indirectly. Export contribution is almost 60 % in the form of raw, processed and value added products.

Water availability for Agriculture per unit of cultivated land in Pakistan is much less than provided in the other countries. Problems other than droughts are water logging, salinity, erosion, low yield/acre, etc. Demand of water continues to rise because of increasing population, increase in the area under cultivation coupled with mismanagement. Demand is expected to rise by 50 % more than that of today by the year 2025 (Ramzan, 2002).

At present natural resources of water are precipitation, rivers, tubewells and karez, which provide 223 million-acre feet (MAF) of water. About 14 MH out of cultivated area (23.3 MH) is canal irrigated. Maximum surface water available from the Indus Basin is 144 MAF, of which 105 MAF is diverted to canal irrigation system. The tubewells provide 44 MAF of water (Table 1).

Table 1. Table showing the water availability from different sources.

Amount of water provided
Natural resources of water
Precipitation, rivers, karez, etc
223 MAF
Indus Basin
Indus river
144 MAF
Irrigation System
Canals (23.3 MH)
105 MAF

44 MAF

3.2 Water losses

Some workers (Ramzan, 2002) reported that the losses during the conveyance approximately totals to 60-68 percent. The detail of the losses is mentioned in Figure (2), which indicates that the loss of water through main canal and branches, at sanctioned water courses, at farmers water courses and at irrigation fields is 25, 20, 15 and 8 %, respectively. Seepage, leakage, lack of maintenance of canals, water channels and mismanagement are the main reasons for these losses.

In Pakistan tubewells provide 44 MAF, out of this 30 % of the water varies from marginally saline to high brackish. As a result of the use of this saline water 2-3 MH of land has already become saline (impregnated with or containing salt or salts) and sodic (soil containing more sodium salts).

4. Desertification

Desertification term was first introduced in 1949 by Aubreville which literally mean, ‘land degradation’, ‘decrease in biological production’, ‘deterioration of ecosystem’, ‘reduction in soil fertility’, and/or ‘the process of making or becoming a desert.” It can be defined as deterioration of natural resources, which brings about reduction in soil fertility and productivity. In the last 40 years desertification has been globally recognized problem in 150 countries. The phenomenon in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid regions is higher and droughts exacerbate it. According to the authors it is a Skin Cancer of the land and as reported by some sources it is costing the world as US $ 42 billion per year (Siddiqui, 1997).

Desertification or land degradation means land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid region caused by the destructive activities of man which not only adversely affect land but also soil, water resources, natural vegetation and crops. The desertification is a biologically degrading process, which removes the natural resources and productivity of our desert rangelands. It may be natural phenomena, but human intervention intensifies it. Process includes plant degradation, extinction, wind/water erosion and salinization of soils. Neither climate nor the other vagaries of the nature by themselves can fully explain the formation of desertified land, because desertification is a condition that people create by degrading the land. However, it should not be confused with the desertization that means creating desert like conditions.

4.1 Main causes

Removal of the forest cover makes the agents of erosion like wind and water become more active. When cover is removed and cleared and land is not used scientifically, the desert like conditions appear. Clearing is done (to increase the area for cropping and grazing) in response to human needs for food and fuel wood. Forest area has reduced to half as compared to that during the hunting and dawn of Agriculture. Economic growth had devastating effect on the forests. Quick clearing, quick degradation had resulted to become deserts  as much as 33-40 % in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid regions. Shifting cultivation and fast increase in human and livestock population has been responsible for reduction of area under forest. Overgrazing of livestock contributes to trampling of seed/vegetation converting grasslands into wastelands. Poverty also leads to overuse of land for agriculture, grazing and fuel.

4.2 Other factors

Climatic changes, droughts, faulty mining activities, unplanned irrigation, overgrazing and soil erosion, effect of toxic pollutants and acid rains, etc. accelerate the process of desertification. Reversing the process of desertification is possible, but opportunities are limited in arid environment. It indicates that all main type of land use has their share of degraded land. Desert rangelands in Cholistan are among the worst affected. Sahelian African drought (1968-73) was a great human tragedy that drew attention to this phenomenon. Africa and Middle East suffered greatest forest losses during 1850-1980 when almost 60 % of the forest was uprooted. In Mali and Burkino Faso, 1/10 of the population was uprooted, due to crop failure and disappearance of grazing lands. One million hectare (1 MH) in Africa and 1.4 MH of Asia is threatened with desertification (Siddiqui, 1997).

