The agriculture sector contributes 19.2% to Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector uses as much as 90% of Pakistan’s water supply, making it one of the country’s most wasteful and water-intensive sectors.
It is estimated that 50% of the water used in agriculture is wasted due to mismanagement and outdated and inefficient irrigation techniques.
Flood irrigation is one of the oldest and most common irrigation techniques in Pakistan.
Additionally, it creates stress on crops, resulting in decreased yield and profitability, not to mention straining the country’s current water resources. Utilizing an optimum level of irrigation is a more effective way to conserve water, maximize yield, and maximize profitability.
The Nestlé Pakistan Caring for Water initiative (C4W-Pakistan) recognizes these concerns and is actively working to fix them.
As part of the C4W-Pakistan program, efforts extend beyond factory gates, forming partnerships with relevant stakeholders such as government, academia, nonprofit organizations, and think tanks working on water issues.
The C4W-Pakistan initiative remains focused on agriculture as the most important pillar, so a large percentage of our effort is dedicated to optimizing crop yield and conserving water.
Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) has established a demonstration site with a High-Efficiency Irrigation System (HEIS) to demonstrate various water conservation methods in agriculture. The site spans over six acres and is powered by a High-Efficiency Irrigation System (HEIS).
This modern technology has replaced traditional irrigation methods with efficient alternatives that use less water, either by diverting it to specific areas of crops or by reducing the volume of water used.
Nestlé Pakistan’s Supplier Development and Sustainable Agriculture Manager, Mehboob Elahi, says, “This site demonstrates how to use high-efficiency irrigation systems to increase crop yield as well as conserve water while demonstrating good practices by using innovative methods and environmentally friendly technology.”
“The initiative serves as a knowledge hub for farmers, professionals, the media, and other service providers,” he explained.
In terms of high-efficiency irrigation systems, drip irrigation systems, pivot systems, and sprinkler systems are all available.
Drip irrigation primarily involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates through small-diameter plastic pipes with outlets called drippers. However, there are many different techniques for drip irrigation.
Responsive Drip Irrigation System
The Responsive Drip Irrigation System is the world’s first plant-responsive water delivery system, where a system of underground tubes detects root signals to determine when plants need water.
This highly targeted system only releases water for specific plants on a need basis. Owing to its lack of human involvement, this system eliminates the risk of human error, resulting in high efficiency.
Underground Drip Irrigation System
An underground drip irrigation system uses underground water-carrying tubes to irrigate crops. Water is released from these tubes throughout the day as they are placed close to the roots.
The release of water can also be controlled through a central mechanism to reduce wastage and prevent over-irrigation. Due to their underground location, they are capable of retaining moisture that would otherwise evaporate.
A bubbler irrigation system is mainly used in tree groves since each tree is placed in a specific basin that is flooded with water rather than flooding an entire field.
A ‘bubbler’ is a threaded joint that directs water from the source to the basins. At set intervals, these emit water at low pressure, ensuring a sufficient supply to the tree.
There is also a modified channel basin surface irrigation system at the demonstration site, which utilizes narrow channels to carry water throughout the fields and to specific plants.
Through these channels, water is directed efficiently to crops, minimizing water loss.
More than 3,300 people have visited the PARC demonstration site and learned about HEIS’ role in reducing water waste in agriculture.
As a result of our collaboration with Nestlé, we have demonstrated how alternative irrigation methods have not only increased yields but also reduced water use,” said Dr. Bashir Ahmad, Director of the National Agricultural Research Center’s Climate, Energy, and Water Resources Institute.
He said, “We are proud to serve as a lighthouse for hundreds of people who come to us seeking solutions to complex problems related to water conservation.”
Nestlé Pakistan cares deeply about the water footprint and believes that sharing its learnings and success stories can help farmers become changemakers and advocates of effective irrigation practices that can help Pakistan conserve water for future generations.
These efforts are in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, 13 – Climate Action, and 17 – Partnerships for the Goals.