Bajaur - Together with abundance of minerals, gemstones reservoirs and scenic natural beauty, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s seven merged tribal districts especially Bajaur and Waziristan are most suited for olive farming due to their compatible soil, climate condition and ecological diversity.
Once became aware of the potential of their fertile land, the hardworking tribal people’s response to this profitable olive farming business have turned Bajaur green.
Thousands of olive trees planted in plains and mountains of seven tehsils of Bajaur district on Mohmand-Bajaur road as well as lush green olive valleys of Talash at Dir Lower catch attention of visitors once they pass through these areas.
From Barang to Khar and Nawagai to Chamarkand tehsils of Bajaur, the locals with active support of KP agriculture and forest departments have planted olive trees in abundance whose yields are contributing greatly to their wellbeing.
Sharifullah Bacha (64), a progressive farmer from Salarzai tehsil, has hired extra labourers to plant the available olive stock on his eight-acre land during monsoon season. “I have planted 5,000 olive plants in spring season this year and would plant another 5000 saplings during current monsoon through Ashar plantation,” he said.
Hoping for monsoon rains in the mountainous region for his new plants, Bacha said, “provision of ample water for these plants is must, without which farmers can suffer great financial losses.”
Ziaul Islam Dawar, Director Agriculture Extension Bajaur, said under KP government’s olive promotion project, grafting in over 250,000 wild olive trees was achieved while olive orchards on 150 acres were successfully raised in Bajaur.
Ahmad Said, former Project In-charge, Promotion of Olive Trees Cultivation on Commercial Scale (POTCCS) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told APP that the entire Malakand division including Bajaur and Dir districts, merged areas’ South Waziristan, Orakzai and Khyber tribal districts were most suited for olive cultivation.
He said around 4.4 million hectares land in KP, Punjab, Balochistan and erstwhile FATA were suited for olive cultivation.
Talking to APP, Ahmad said Spain was producing about 45 percent of the total world’s edible oil from olive cultivation on 2.6 million hectares, while Pakistan despite having a vast suitable area of 4.4 million hectares for olive farming was importing around 75 percent edible oil to cater its domestic needs.
When asked about measures needed to enhance olive production, Ahmad said the first olive promotional project funded by the Italian government was launched on June 1, 2012 under which olive cultivation on over 1,500 hectares were achieved.
Later, this project worth Rs3.82 billion was handed over to Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) after devolution of Pakistan Oil Development Board (PODB) on February 12, 2012, which was later completed on June 30, 2015, he added.
The federal government in order to capitalize on the good work of the Italian- funded project launched Promotion of Olive Trees Cultivation on Commercial Scale (POTCCS) project worth Rs2.3 billion in 2015.
Around 70 million wild olives trees were identified in KP including 11 million in Bajaur district, he said.
Dr Muhammd Naeem, Professor of Economics Department, Swabi University said Pakistan was spending billions of rupees on imports of edible oil including soybean, palm oil, sunflowers and other related commodities since 1970 despite 4.4 million hectares land suitable for olive plantation.
He said around 3,000 tons of olive oil worth Rs1.241 billion had been imported during 2017-18.
Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Deputy Project Director, the 10 billion trees project said out of 70 million wild olive tree plants discovered in KP, 40 million would be grafted in the next five years with the support of the Agriculture department.
He said 25,000 olive trees were planted in Azakhel Nowshera in the last two years.