Lot of loss of flora and fauna and biodiversity has occurred. Conserving and sequestering Carbon thereby reducing the accumulation of green house gasses in the atmosphere and prevention of global warming has been reduced. Political instability and breakdown of soil structure also accelerate the process. According to some reports, between US $ 10-20 billion/yr would be needed for next 20 years to make land fertile and useable again for agriculture and grazing (UN, 1977).

5. Biodiversity at it’s extinction

Pakistan is well endowed with diversified ecosystems including immense biological resources. Though many of the country's ecosystems are degraded and its animal and plant resources are threatened with extinction. Ecosystem contains a vast range of interdependent plant, animal, and microorganism forms that support all life on earth. This genetic and species variety is known as biodiversity which is at stake. According to PNCS (1993) the biodiversity of ecosystems in both developing and industrial countries is under threat through a combination of habitat destruction and the selective removal and killing of individual species of plants and animals. Ecosystem is being hampered and getting fragile day by day by so many activities, which are contributing to the extinction of animal and plant species. Few factors like low rainfall, high evaporation, drought climate, soil erosion, degrading vegetation and increasing livestock pressure, etc. are hampering the desert ecosystem (Khan, 1992). Human activities have also increased manifold to play its part. A careful and holistic approach is needed to maintain the biodiversity of desert ecosystem in the country to exploit these resources for the welfare of its dwellers.

6. Desert lands or rangelands

A dry barren often sand-covered area of land, characteristically desolate, waterless, and without vegetation area is called as desert. The common features of the desert are: low precipitation, high temperature leading to high evaporation, strong seasonal winds, low humidity, edaphic aridity, poor rainwater efficiency, water percolation, low productivity as low as 400 kg of DM/ha/yr. The authors don’t consider the deserted lands as wastelands rather these rangelands provide a single best use for livestock feeding, if rehabilitated properly.

Range productivity in desert ecosystem is being affected by desertification or drying out. Most commonly, it results from overstocking, or over-use of a portion of available forage by homogenous herds of animals. The herds of cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat far exceed the carrying capacity of the rangelands in the country. Overgrazing thus selectively removes the most palatable perennial native grasses called "decreasers" which results in the formation of patches of bare soil. Overgrazing also results in the increase of less productive and less nutritious annual grasses termed "increasers" or in the invasion of the land by foreign species called "exotics" (ESCAP, 1992). The process also results in less litter and more compaction of the soil. When the infrequent but heavy rains characteristics of arid zones arrive, they are unable to percolate into the soil. The water merely runs over the land, delogging and carrying away large amounts of topsoils. 

Although soil erosion affects all kinds of land, its affect is particularly harmful in dry lands. According to the topographical soil classification, 51.5 % falls in arid, 36.8 % as semi-arid, 5.6 % as sub humid and 6.1 % comes in humid areas (Figure 3). Other than these, 11 MH of sandy deserts in the country are also under threat of desertification. The soil in desert areas is especially vulnerable to wind erosion because it has a low organic matter content, a high percentage of sand and no structure to protect it. Moreover, livestock in desert rangelands loosen the soil particles, which are blown away by the wind, creating a diffuse sandy accumulation or mobile sand dunes. Wind erosion and moving sands have remained a significant threat to settlements and agricultural lands. Water erosion often helps in dune formation by carrying sand and depositing it down stream in the watershed, to be carried away by the wind. The extent to which desertification has occurred or the way it’s progressing is beyond the scope of this paper.

7. Livestock production in deserts


Rangelands, more than half of the territory of the country (62 %), are so degraded by overgrazing that they are producing 1/3 of the climatic potential. Restoring rangelands calls for reviving local communities and achieving a balance between the livestock population on the ranges and their forage production capacities in wet and dry periods. Number of animals be increased to the maximum that can be reared with the fodder available. The additional numbers are in effect regarded as insurance replacements for those that do not survive. What is desired: best adopted animals, or merely pale shadows. Thus the livestock sector is caught in a self-perpetuating and reinforcing downward cycle: the numbers of livestock are high because many are sickly; they are sickly because they are poorly fed; they are poorly fed because they are too numerous. Now it is upto us to decide between the quality or quantity, however, fewer the better.

NCA (1988) suggested that if "all animals in milk receive a full diet which meets their daily appetites, without changing the feed mix i.e: maintaining the present low nutrition, mix this alone could increase milk yield by 100 %" this implies that if half the milking animals are given 30 % more feed, they could provide the same volume of dairy products.

