I am Dr. Usman – a veterinary graduate, an animal nutritionist, and a strong advocate of regenerative farming in Pakistan. I am certified by the Savory Institute (USA) as a Professional Educator in Holistic Land and Livestock Management. I am a master trainer of Regenerative Agriculture (Paradoxical Agriculture) and Urban Forestry techniques. In January 2020, I have acquired control of 700 acres of forest land in central Punjab for the production of organic, 100% grass-fed meats and milk using “regenerative technologies” to sequester carbon, neutralize land degradation and enhance food and water security. As a team member of CPCCF, we are converting atmosphere carbon into soil carbon through different techniques, such as Holistic Planned Grazing, Urban Forestry, Regenerative Agriculture, preparing bio-char enriched compost.
A brief introduction of CPCCF:
Combating Poverty and Climate Change Foundation (CPCCF) established the first Accredited Hub in Pakistan, of the Savory Institute of Boulder, Colorado, USA, to promote Holistic Regenerative Farming to transfer carbon from the atmosphere to the soil for:
- Reversing climate change,
- Combating desertification and poverty,
- And, enhancing food and water security.
The increase in soil carbon leads to greater land productivity that will combat poverty at the same time as the reduction in atmospheric carbon lowers carbon dioxide to combat climate change.
CPCCF’s ongoing projects:
- For the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore (UVAS):
In December 2016, CPCCF entered into an MOU with UVAS to demonstrate how the technology – pioneered by the Savory Institute – can raise land productivity without the use of synthetic fertilizers or any other poisons that kill life in the soil; yet improve the profitability of livestock farming. Under the MOU, UVAS provided 5 acres of land to CPCCF for growing fodder without the use of chemical fertilizers or other soil chemicals, as well as up to 100 sheep to be 100% grass-fed through grazing, without any supplements or concentrates.
The preliminary results of the initial evaluation – published in May 2018 – found that land productivity had doubled and the cost of animal feed had fallen 75% within the initial 14 months of the project. Several other Key Performance Indicators – including mortality and female fertility – had also risen substantially. The pilot project was extended to the entire flock of UVAS’s “small ruminants.”
- Raising water availability in the 78% land area of Pakistan, classified as drylands:
In June 2018, CPCCF entered into an MOU with the Cholistan University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences to demonstrate how – by combining Holistic Planned Grazing and planting of dense, native forests – the 78% of Pakistan’s land classified as “drylands” can rapidly be converted into vast areas of forests-cum-grazing pastures to transform the climate of Pakistan, countering the threat of rapidly-approaching water shortages.
- Introducing regenerative/organic farming to smallholder farmers:
In 2018, CPCCF completed a year-long series of workshops in several villages around Bhai Pheru, District Kasur, near Lahore. The workshops were partially funded by UNDP GEF SGP, to spread know-how among small farmers to double their incomes by eliminating chemical fertilizers through the application of the principles of soil health; and of regenerative farming; plus, the on-farm production and use of biochar-enriched composts from locally available agricultural wastes and residues. A cadre of small farmers in villages around Bhai Pheru now makes their own biochar – composts from local wastes and acts as role models for their neighbors.
- 1. What are the various types of weather experienced in Pakistan annually?
Pakistan has four well-marked seasons; a cool, dry winter from December through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the monsoon (summer) rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, and the pleasant autumn from mid-September to October.
The summer season is extremely hot with a temperature of 40°C and beyond in plain areas, and the relative humidity ranges from 25% to 50%. Daytime temperature in this season remains 40°C and beyond in plain areas.
- 2. How is Climate Change affecting Pakistan?
Pakistan is on the brink of becoming a water, energy, and food-insecure country in the coming years. It has already been ranked 7th among the countries highly affected by climate change. It is facing the brunt of climatic incidences – for instance, droughts, floods, storms, and uttermost temperatures, as well as severe water scarcity over the past decades.
Pakistan has two main sources of water: rainfall and glacier – both of which are severely impacted by climate change. Its economy is agriculture-based, contributing 21% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and providing an overall 45% of the total employment in the country. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), per capita, water availability in Pakistan has declined from 2,172 cubic meters per inhabitant to 1,306 cubic meters per inhabitant from 1990 to 2015 and is reaching close to the water scarcity threshold level of 1000 cubic meters. And almost 27.2 million people in the country do not have access to clean water.
- 3. Why is Pakistan one of the most vulnerable to climate change than any other country in South Asia?
Due to numerous basic reasons or driving forces, its geographical location where the temperature increases are expected to be higher than the global average.
- It usually has a warm climate,
- Its land area is mostly arid and semi-arid, receiving receives less than 250mm of rainfall per year,
- its rivers are primarily fed by HKH glaciers which are reported to be declining swiftly due to global warming
- It is an agriculture-based economy, which is highly climate-sensitive
- And, it has a rapidly-increasing population.
- 4. What is the current status of forests in Pakistan?
