KARACHI: Scientists from Somalia have requested their counter parts from Pakistan’s Karachi University to assist them in the rehabilitation of the barren and saline regions of Somalia by using latest technology so that the fodder for the livestock and agricultural crops could be grown.
Prof. Dr. Bilquees Gull, a senior researcher associated with KU’s Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization (ISHU) told media on her return from conference on the “Sustainable Development Goals on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Water,” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the aegis of UNESCO.
Mentioning that the world was currently experiencing a fast change in climate than it ever had in the past, she said that consequent higher average global temperatures were causing fresh water crisis that is directly related to challenges for cash crop, fisheries and livestock.
The researcher said the problems of cash crop production due to drought and salinity can be overcome by using latest technology and expertise available at the University of Karachi to convert challenges into opportunities.
Dr. Gull said the UNESCO office in Addis Ababa has also invited ISHU to participate in the programs related to “Floating Mangrove” in the dry regions of Somalia for developing fodder crops on saline lands.
“If such things are successful in Pakistan then it may be useful in the other African countries to ensure sustainable cattle farming which would play a vital role in increasing the production of milk and meat in the region while it would help to reduce the poverty and famine in these regions,” she elaborated.
The researcher said the conference held in Addis Ababa was focused on the sustainable development of dryland agriculture in the arid and saline regions of Somalia and the development of conventional and non-conventional fodder crops.
She reiterated that there are vast surfaces of untapped resources of barren and abandoned marginal lands that are commonly believed useless while on the contrary have been demonstrated to be of high value.
With specific reference to Pakistan, an agro-based economy on which relies its more than 60% of rural population, she said Karachi University’s ISHU is making optimum utilization of modern technology to understand the physiology of salt tolerance in plants, so that the complexities of Halophytes can be unfolded.
This is all the more crucial, she said as water of good quality for agricultural uses is becoming ever more limited in regions where irrigation is necessary due to increasing requirements for domestic and industrial uses.
In the given situation sea water or saline water may be used to irrigate a variety of plants, including Halophytes.
Similarly, she said under extreme conditions of soil or water salinity where no crop of agricultural interest can be grown it is possible to imagine dedicated halophyte plantations for forage production, soil rehabilitation, bio-energy generation, landscaping, carbon sequestering, and a number of other useful purposes at no cost in terms of good quality water and soil.
“Therefore, it is imperative to study these halophytes and to identify genes and regulatory systems which can improve plant growth in solemnized land,” said Dr. Gull.