Range animals need not be pampered with stall-fed specimens. Animals if provided with adequate rangelands i.e. high in digestible nutrients and proteins, can exhibit satisfactory fertility and body weights. Thus the message is that with half as many animals and 20 % less feed in total, Pakistan could have the same volume of milk and about the same amount of meat - and the meat would be of better quality.

7.1 Review of drought situation

According to some press releases (Nawa-i-Waqt, 2000) the Sulemain Range piedmonts saw a worst drought in the history affecting about 600 000 acres of land. The mountain range didn’t receive a single drop of water during the last three years resultantly claiming a death toll of 600 000 animals and lot of migration from the area of about 150 km around DG Khan mostly inhabited by Khosa, Buzdar Qiasrani and Lughari tribes.

According to the official reports of the Balochistan government (FAO, 2000) 30 million animals were affected due to sever shortage of water. Fodder provision to the animals became problem and rangelands were totally degraded. The economic conditions of the poor but land less livestock owners shattering to 80 % of the people. The hunger became prominent and unemployment rose to a very high level. The province received 1/3 of the average expected rain in 1998, 18 % of the usual in 1999 and no rain at all in 2000. Karez were dried up and water table dropped to a dangerously low level.

After conducting a thorough survey, an NGO Oxfam (Hussain, 2000) reported no rain in the last three years in the province. Scenes like Ethiopia were seen in the province of Balochistan, Sind and even in Cholistan during the summer drought. The heavy toll of death to livestock (80-90 %) was recorded, whatever were left they were merely pale shadows. No blade of grass and no leaves on the trees were left in the affected areas. According to another personal communication of authors with Oxfam, a survey in Tharparker District of Sind and Balochistan revealed an acute shortage of water resulting no milk availability for the infants in some of these drought stricken areas. They further suggested the Government to supply water on war footings through Army MES personals to provide relief to the people.

Press releases appearing in Nawa-i-Waqt (2001) highlighted the gravity of the situation prevailing due to drought in the country especially in the Cholistan, Thar, and Balochistan deserts. It was reported that water supply from Jinnah and Chashma Barrages were ceased to flow further because of the dangerous levels of low water table in dams and Chashma lakes. The lowest water table level in the history was observed at both places and hydro-power generation was badly affected. Despite the newly inaugurated Chashma Hydro Power Project by the then President Muhammad Rafique Tarar on Feb 27, 2001, the Government was about to announce the load shedding in the country during summer months. The BBC (2001) further added that in this area the record of  90 years was broken and about 216 creeks, feeding to Sind Sagar spreading from Attock upto Dadu, were dried up.

The Federal Livestock Department also announced (Nawa-i-Waqt, 2001) a reduction of 23 % in livestock and their products due to sever shortage of water supply for fodder production and deterioration of rangelands due to prevalence of a 5 years dry spell in the country from 1996 to 2001. The 7 % of the total labor force was also affected. Livestock prices fell down to a dangerously low level and it became hard to feed the animals by the owners.

8. Combating the situation

Water is a finite resource; therefore, there is a dire need for its conservation, careful and efficient use. Pakistan is not so far a water conscious country. We don’t have enough reservoir capacity in irrigation system to store seasonal water. There are 14 hill torrent areas in the country with a potential of 18.6 MAF at 1204 conservation sites (Ramzan, 2002). This water will be sufficient to irrigate (if harvested) 6.5 MH cultivable wasteland in Balochistan with 7.86 MAF of water, NWFP with 4.5 MAF, FATA with 2.8 MAF, Punjab with 2.7 and Sind 0.78 MAF. This torrential water should not be allowed to go waste. Lessons can be learnt from the neighboring country, China that is building three (3) goregeous dams to harvest rainwaters. Gen Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan visited these dams during his visit to China in 2002 and said that the construction of these dams would be the 8th wonder of the world.

Schemes should be prepared and implemented on war footing to utilize this natural gift to the optimum benefits of the farmers, people and livestock. An average of 39 MAF water annually (ranging from 8-92 MAF for 70-100 days) escaping below Kotri falls into the sea unutilized during the summer. This large quantity of water can wisely be stored to serve as an additional reservoir.

Oceans all over the world contain 97 % of the total water. Although technologies to desalinate ocean water is a capital-intensive process. Some experiments in Caspian Sea have been done to use for irrigation by using magnetic technology. Sea water has also been used in some sandy areas.

Reducing line losses of irrigation water totals to approximately 60-68 %, effective use of water (On Farm Water Management), radical changes in irrigation system (instead of wara bandi –demand oriented), lining canals, water courses, nullahs, water drains, and leveling of fields, are some of the options to reduce water losses and combat the process of desertification.

