.. by Prof Rahmat Karim Baig
The inhabitants of Chitral in the good old days had developed a number of skills to be able to live independently. Their main stay was Agriculture and in order to get maximum benefits from their cultivated plots they resorted to a number of tools such as how to get better land produce. Their experiment with new seeds led them to exchange their results with each other. In Chitral all households had got landed property and no one was landless except a few. Here we discuss some of the methods that had been common. In southern Chitral they got double crop a year but in upper parts of Chitral the farmer got a single crop a year. In order to increase their land produce they had started crop rotation.
In the single crop region their crop rotation system was as follows:
They knew about the fertility to be had from the sun. All their cultivated plots were put on rotation system. A plot was left fallow in summer and nothing was sown on it as in this way the summer heat penetrated deep in the soil and thus enriched the fertility of the plot which was used for growing wheat in autumn but in some other valleys the fallow plot was used for barley. Both of the crops were sown with a good amount of manure from their livestock pens. After barley or wheat the plot was ploughed and mallet was grown. In some valleys wheat was grown after barley and then mallet the following year and on the fourth year the plot again left fallow to get sun heat in summer.
In lower Chitral maize and paddy were grown after cutting wheat in June. Maize was cut in the autumn and then wheat was sown with good amount of natural manure. For example first of all the plot was kept fallow, the next year barley was grown. Then wheat was grown and at stage four mallet was grown. All the cereals were the main parts of their daily food consumption. Mallet and maize bread was made for breakfast, barley or wheat for lunch and supper with meat soup called in Khowar ‘Sangiseer’. Other dishes included dried vegetable, dairy products, potato with mutton or beef, wheat flakes with small pieces of mutton called ‘ Kali’.
The tradition of crop rotation has been a very old technique and specially suited high altitude areas. The men of middle class followed the crop rotation system very strictly and got better results but the men of upper class- men with larger cultivated plots could not plough all their lands and could not manage all the related activities so many of their plots remained not tilled and turned into waste lands in the absence of slaves or cultivators. This weakness made them compelled to share cropping. A man with physical hands could manage his own plots and also did crop sharing with the larger land holder. The less productive plots were used for growing pulses such as grams, lentils, beans etc. which were mostly used for dishes such as ‘Leganu’ Pakhti from lentil and such other items to be eaten with bread.
In order to fertilize their plots they had to keep livestock and from the manure they improved the quality of the soil. The manure from the cattle pens was used for wheat and barley. Other crops such as pulses and mallet did not need manure. Paddy and maize needed fertilizer as well as potato. But potato and clover plots improved the quality of the soil and therefore they used to sow these crops in addition to the main crops. Mutton, beef and dairy products were highly valued and efforts were made to produce them in sufficient amount. All their food items were organic food and used in a rationing system so the health of the people was exceptionally well despite lack of knowledge about hygiene. .. Prof Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 07 Nov 2021