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Rising temperatures causing natural disasters in GB: report.

ISLAMABAD -- The steadily rising temperatures in the valleys of the northern Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region have increased the frequency and intensity of natural disasters because of which the sustainability of the agriculture sector - a major source of livelihood for thousands of people - is under threat, says a new report of the Food and Agriculture OrganisaAtion (FAO) of the United Nations.

Farmers report that wheat productivity has declined by almost 50 per cent in the past five years with no sign of improvement, according to the report.

The fragile mountain ecosystem is suffering from degradation of vegetation cover, soil deterioration and reducAAed livestock productivity which have further impoverished the pastoral communities. Most of the rangelands are degraded due to increasing pressure from human and livestock populations coupled with frequent droughts, the report says.

With few exceptions, mounAtain farmers face numerous challenges for improving the productivity of field and horticultural crops. These include poor orchard management practices, poor quality of planting material and other inputs, poor access to markets and market information and minimal access to post-harvest processing, value addition and extension services.

These farmers also face feed and fodder shortages as the rangeland vegetation and grasslands have a poor carrying capacity. Farmers report substantial reductions in vegetation cover due to invasive plant species. Moreover, land erosion due to heavy rains and flash floods is quite common at high altitudes.

Despite the significant transition in the past two decades of local food production and distribution systems, subsistence agriculture in mountainous regions remains the economic mainstay. The current dynamics are characterised by livelihood diversification with increased off-farm income opportunities, and an expansion of external development interventions.

In Pakistan, almost 61pc of the total geographical area is mountainous or consists of rangelands, and these areas have a population of more than 50 million people.

The report says that mountain agriculture has some inherent constraints, including remoteness and inaccessibility, marginality and fragility in terms of moisture stress and poor soil conditions, and different crop production seasons than the plains.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Sep 1, 2019
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