Farm productivity need to be increased through technological changes, crop logging, improved tillage operations, furrow and ridge cultivations, and development of high yielding crops, crop protection and growing of drought resistant and saline resistant crops.

Conservation of flora and fauna in the country will go a long way in maintaining the equilibrium in our desert and rangelands. Increasing carrying capacity will ensure healthy stocking rates.

Forests help a lot in balancing the environment, equilibrium in eco-system, lowering temperature, weather conditioning, attracting more rainfalls, protecting land erosion, desertification and other ills effects of pollution (other than economic benefits). Desired level of afforestation suggested by UN is 20-25 % while it is less than 5 % at present. Illegal cutting of trees need to be banned, tree plantation of farms, factories, rivers/canal banks, etc. needs to be encouraged.

The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Pakistan has prepared a vision 2025 to augment the water supply for irrigation, electric generation (Economic Survey, 2002). Thirty five (35) projects for storage of water and irrigation schemes were planned including Bhasha Dams with a capacity of 7.3 MAF with a live capacity of 5.7 MAF, KalaBagh Rockfill Dam with a capacity of 6.1 MAF, Thal reservoir of 2.3 MAF with a live storage of 2.1 MAF and raising level of Mangla Dam (40 ft) to 8.9 MAF. The construction of Mirani Dam with a storage capacity of 0.30 MAF, Goma Zam Dam at Khajuri Kach in Waziristan on Gomal River (132 000 acres of land) has also been suggested.

Some other measures to combat the desertification are presented below. Siddiqui (1977) has outlined the following means to minimize this menace.

  • Controlling at marginal interface of steppe grazing land and sedentary agriculture.
  • Maintaining an ecological balance between stocking rates and carrying capacity.
  • Effective control of man population growth and density in affected areas.
  • Developing and popularizing new/innovative energy sources (solar energy, bio-fuels, electricity, coal, fuel wood plantation, etc.).
  • Re-converting marginal lands into farming areas.
  • Integration land use of grazing land, woodland, cropland, river basins and watershed.
  • Specialized UN bodies (like FAO, UNEP, UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, etc) and other regional organizations are there to extend assistance in tackling this problem.
  • International banks do provide loans/substantial assistance.

The development program/plans should consist of the following actions.
  • Controlling wind erosion through growing shelterbelts/wind breaks.
  • Sand dune stabilization.
  • Collecting, harvesting, conservation and spreading of run-off water.
  • Mobilization of ground water resources.
  • Conserving soil moisture for plant growth and soil treatment.
  • Restoring soil fertility through tree planting.
  • Improving cropping technique (ridging, soil working, weeding, fertilization, etc.).
  • Establishing live fencing around cultivated fields.
  • Introducing hedgerow and anti-erosion strip cropping.
  • Improving rangelands by controlled grazing, fodder tree planting, re-seeding, etc. and establishing watering points for human as well as for livestock.

Few more recommendations to combat the situation as listed by NAP (1994).

  • Providing a guideline/frame work for sustainable development of the natural resources and preservation of biological diversity in different agro-ecological zones.
  • Poverty alleviation and improving living standard of the people of aridlands.
  • Providing an effective institutional mechanism at various levels for formulating policy and plans and conducting R&D in aridlands.
  • Human resource development through capacity building and creating awareness among the masses.
  • Gender-balanced decision making and effective participation of the economic value of the women’s work.
  • Proposed priority programs of action for aridland development and combating desertification and even cost estimates through 1995-2005.

9. Epilogue

Last but not the least, the nation needs to be made aware of consequences and processes of the desertification and to combat the situation in the days to come. The scientific community along with the public need to pay heed to the environmental ethics, reduce the gases emissions and environmental pollution and behave with a greater sense of responsibility. Instead of fighting with the nature, we have to convince the nature to be on our side so that the harvesting of benefits of the nature become possible. Harvesting and conservation of rain and river water, increasing forest area in the country to help and expedite water cycle. Industrialized countries should come forward to fulfill their moral obligations and not to victimize the developing countries, rather to rescue them. At last, by inspiration to get determined, united, sincere and steadfast, we can create wonders provided we are not divided on our national priorities and other projects of great national importance.


