Chickpea Farmers In Lakki Marwat Lose Hope, As Reality Of Climate Change Hits Them  

Chickpea Farmers In Lakki Marwat Lose Hope, As Reality Of Climate Change Hits Them  
Killa da Khudy pa Hilla” (plough on the God’s blessing), is an old saying used by chickpea farmers in Khyber Pakhunkhwa’s southern district of Lakki Marwat. But with climate change threatening their livelihood, the adage has taken on a whole new meaning.

Once a profitable crop, chickpea, gram or Tora Chana as the locals call it, is becoming a victim of rising temperatures and variations in annual rainfall. Farmers are abandoning the crop as its production has significantly reduced.

“The rain is a blessing for us. Our crops depend on it. For the last seven years, my family is facing difficulties due to unpredictable rains,” says Asmat Ullah, 68-year-old farmer based in Aba Khel village of Lakki Marwat in KP. His family has been associated with farming for the last 50 years.

Chickpea, farming, Lakki Marwat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Agriculture, climate change
Asmatullah, 68, tends to his chickpea crop in Lakki Marwat.

Nawar Khel, Mandra Khel, Shahab Khel and Pezu in Lakki Marwat are considered suitable areas for the cultivation and production of this crop. Farmers sell chickpeas as well as its fresh green leaves. They use straw as fodder for their cattle. It is cultivated before wheat in October and is usually ready for harvesting by March. But, in the last seven years, “the height of the chickpea plant has reduced. It used to be about two feet high,” says Asmat.

According to International Food Policy Research Institute – Rabi Crops 2021-22 report, the main gram cultivating districts in KP are Karak, D.I Khan, Tank, Bannu and Lakki Marwat. These five districts constitute approximately 97 percent of the area under gram in KP. Lakki Marwat holds the highest share (37 percent) followed by D.I. Khan (24 percent), Karak (18 percent) and Bannu and Tank (10 percent each).

The report states that a similar trend has been observed in gram production. “Lakki Marwat holds the highest share, with production share of 38.5 percent in total provincial output in 2019-20.

However, Lakki Marwat and other districts in KP have demonstrated a cyclical trend – with dips and spikes. It was estimated that the yield of gram would decline by 19 percent, i.e. 0.20 tonnes per acre in 2021-22 from 0.252 tonnes per acre in 2019-20.

About 74 percent of Lakki Marwat is rainfed and 26 percent is irrigated, informs Zahoor Iqbal, Deputy Director, District Agriculture Extension Department. “Before chickpea crop was grown over 40,000 hectares but now it has been reduced to only 8000 hectares – mainly because of harsh weather patterns, like erratic rainfalls and droughts,” he adds.

As per the agriculture department data, Lakki Marwat’s annual gram production has declined by -3.75 percent.

Chickpea is known as one of the oldest pulses and cultivated from ancient times in Europe and Asia. In India and Pakistan, there are two major types of chickpeas – white Kabuli and desi, distinguished by size, shape and colour of the seed.

Dr Muhammad Mansoor, National Coordinator Pulses & Plants Science Division Pakistan Agriculture Research Council in Islamabad, says that desi chickpea crop is cultivated mostly on rain-fed areas in KP, South Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. Pakistan produces an average of 200kg chickpeas per hectare, while Lakki Marwat holds the highest production record of 432kg per hectare.

The federal government initiated the Rs1.5 billion project in 2019, ‘Promoting Research for Productivity Enhancement in Pulses’, to boost the cultivation and production of chickpeas. Under the project, 50,000kg climate resilient chickpea seeds were distributed in Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and South Punjab. Solar tube wells were also set up to provide relief to flood affected farmers in KP. Yet, the overall production of chickpea crop went down. “Even the more resilient seed could not withstand the climate changing patterns,” he says.

To prevent further decline, “The role of the middlemen in the chickpea market must be redefined; subsidies must be offered to farmers, and environmental sustainability and transition of polices must be more pragmatic and inclusive,” he adds.

With the changing climate, like many farmers across the country, the chickpea farmers in Lakki Marwat fear being pushed into poverty. How will they survive in rain-fed areas? The answer is unclear.


The writer is a member of Oxford Climate Journalism Network.

Asif Mohmand is a multimedia journalist based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He can be reached @AsifkhanJmc