Swat wanluts await proper care

English: a walnut and a walnut core

Swat walnuts await proper care

By Tahir Ali

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/26/walnut-trees-need-proper-care.html

SWAT accounts for around 50 per cent of walnut trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But the lack of official support and negligence, deforestation, non-plantation of new trees and attack of stem-borer has endangered this great agricultural asset, farmers say.

“Walnut trees in the area, especially in the Madyan valley, are hit by stem-borers which penetrate deep into their stems, eat them up and eventually lead to the death of the tree. Porcupine also eats the nuts when they are sown. But these are curable phenomenon. Many farmers are unaware of these problems.”

Shah Abdar, a Swat-based farmer, says walnut is sold between Rs5,000-12,000/50kg in the market depending upon their size and quality.

“ Given support from the government, walnut could be a bigger source of income for the area people. An ordinary family in upper Swat owns on an average 3-4 walnut trees. A single tree yields around 100-300kg of nut which by the current market price of about Rs10,000/50kg earns the family around Rs80,000-240,000,” he said. The forest department every year runs tree plantation campaigns but no progress is visible on the ground.

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The seeds or saplings cultivated are often destroyed as there is no sufficient care. The government needs to provide expert advice, walnut saplings and seeds, pesticides/insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. In the hope of large returns, they will do whatever possible to keep it safe and healthy,” he says.

Hundreds of tons of walnut are produced in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat, but the real potential of the nut in the area is far from being utilised.

“Swat is the best place for growing walnut. The tree usually grows on ridges of mountains, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less arable land. But despite being the main asset and source of income of the family, the number of walnut trees are on the decline and only about 5-10 per cent of the potential in the area has been utilised so far,” he said.

In 2005 walnut production in Swat was 4,963 tons, which jumped to 6,973 tons in 2006. But in 2008, after the spread of militancy in the area, it dived to 3,960 tons.

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent making communications possible, link roads to far flung areas in the valley remain damaged making them inaccessible. It leaves the poor with no choice but to sell their trees to fruit dealers on meagre prices,” he said.

Malakand division accounts for around 90 per cent of the provincial land under walnut trees and grows thousands of tons of nut in Chitral, Swat, Lower and Upper Dir, Kohistan and Shangla. Nut of different sizes, quality and colours are produced here and marketed.

Saeedur Rehman, another farmer said the kernel of walnut depending on its quality and taste is sold at Rs30,000-35,000/50kg in the market. The brighter the kernel, the better is the price,” he said.

He was particularly unhappy over cutting of young trees for getting “Dandansa”. The bark and roots of the tree used as Dandansa, which is smuggled to neighbouring countries, ” he said.

Walnut is beneficial to health. Experts say it stimulates brain and is believed to be useful in treatment of stomach, liver and kidney diseases. It is recommended for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Walnut helps control cholesterol level, strengthens walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes, supports immune system, helps improve memory and speeds up recovery after serious operation.

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Walnut population short of potential

By Tahir Ali

Swat accounts for around 50 percent of the provincial walnut population and has around 500 hectares out of the total 1000 hectares under the walnut trees. But lack of official support, negligence of the concerned departments, continuous deforestation of the existing trees for getting ‘Dandansa’ and other purposes, non-cultivation of new ones and some ailments (stem-borer), ignorance of farmers and porcupine attacks have endangered this great asset,  farmers say.

“The walnut trees in the area, especially in Madyan valley are hit by stem-borer which eats up the stem eventually drying the tree. Porcupine also attack the seeds when they are planted. But these are curable phenomenon. The problem is most farmers are unaware of this,” said a farmer.

Shah Abdar, a Swat based farmer, said salnuts are sold between Rs5000-12000/50kg in the market depending upon their size, health and hardness or softness of nutshell.

“Subject to a little patronage and support from the government, walnut could be the greatest source of income and asset for the area people. An example will illustrate the point. An ordinary family in upper Swat owns on average 3-4 walnut trees. A walnut tree yields between 100kg-300kg of walnut fruit which by the current market price of about Rs10000/50kg earn them about Rs80,000-240,000,” he said.

The forest department, he said each year runs tree plantation campaigns but there is no progress on the ground.

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The trees so cultivated are often destroyed by the people as there is no sufficient care and security for them.  The government and non-governmental organisations need to provide expert advice, walnut plantlets/seeds, pesticides/insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. It is only when the people will be provided plantlets or seeds and they grow it in their lands that the problem will be solved once and for all. In the hope of huge returns, they will do whatever possible to keep it safe and healthy,” he argued.

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty/militancy/floods-stricken farmers.

“Its financial benefits could be judged from the fact that there are around 5 big walnut tree is one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals (around 6 acres) and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate,” he opined.

He said hundreds of tons of walnuts are grown in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat adding that the potential of walnut in the area is far from being utilized.

“Swat is the best place for walnut. The tree usually grows on mountain ridges, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less arable land. But despite being the main asset and source of income for the family along with fruit, vegetable and livestock, the number of walnut trees has been on the decline and only about 5 to 10 per cent of the potential in the area has been utilised so far,” he said.

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent and communication made possible, the link roads to far flung areas in the valley are still inaccessible. It leaves the poor people with no choice but to sell their standing walnut trees to dealers on meagre prices thus incurring losses,” according to him.

Mlakand division accounts for around 90 per cent of provincial land under walnut trees and grows thousands of tons of walnut in Chitral, Swat, Lower and Upper Dir, Kohistan and Shangla.

Walnut of different sizes, quality and colour are produced here which are marketed in whole form or only its flesh, taken out and packed, is sold in the market.

Saeedur Rehman, another farmer said the walnut flesh, dependent upon its colour and taste, is sold at Rs30-35000/50kg in the market. The more the brighter the flesh, the better is the price. And the cooler an area, the more standard and delicious the walnut flesh,” he said.

He was particularly unhappy for cutting the walnut tree for getting “Dandansa”. “The problem is for Dandansa you have to cut down the younger trees whose stem-cover and roots are the best for the purpose. Even though it is unlawful to get Dandansa, its smuggling continues unabated which needs to be controlled,” he said.

Walnut has been found to be extremely beneficial for health. Experts say it stimulates brain and is believed to be useful in treatment of stomach, liver and kidney diseases. It is recommended for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Walnut helps control cholesterol level, strengthens the walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes, supports immune system, helps improve memory, speeds up the recovery period after a difficult operation or trauma.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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