According to world development indicators, Pakistan’s forest areas reduced from 3.3% to 1.9% of the country’s extent from 1990 to 2016. Deforestation is a major concern today since Pakistan has lost a significant extent of its forest area within the last 25 years. However, the national government of Pakistan claims to have around 5% of its area under forest. Every year in Pakistan, 39,000 hectares of natural forest are disappearing. Approximately, 170,684 hectares of forest were depleted between 1990 and 2010.
- 5. How has the current state of climate change affected the forests in the country?
Variation in climate has increased the frequency of heavy rains, melting glaciers, prolonged drought, periodic flooding, hurricanes, storms, persistent heatwaves, and frequent cyclones which have threatened the ecosystem, biodiversity, animal habitation, human communities, forests, lands, and oceans. Deforestation, desertification, and grassland degradation – among other reasons – have produced huge environmental disturbances, such as dust storms, wildlife habitat loss, reduced water resources, and increased soil erosion. In addition, peoples’ livelihoods have also been affected badly, as shown by the prevalence of food insecurity and poverty, and a decrease in employment.
- 6. Has there been any irreversible change or loss to the country’s natural ecosystem? If so, can anything be done to fill in for those changes?
Biodiversity is a national wealth, which is under threat and facing a lot of challenges due to climate change. Pakistan is rich in biodiversity. Despite the richness of the biodiversity in the country, many animal and plant species have gone extinct and/or are endangered because of the loss of natural habitat. The rapid rise in population has increased the pressure on the country’s natural resources as more houses, more food, and more expansion of land for cultivation (conversion of forest to agriculture land), which is exploiting biodiversity at unsustainable rates. Factors like climate-related events (flood, heat waves, drought), deforestation, overgrazing, salinity, chemical pollution, soil erosion, waterlogging, high-yielding varieties, and mono-cropping are posing major threats to the remaining biodiversity of the country. The ongoing loss of forest habitat, with its related fauna and flora, will have serious consequences for the nation’s agricultural ecosystems and other natural resources.
To reverse losses and promote biodiversity is only being possible by reforestation/afforestation at a larger scale through strong institutional coordination such as the forest, wildlife, fisheries departments, and Ministry of Climate Change. Aﬀorestation is one potential action for improving the environment from local to global scales
- 7. What kind of support do you receive (manpower, resources, financial, social, etc.) from individuals, groups, and even from the state level? And how do you support them in turn?
We have full support from the Ministry of Climate Change and the Forest department for private lands. Our forestry project will provide environmental, social, and economic benefits – i.e alleviate poverty, sustainable communities, reverse climate change, and refill aquafer providing clean water for the community.
- 8. Are any permissions required from authorities to plant in private lands?
No permissions are required from the authorities in such cases. That will be up to the private landowners themselves. If they approve of the activity, that would be sufficient.
- 9. What are the basic qualifications to enter your line of work? Are there any training programs for those interested but lacking said qualifications?
Just a basic education. We have set up an advanced training program in forestry and regenerative agriculture.
- 10. Can you elaborate on the necessity of reforestation using native species, as well as on the potential harm that may come from inadvertently planting an invasive species of plants?
Native plants are easier and faster to grow, plus they can survive in harsh conditions. They also provide shelter and food for wildlife and support pollinators, as well as attract a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife by providing diverse habitats and food sources.
Invasive ones, on the other hand, don’t offer the same and can be prone to destabilizing the ecosystem, which could even endanger other plants and animals in the vicinity.
- 11. What are your criteria for the selection of plants for plantation?
We are working with the officials to identify native species for planting. We will consider six criteria for decision-making. These criteria include cost, reproducibility, growth rate, environmental compatibility (including soil compatibility, temperature, rainfall requirements), environmental eﬀects (including transpiration rate, evergreen or not, soil erosion control), and uses (medical, constructional and fodder).
- 12. Do you have any unique techniques that make you stand out from others operating in similar or relevant professions?
Yes; we grow multilayer forests rather than monolayers. Our multilayer forest is 100% natural, accommodates 10 times faster growth, and is 30 times denser than a monolayer forest. We grow them in 4 layers – the first being shrubs, followed by the sub-tree layer, then the tree layer, and finally, the canopy.
- 13. How does the community benefit from reforestation initiatives?
We would encourage the community to grow small-scale nurseries by purchasing saplings from them. We believe this initiative will significantly enhance livelihood by producing employment and other jobs opportunities. Moreover, the forest itself is a significant source of several kinds of livelihood opportunities that include, fruits, increase fuel woods, nurseries, non-timber products (i.e., honey, beeswax, traditional medicines, mushrooms, and edible fruits), ecotourism, and other small business.
- 14. What steps are put in place to ensure that the community can be capable of carrying on the preservation of these plants?
We are in the process to develop a program where every farmer will get annual mutual funds from preserving and planting new trees.
- 15. Can you describe how nurseries play a crucial role in planting?
First of all, we need to understand what a nursery is. Simply put, it’s an area where we grow and nurse the young progeny of plants.
- We raise nurseries in those areas where natural regeneration is low or slow.
- Nurseries are raised to get plants of the right size at the right time.
- Nurseries are raised to get such plants that are good for health.
- Nurseries are raised to get plants of the desired sapling.
- Nurseries enable the production of seedlings at a cheaper cost.