ISLAMABAD-The changing climate is having a profound impact on small-scale farmers in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). AJK is one of the most fragile and sensitive territories because its geographical location, water resources, glaciers, forests, fisheries and associated biodiversity are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The majority of the rural population there depends on forestry, livestock and agriculture for their subsistence. Ikramullah, a farmer from AJK, said that there used to be four seasons that were predictable and timely, arriving at similar times every year. “Now there are only two seasons: summer and winter. We don’t have spring anymore, so our vegetables are scorched early on because of the unexpected heat.” “Green chillies, tomatoes, and ginger used to be grown in our yard, but the change in rainfall caused the roots to become infested with worms. The rain affects the germination process of our plants and the production of fruits and veggies. In the past, we had an abundance of production, but now we have only a few kilos. We had flourishing peach and guava plants in our garden before, but now they don’t bear fruit,” he told WealthPK.
“I used to raise buffalos and sell the milk they produced, but not now due to the rising temperatures. The heat and adverse weather had already considerably reduced my buffalo’s milk production before it died. I used to receive six kilos of milk every day back when the weather was more regular and the seasons were in their proper places. With the changing weather, I was only getting two kilos,” he said.
Talking to WealthPK, Sardar Javed Ayub, Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Irrigation & Small Dams, AJK, said, “Heavy rainfall and intense heat are negatively affecting AJK’s agriculture, increasing the reliance of farmers on high-priced agricultural products for their survival. The heat, drought, and off-season heavy rain ruin our crops. Therefore, people have no choice left but to go to the market and buy food.” He said, “Buffalo milk is a staple food for subsistence of farmers in AJK, providing a source of income and nutrition for struggling families. But some are seeing milk yields fall as extreme heat takes its toll on their animals.”
“To address this multifaceted issue, a comprehensive approach is imperative. Implementation of weather-resistant crop varieties, coupled with the adoption of water-efficient irrigation methods, can enhance resilience,” he said. Javed Ayub said, “Our goal is to provide the necessary support framework by engaging NGOs and research institutes to help AJK’s small-scale farmers navigate climate uncertainty.”