.. by Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
Chitral has got very small tracts of cultivable land with enough water for irrigation but also many arid plains with no water resources to be managed easily and for construction of water channels of various capacity our forefathers also used aqueducts to supply water to difficult terrains with good intention to plant trees. The aqueducts were called ‘ Bixh bagh’ in Khowar and poplar trees were mostly cut, chopped in straight line with adz, and sufficient space was cut in the timber for smooth supply of water and then fixed over ditches or otherwise impracticable rocks. Such water supply systems had been in practice to irrigate smaller tracts of lands, and plants were grown because the mountains of Hindu Kush had left small size plots to be used for cultivation or plantation. The quality of land in Chitral is very fertile, wrote Schomberg in his book ‘ Kafirs and Glaciers’
The people in the old days were very fond of fruit both fresh and dry so they planted fruit trees even in cultivated plots. Once a man had planned a large number of apricot plants and had covered the larger section of the plot and still busy when someone happened to go by, looked at the craze of the planter and called to him ‘ what will you eat with the apricot soup?’ as you have left not piece for barley or wheat. The man replied back that he did not care about barley but liked apricot, both fresh and dry so he did it.
Plantation of good quality apricots has been very popular all over the region. It has often been improved by grafting method. They did grafting in summer from the leaves but now-a-days the experts of agriculture do grafting from shoots at or soon after spring equinox and this technique fructifies soon. The old technique took some years to give fruit. They also planted apples, peaches, walnuts, pears, grapes, pomegranates, figs, etc. They also planted non fruit trees like poplar, willow, etc. for use as fodder for their flocks and cattle as well as for fire wood. All such work was done in early spring.
Planting in the autumn has never been practiced except by some maverick experimentalists. If one is going to plant a sapling in autumn he can do it after the leaves have fallen and give enough water to it at the time of planting. This will work well. If one has to shift one bigger sapling or a smaller tree then he should also do it after fall of the leaves but the branches don’t need to be cut. This is one advantage of autumn plantation but if you do such a shifting of plant in spring then you should cut off the branches. Horticulture has been a n integral part of the old Kho and Kalash village economy and it shows that they were people of high regard for cultured living even far away from centres of big economic activities.
At present the season has come and each one of us should plant a number of plants, not only one or two but many plants, both fruit and non fruit, should be planted. It is a contribution to be made by every Pakistani and the government should allocate barren lands for this purpose and interested people should be invited to plant there with their names and address and this will be a matter of great interest. .. Prof Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 28 Feb 2022