Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest School (KPFS) Thai, Abbottabad, is the only institute providing in-service training to the para-professional field force of Forest and Wildlife Departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan, since its establishment in 1974. Principal KP Forest School, Muhammad Yousaf Khan, arranged a field tour for 28 trainees, to study the biodiversity of South Waziristan which is a unique landscape in the newly merged districts.
Being an important component of the training courses, the standard and quality of field tours has improved as a consequence of new initiatives. Course module of Foresters and Deputy Rangers comprises two field tours, one each of high hill forests of Northern KP and forest resources of Southern KP. For the first time in the history of KPFS, study of Chilgoza forests (Pinus gerardiana) of South Waziristan district was included in the tour schedule.
On March 27, under the guidance of Muhammad Yousaf Khan, Principal KPFS, three instructors and 28 trainees of mandatory 3-months course proceeded from D.I. Khan to South Waziristan District to study the world’s largest forest of Chilgoza pine, the Chilgoza processing plant and plantations carried out by the forest department.
Upon reaching district Tank, the Deputy Forest Officer, (DFO) South Waziristan, Mr. Muhammad Saleem Marwat, delivered a detailed lecture to the trainees in the Community Training Center (CTC) on history, topography, climate, forest resources, especially forest types of South Waziristan. The class halted overnight at Tank.
The next day on March 28, the class started their journey to Angoor Adda via Wana at 6.00 am and entered district South Waziristan at Gardawi pass. During a brief stay at Gomal Zam Dam en route, DFO South Waziristan briefed the trainees about the role of dams in watershed management and water regulation, especially flood control, water storage for irrigation and hydel power generation. Later the group proceeded to Wana, the headquarters of district South Waziristan and visited Agriculture Park Wana, established by Pakistan Army. Location, design, architecture, hygiene and layout of the Agriculture Park is one of its kind and unique in the country.
Chilgoza seed processing plant in the Agriculture Park, established by Pakistan Army is the most interesting feature for the forest professionals. The cones of Chilgoza are brought from the forests to this processing plant by the owners which are then dried in the dryer machine. The seed is extracted from the dry cones in the extractor and then roasted in the roaster machine. Hard shell from the nuts is removed, peeled off and then graded and packed for export.
It is important to note that Chilgoza forests are found only in Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Iran, while the world’s largest Chilgoza forest having 260 sq kms (64220 acres) area, producing 4460 tons of Chilgoza nuts is situated in Pakistan. In the year 2013-14, Chalghoza nuts worth 68 million dollars were exported to various countries around the world.
Chilgoza seed processing plant in the Agriculture Park, established by Pakistan Army is the most interesting feature for the forest professionals.
We proceeded to Angoor Adda Dry Port and on the way traversed the world’s largest Chilgoza forest before the class reached Pak-Afghan border. On the way, we stopped at various points to study the silviculture, density, height, canopy cover cone positioning, ground flora, size and age of cones, and trees of the Chilgoza forest.
Ownership, Management and Legal Status of Chilgoza Forests of Waziristan
The Chilgoza forests are privately owned by the tribes and Khel of Waziristan, growing in dry temperate zone at an altitude between 5000 feet to 8000 feet with associates mainly Quercus, Deodar and Juniper. Different Khels have divided the forests on ground, mostly through physical features such as nullah, ridge, and large Chilgoza trees specially marked and retained on the boundaries as per their respective share in the land. Forest Ordinance 2002 schedule-1 is silent on Chilgoza (Pinus gerardiana) as forest tree. Forest department prepared a PC-1 for raising Chilgoza plants in the nursery and successfully raised about 0.5 million plants in different nurseries. As explained by DFO, Mr. Slaeem Marwat, the plantation of Chilgoza is not successful to the desired level; rather protection of natural regeneration is more successful in the propagation of Chilgoza forests. He further elaborated that a Chilgoza project with the collaboration of FAO has been launched, but its signature on ground is yet to be fixed. He explained that natural regeneration of Chilgoza augmented with closing the area for grazing is not only successful but economical and effective.
The Chilgoza forests of South Waziristan are generally healthy, dense and in pole and submature stage with the exception of overmature trees retained for demarcation of boundaries between the owners as these forests are managed for the production of Chilgoza nuts. While traversing these forests, even aged crop was observed and the area can rightly be called as natural Chilgoza orchards.
The annual nuts production is 4460 metric tons worth three to four billion rupees which ranks Pakistan as second largest Chilgoza nuts exporter in the world. The owners cut and remove the over-mature non-productive trees for timber production. They also cut the Quercus (oak) trees as thinning of the forests to provide space for Chilgoza trees and to reduce competition for maximum nuts production.
Oak trees are also used for the production of charcoal on commercial scale. Roghzai is a famous market of charcoal where hundreds of kilns are established and the charcoal produced is not only provided to other parts of Pakistan, but a huge quantity is also exported to Afghanistan.
It is worth mentioning that Quercus is the climax species of this zone and may invade the Chilgoza forest of Waziristan in the natural process of ecological succession. It is the local knowledge of management that has kept these dense Chilgoza forests from conversion to pure oak forests and the extinction of Chilgoza. Deodar is the other associate species of Chilgoza, having stunted growth, the owners cut it for timber production. The management of Chilgoza forests of Waziristan by its owners is an ideal example of scientific management of forests for the subsistence of the owners and earning foreign exchange for the country.
The annual nuts production is 4460 metric tons worth three to four billion rupees which ranks Pakistan as the second largest Chilgoza nuts exporter in the world.
Forest Ordinance 2002 has been extended to the newly merged districts in KP after 25th Constitutional Amendment. It is recommended that forest department may facilitate the existing system regulated through issuance of transport pass to ensure maximum production of Chilgoza nuts, timber and charcoal for livelihood improvement of the forest owners and general public of the merged districts and economic development of the country.
Despite the importance of these forests and South Waziristan, as an integral part of the country, the official tour of 28 under training Foresters and Deputy Rangers course of Forest and Wildlife Department was the first of its kind in the history of KPFS since the creation of Pakistan. Such visits are possible only due to favorable security environment after the successful culmination of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
It was difficult to visit Waziristan before the operation and merger in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. South Waziristan is now at par with any developed district of the country. Multiple projects including the construction of famous Gomal Zam Dam for irrigation and water storage have been implemented. Roads of international standards have been constructed in the length and breadth of all the newly merged districts including South Waziristan.
Many educational institutions have been established in the region including Cadet College WANA and state-of-the-art women college WANA. Agriculture Park and development of Angoor Adda Dry Port for international trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia are a few glimpses and symbols of economic development.
The writer is Principal of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest School Thai Abbottabad.
E-mail: [email protected]
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