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Balochistan, World’s Poorest Province
The statistics on poverty in Balochistan are appalling. Balochistan, the biggest province in terms of land and the richest province in terms of minerals, is reeling under the claws of extreme poverty and food insecurity. According to the United Nations, Balochistan is the poorest province in the world. Despite enormous resources, it is sadly known as the land of exploitation and neglect.
Six years after its launch, has CPEC achieved its goal of economic and social uplift of the people of Pakistan and Balochistan? Will Baloch ever be able to enjoy the economic dividends of Gawadar, Reko Diq, Saindak, and Duddar?
Balochistan: The Fruit Basket of Pakistan
The total cultivated land in Baluchistan is 3.8% of the total cultivated land in Pakistan, yet Balochistan shares over 90% of the national production of grapes, cherries, and almonds. Almost 60% of peaches, pomegranates, and apricots, around 34% of apples, and 70% of dates also come from this neglected province. With a total area of 149,726 hectares, fruit plantations in Balochistan yield roughly 889,490 metric tons of fruit annually. Quetta, Pishin, Kalat, Zhob, Loralia, and some other places are best suited for fruit production.
52% of People in Balochistan are Below Poverty Line
Balochistan needs our attention. The province is reeling under acute hunger. A report by the Development Policy Institute declares Balochistan the poorest of all provinces, with 52 percent of its population living below the poverty line.
Approximately 71% of Balochistan’s population lives in multidimensional poverty, according to the Pakistan Multidimensional Poverty Index Report 2016. Over 1.8 million children are out of school in Balochistan; more than 60% leave their education before class five, and 45% quit before matriculation.
Moreover, nearly 80% of fruits go wasted each year. About 50% of all fruit production relies on rain. No rain, no fruits. So if Pakistan can employ the latest technology, especially in terms of irrigation and preserving foods, Pakistan’s fruit exports could increase manifold. Installing a micro-irrigation system is the most pressing need.
The agricultural sector’s growth can play a key role in curtailing poverty. Agriculture is the mainstay of the rural economy and over 75% of the population depends on this sector for earning their living.
Reclamation of about 4.0 million hectares of cultivable wasteland in Balochistan will be essential to bring about an agricultural revolution. Out of the total geographical area of 34.719 million hectares, the province has a cultivated area of 1.989 million hectares.
In a report presented to the Pakistan National Assembly, only 36% of Balochistan has access to electricity, and the remaining 64% still lack it. Electricity cannot be brought to rural areas because of the dispersed population there. Balochistan had a total demand of 1650 MW in 2018 but only 600 MW of supply, and in 2019, the demand increased to 2500 MW.
Since most of the province is not electrified, the full potential of education and business remains unexploited. Nothing else but the agricultural revolution—fruit production in particular—can end poverty here and improve literacy rates.
The plantation of olives using a drip irrigation system is another revolutionary idea that can bring a tremendous revolution to Balochistan. The UNDP-led Sustainable Land Management Program has planted over 50,000 olive trees in Qila Saif ul Allah, Balochistan, which is a revolutionary thing. Qila Abdullah and Chaman are two other cities that suit the cultivation of olives.
Not only will it turn barren land into greenery, but the local farmers will be able to earn millions of dollars. According to an estimate by the International Olive Oil Council, over 10 million acres of uncultivated land can be used for olive oil production, which mainly lies in Balochistan.Share