FAO in Pakistan

Standing Tall Against the Floods

Support for the recovery of agriculture based livelihoods of vulnerable farmers affected by 2012 floods of Sindh and Balochistan Provinces in Pakistan

"Upon seeing the way this new rice variety has grown, all my neighbors now want to grow it," says Altaf Ahmed about the flood tolerant rice seed DR92 that FAO provided to him. Altaf lives in Shah Dost Surhyani Village in Kashmore District of Sindh and is one of the 93 farmers that FAO engaged in early 2014 to promote the use of flood tolerant varieties of rice seed in Sindh.

Most of the farmers in the district grow hybrid varieties of seed which have high yields but low tolerance to floods.  Each time floods hit the district, rice stalks get damaged by the standing water and fall on the ground, making it extremely difficult to harvest. Once submerged in the water, rice seeds start rotting or fall off the stalks, leaving the yields very low and of poor quality. 

Additionally, hybrid seed is very costly - an amount required to plant one acre of land costs from 7,500 to 9,000 Rupees (US$75-90).  The seed also requires more fertilizer, more water and more intensive care, all of it adding up to the expense farmers have to incur. “Finally, we need to buy hybrid seeds every year anew if we are to have a good yield,” says Altaf.

To reduce or altogether prevent the loss of the harvest to the floods that hit the area almost every year, FAO works with local rice research institutes and progressive farmers on an effort to multiply flood resistant varieties of seed for small local farmers. 
Altaf is one of the farmers that FAO has engaged in the effort. FAO provided seed and fertilizer for Altaf to grow DR 92 variety of rice on a five-acre plot of land. DR92 is a high yielding variety of rice created by the Dhokri Rice Research Institute in Sindh Province to tolerate prolonged exposure to water.  Much like hybrid varieties of rice, DR92 produces approximately 82-88 mounds of rice per acre, but requires much less inputs - fertilizer, water and care - than hybrid varieties. Equally importantly, it costs approximately eight times less than hybrid varieties, and its grains can be used for seed for 10-12 years before yields start declining.

"I have already harvested 78-80 mounds of DR92 per acre and will be selling it for seed to my neighbours," says Altaf who estimates that he also saved approximately 20,000 per acre on inputs by using the local variety of rice.