Horticulture in Gilgit-Baltistan

Waseem Sajjad, Shahla Rashid, Erum Rashid

Allah Almighty has given Pakistan with lots of wealth and in Pakistan; the fifth province Gilgit-Baltistan has its own value and beauty. Gilgit-Baltistan which is specially known worldwide due to the second largest peak of the world K-2 has a unique role in the development of the country.People of this region mostly depend upon horticultural and agronomic crops. The main strength of economy of Gilgit-Baltistan mainly depends on fruits and horticulture. But due to lack of interest by public sector administrations, millions of rupees have been neglected which can be earned from this sector. The climate of this region is very suitable for growing fruit trees, horticultural crops and other agronomic crops. But due to lack of transportation system and storage system more than half of the fruits can’t be transported to distant areas.Skardu, which is in northern areas of Pakistan and the capital of Baltistan has a unique climate and environment thus having specific types of fruits grown every year. As it’s a temperate region thus it has plenty of dry fruits and fresh fruits which are also transported to other cities of Pakistan. Some of the most important fruits of this area are apple, apricot, pear, mulberry, peach, grapes and walnuts.Gilgit, Hunza and Nagar valley are also producing large amounts of fruits but the problems are same as for Skardu so it’s very difficult to managed these fruits and thus loses are becoming high each year. These areas are waiting for the attentions by the government and in return they can help in improving the economy of Pakistan.In Gilgit-Baltistan, the most growing fruit is apricot but due to low shelf life and lack of systems this fruit can’t be transported to distant areas where its demand is high. People by their own risk working for the transportation but due to lack of awareness this sector remained affected. Fresh apricots are rarely transported but dried apricots are sometime transported to local and distant markets through their own effort and risk. Apricots are of different types and have many varieties like ‘margholam’ ‘halman’ ‘sharrakarfo’ ‘doso’ and many more. But mostly grown varieties are “margholam” and “halman”. All the apricot varieties can be taken as fresh or as dried. Sometime dried apricots are treated with sulfur to enhance its value, appearance and price and then exported. There seeds can also be eaten and sometime people extract oil from these seeds and use for cooking purpose because the oil is free of cholesterol. Second most important fruit is apple which is propagated mostly in Paari Kharmang in the east of Skardu. The apples of Paari are very famous in all over Gilgit-Baltistan due to its taste and appearance. ‘Saspolo’a variety of apple is very soft, delicious, and tasty and blood red in color is very famous and its demand is also high as compared to other varieties of apple. People of this area also store them for the winter in wheat straw. In the south west of Skardu the Shangarilla orchard is located where apples of different varieties are also grown and when tourists come they buy these apples and the left are sold in the local market.Grapes were cultivated in high quantity at a time but now people don’t propagate them as much as they should. The reason is the lack of interest and problems. But still there is an area in Skardu where it is propagated highly, known as Qomra and in the district of Hunza-Nagar. In Hunza, people mostly grow them for making wines and drinks because in that area there is no any restriction for taking and drinking wine and alcohol. But in Skardu people grow them for home requirements not for sale and making wines. There are also different types of grapes, some remain green after ripe and some change into full black. They are also can be eaten as dried known as ‘shoglo’.Mulberry the most common fruit in GB and the most delicious one. There are two prominent type ‘shahtoot’ and ‘bidana’. Shahtoot is of two colors, black and red while bidana is white in color. The other variety is ‘karfo osay’ which is not eaten as fresh but dried and stored for winter. ‘Khachuli osay’ which has a sore taste, can’t be eaten but animals eat them. The main problem for mulberry is wind because its fruits stalks are very delicate and a slow wind can break them and the fruits fall on the ground and don’t remain eatable.Cherries are also grown in this area for local market sale. Red cherries and Black cherries are the two prominent types and grown almost in all parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. The most common problem for cherries is lack of harvesting tools. People harvest them by hand, so most of the fruits are damaged. There is also the chance of attack of birds and they can destroy the whole fruits of a tree. Cherries are also eaten as fresh and dried.Walnuts and almond are the most popular dry fruits of this region. Each fruit is enclosed in a shell or cover. The cover may be soft (kaghazi) or hard. People mostly sell them to the local markets and from there they are transported to other regions. Oils can be extracted from these and are free of cholesterol and fat.There are different types of vegetables also grown in this area. Some prominent varieties of vegetables that are grown are cabbage, carrot, spinach, cauliflower and many more. In winter, vegetables are grown in tunnels and in summer they are grown in fields. The people of this region store these vegetables in winter for the use in summer; due to low temperature it becomes possible. There are different types of flowers being cultivated in Gilgit-Baltistan. There is a place just 5km away from Skardu which is known as the roof of the world called ‘Deosai’ is famous for varieties of natural flowers. It is estimated that there are approximately 3500 varieties of flowers at that place. Fruits trees, flowers and vegetables should be care by full interest because they give lots of benefits and maintain the human health. We should be thankful to Allah that He gave us lot of His mercies.

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