Anonymous, 2004. Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan 2002-2003. GOP, MINFAL, Economic Wing, Islamabad.
BBC, 2001. Press releases on Cholistan droughts during March-April. The daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, Pakistan.
ESCAP, 1992. State of the Environment in Asia and the Pacific 1990. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Bangkok, Thailand.
Economic Survey, 2001-2002. Government of Pakistan, Finance Div. Economic Advisor's Wing, Islamabad.
FAO, 2000. Press releases on Cholistan droughts during March-April issues through the daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, Pakistan.
Hussain, K., 2000. Oxfam. House # 109, St # 60, I-8/3, Islamabad, Pakistan. E-mail:
Khan, S.R.A., 1992. Agricultural Development - Potential of Cholistan Desert. 213-N, L.C.C.H.S., Lahore Cantt, Pakistan.
NAP, 1994. Executive Summary. Aridland Development and Combating Desertification in Pakistan. MINFAL, GOP, Islamabad.
Nawa-i-Waqt, 2000. Press releases on Cholistan droughts during March-April issues. The daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, Pakistan.
Nawa-i-Waqt, 2001. Press releases on Cholistan droughts during March-June issues. The daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, Pakistan.
NCA, 1988. Report of the National Commission on Agriculture. MINFAL, GOP, Islamabad.
PNCS, 1993. The Pakistan National Conservation Strategy: Where we are, where we should be and how to get there. Environment and Urban Affairs Div. GOP, Islamabad.
Ramzan, M., 2002. Combating drought and desertification. Daily The News. June 16, Lahore.
Siddiqui, K.M., 1997. Forestry and Environment. Pakistan Forest Institute, Peshawar, Pakistan.
UN, 1977. Desertification Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
WHO, 2002. Water –too much or too little in Water by DFID’s Knowledge and Research (KAR), Wallingford, Oxon, OX10, 8BB, UK. May Issue 14, 3.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Camel Strategy to Achieve Food Security Challenge in Climate Change Context

Survival of dromedary camel in harsh and hostile environment (hot weather conditions) is the salient feature of this unique animal. It has adapted mechanisms that allow it to withstand prolonged water deprivation, high temperature, especially in the absence of readily available water, and survive when feed resources are scarce or of poor quality. Heat tolerance is in part due to its’ ability to minimize water loss. The camel retort to hot arid conditions by reducing urine production, absorbed urine, sweating economically, by an increase body temperature and by the ‘storage’ of CO2 and glucose in the muscles. Camels can survive up to 14 days without water and can tolerate water losses of up to 30%. A camel may drink more than a third of its body weight as it rehydrates.
In terms of actual water intake, camel drinks 200 to 220 L in 3-10 minutes. In other animals rehydration at these levels would lead to over hydration and possible death. The camel is able to do this as large amounts of water can be stored for up to 24 hours in the gut to avoid a rapid dilution of the blood. The camel’s kidneys play a major role in the process of conserving water, having strong capacity of water reabsorption and excretion of very concentrated urine
The camel’s blood plays a principal role in adaptive mechanisms to high heat burden and dehydration as its composition and volume remains relatively constant and hemoglobin function remains normal. The erythrocytes of the camel are oval shaped and non-nucleated which resist osmotic variation without rupturing; these cells can swell to twice their initial volume following rehydration. Another unique feature of the erythrocytes is their long life span when the camel is dehydrated. The life span of the erythrocytes of hydrated camels is 90 to 120 days. When camels were chronically dehydrated during summer (40oC mean during day; 20oC mean at night) the life span of erythrocytes was extended to 150 days. Erythrocyte turnover is water and energy expensive. Therefore extending the life span of erythrocytes reduces energy and water expenditure
A fully hydrated camel has a diurnal body temperature range of 36 to 38oC. However when dehydrated and exposed to high environmental heat load body temperature may fluctuate by 6 to 7oC, from approximately 34 to 41o C. The increase in body temperature of camels exposed to high heat load, especially following a 2o C reduction below the normal minimum, is advantageous because it allows a considerable amount of heat to be stored during the day and dissipated at night (by radiation) without the expenditure of water. Furthermore, as body temperature increases the temperature gradient between the camel and the external environment is reduced, and again water use is reduced. The camel has a bi-phasic air flow pattern, i.e. the inspiratory and expiratory flow rates through the nasal turbinate are similar. The bi-phasic breathing pattern also reduces water use.

The camel is a unique desert creature and it employees a number of adaptive strategies that allow it to survive harsh and hostile conditions of its habitat. Camel, because of its special physiology and adaptive mechanism, not only survive in hostile conditions but also produce precious milk for its herder. Camel is a tool of food security and livelihood for camel herders in difficult environments. Camel can be used as a tool of food security in the climate change context and water scarcity. It is the utmost need of time to conserve camel genetic resources through utilization of its precious and unique products, especially its milk