Tharparkar is a fertile desert if its land gets adequate water. Multiple crops can be cultivated here in a year. This can help eliminate poverty and malnutrition of the people.
Dua Foundation is the first NGO to introduce the Dua Agro farms project in order to make use of the subsoil water for cultivation in the tehsils of Kaloi, Diplo, Nagarparkar and Dahli.
In September 2015, Dua Foundation installed a tube-well on ten acres of arid land of a local peasant in Tehsil Kaloi through which he successfully cultivated mustard crop.
So far, 62 agro farms in different villages of Thar have been set up through which more than 350 acres of barren land has been made arable and cultivable. The local peasants are growing wheat, cotton, mustard, onions and some other crops in these farms. Different types of fodder such as Lucerne, Rhodes Grass and Jantar (Sesbania) have also been grown.
In Kaloi, Diplo, Chachro and Dahli lands of 8 to 10 acres are used to be marked for cultivation. Three water bores are drilled at the cultivation land, and solar-powered sub-submersible pumps are installed at each bore to pull water. Large tanks are used to construct to store the water.
Huge water-consuming crops like bananas, rice, and sugarcane are avoided, and sprinklers and drip irrigation systems are installed to minimize water use.
We construct large wells with a diameter of 18 to 20 feet and a depth of up to 200 feet in Tehsil Nagarparkar. We install submersible pumps either powered by diesel engines or solar panels on these wells to pull out water. Cotton, wheat, chili, and onion are cultivated very successfully in Nagarparkar and per acre, yield is also good.
Dates and other fruit Cultivation were not in practice in Tharparkar, although it is a thousands of years old desert with the ancient temples of the Jain religion. Surprisingly, no landowner, governmental agricultural research institute or NGO has experimented with palm cultivation in the desert, while date palm is recognized as a tree of desert regions around the world.
Dua Foundation set up its first agro-farm in Kaloi, Tharparkar in September 2015, at that time a process of consultation with various local and foreign agricultural experts began.
Dr. Faiyaz Alam, General Secretary Dua Foundation, has taken a special interest and after much deliberation decided to start experimental cultivation of date palm, pomegranate, berries, and olive trees on an Agro farm in village Sakhi Siyar of Tehsil Delhi Tharparkar.
The land of 22 acres was owned by a school teacher, Shahab Uddin Samejo. A 45-foot-deep bore with a diameter of 12 inches was drilled on the land. A solar system was installed to pull water from the water bore and a huge tank was built to store water.
In October 2018, 150 palm saplings of the original breed were brought from Khairpur. Pomegranate and berries saplings from Mirpurkhas, and 100 olive saplings from a nursery in Islamabad.
Most people believed that no tree would bear fruit except the berry, especially the date palm, because not a single date palm tree had ever been planted in the 20,000 square kilometers of desert. The berry, however, is the desert’s crop, and all over the Tharparkar region there are millions of wild berry bushes – their branches are so thorny that people use them to make fences.
Two years of suckers (offshoots) from parent plants were planted on the land, which produced fruits in the next two years, so that was a successful experiment of date palm cultivation in the desert of Tharparkar, and considered an agricultural revolution.
Berries are also fruiting well every year, Pomegranate bears tiny fruits that have great flavor but have limited utility due to their size.
The olive trees are growing but not yet flowered. Experts say that olive trees bear fruit in areas where the temperature stays between 0 and 7 degrees Celsius for 300 hours in winter. Tharparkar has an estimated 200 to 250 chilling hours in winter, olive trees may not bear fruit. Now we have planted olive varieties, which are bearing fruits in the desert of Rajasthan, India.
Crops like wheat, mustard, cotton, asparagus, and cumin are also being cultivated successfully at Sakhi Siyar’s Agrofarm, while per acre yield of traditional crops like guar, mung and bajra is also very good. Rhodes grass and elephant grass are also successfully cultivated on this land.
Dua Foundation has successfully experimented with date palm and berry cultivation in Kaloi and Diplo. Mazafati date palms have been planted in Kaloi while Australian Kikar has also been successfully cultivated.