Pakistan is located between war-torn Afghanistan and India. The Indus river is the "green heart" of Pakistan. About 90% of agricultural products come from its irrigated floodplains. Western Pakistan includes high mountainous regions, covered by forest and grazing rangelands (60% of the territory) where the rural population lives from subsistence farming and livestock raising. The North is known for its orchards.
About 65% of Pakistan's population lives in villages and is formally or informally dependent on agriculture. It employs about 45% of the labour force and contributes 57% in terms of export earnings. Agriculture provides cotton (a major crop) to the textile industry (largest industrial sector), sugar and other raw materials for the food industry.
A small number of landlords practice large-scale farming with financial support from the government while a majority of farmers continue with traditional farming methods and poor yields.
Kharif (summer) crops include rice, sugarcane, cotton and maize; typical rabi (winter) crops are wheat, gram (a pulse), rapeseed, barley and mustard. Wheat is the main cereal crop as bread is the main staple food.
In recent decades, Pakistan has further developed its irrigation areas. Yet, long drought periods, inefficient irrigation (25% water lost in leakages) and unsustainable farming practices have led to a collapse in agricultural productivity. It is estimated that 75% of irrigation water is now brackish and 10% of agricultural lands have been lost because of an increase in soil salinity.
A growing population leads to a fragmentation of holdings. Small holdings, lack of capital and knowledge in modern farming techniques means yields remain very low. The government recently announced important investments in agriculture including a crop maximization project with over a hundred knowledge centres and support to mechanization. However, farming challenges remain huge and will require long-term commitment for sustainable and inclusive agriculture development.