To cope with the climate change-induced challenges, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Agriculture Department has started planting olive saplings in Bajaur and other tribal districts and since 2018, more than 400,000 olive plants have been planted in Salarzai, Barang, Charming, Utmankhel and Khar tehsils.

The officials said that during the current season so far 9300 olive saplings have been distributed among the farmers free of cost. The government aims to plant 15,000 acres of olive trees in tribal districts of which 70 acres olive oil will be planted in Bajaur, this year. Project Director Ahmed Saeed said that besides Bajaur, the olive plantation is being carried out in most districts of the province including Bajaur, Dir, Nowshera, Swat Mardan, Abbottabad, Mardan. Saeed, who is the Project In-charge and Olive crop expert, said that the farmers are being informed from time to time about the type of weather and soil the olive plants require. “The olive oil produced in other parts of the world has 10% oil potential but in Bajaur olive fruit has 20% potential,” Saeed said.

Locals in Bajaur district pack olives for onward delivery to the processing plant on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department)

He said that 4 types of oil are obtained from olives which are priced from Rs1800 to Rs3000 per litre in the market. “Not only is the oil extracted from olives but its leaves are also an elixir for many ailments. So, the olive orchards can change the destiny of the people of Bajaur in a few years,” the director claimed. He added last year the production of olive in Bajaur alone has reached ten tons from which 1600 litres of oil has been extracted. “Providing high-quality olive saplings will double production in the coming years which will play an active role in improving our economy.”

According to Agriculture Department sources, in order to increase olive cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the department has started a drip irrigation project across the province which will make millions of more acres of land cultivable in the province. The officials said that the people of Bajaur took great interest in olive cultivation and now the department has provided oil extraction machines to the olive producing districts of Bajaur, Dir, Mardan, Nowshera, and Abbottabad, which will facilitate landlords to produce oil from olive fruit in their areas.

Olive fruits picked and ready for processing at Bajaur’s oil processing plant on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

District Agriculture Officer (Extension) Zia Ul Islam Dawar said that the Agriculture Department distributes high-quality olive plants free of cost to the landlords of Bajaur every year but this year there was some delay due to coronavirus otherwise the plants were to be distributed in March. He said that the plants are brought from abroad, especially Turkey and Spain but since all types of arrivals and departures were cut off, therefore, the oil plants could not be brought on time.  

Zia-ul-Islam said that the economy of the people of Bajaur is dependent on olives now. The Bajaur Department of Agriculture has modern machinery to extract olive oil. “The oil extraction machine is a wonderful gift from the provincial government to the people of Bajaur. The landowners from other areas including Dir, Swat and Mohmand districts also bring olive fruit here to extract oil,” Islam said.

Experts believe that like other parts of the world climate change has a lot of negative impacts on Pakistan in the form of untimely rains, floods and droughts. That is why the experts believe that the people of tribal districts the environment of Bajaur and other tribal districts of the province are more suitable for this revenue-generating plan.

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