Role of agriculture in the economy of Gilgit-Baltistan

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Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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Gilgit–Baltistan , formerly known as the Northern Areas, is the northernmost territory of Pakistan. It borders the territory of Azad Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the Xinjiang autonomous region of China to the east and northeast and the Jammu and Kashmir state of India to the southeast. Together with Azad Kashmir, it forms part of the disputed Kashmir region, which has been the subject of conflict between India and Pakistan since the two countries' independence and partition in 1947. Gilgit–Baltistan is an autonomous self-governing region that was established as a single administrative unit in 1970, formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan region and the former princely states of Hunza and Nagar. It covers an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and is highly mountainous.

It has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. Its capital city is Gilgit (population 216,760). In Gilgit-Baltistan many small economical activities influences the economy but being a mountainous area the agriculture sector plays a vital role in the economy. This area lacks big industries because of which people of GB are more interested in agriculture.

Administrative divisions

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Gilgit–Baltistan is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into nine districts, consisting of the four Baltistan districts of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang, and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar. The principal administrative centers are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.


Agriculture, also called farming or husbandry, is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, biofuel, drugs and other products used to sustain and enhance human life. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the development of civilization. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years, and its development has been driven and defined by greatly different climates, cultures, and technologies. However, all farming generally relies on techniques to expand and maintain the lands that are suitable for raising domesticated species. For plants, this usually requires some form of irrigation, although there are methods of dry land farming. Livestock is raised in a combination of grassland-based and landless systems, in an industry that covers almost one-third of the world's ice- and water-free area. In the developed world, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture has become the dominant system of modern farming, although there is growing support for sustainable agriculture, including permaculture and organic agriculture.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of the human population labored in agriculture. Pre-industrial agriculture was typically subsistence agriculture in which farmers raised most of their crops for their own consumption instead of cash crops for trade. A remarkable shift in agricultural practices has occurred over the past century in response to new technologies, and the development of world markets. This also led to technological improvements in agricultural techniques, such as the Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate which made the traditional practice of recycling nutrients with crop rotation and animal manure less necessary.

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological improvements have sharply increased yields from cultivation, but at the same time have caused widespread ecological damage and negative human health effects. Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal welfare and the health effects of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial meat production. Genetically Modified Organisms are an increasing component of agriculture today, although they are banned in several countries. Agricultural food production and water management is targeted as an increasingly global issue that is fostering debate on a number of issues. You may also be interested in relationship between agriculture and industrialization

Significant degradation of land and water resources, including the depletion of aquifers, has been seen in recent decades, and the effects of global warming on agriculture and of agriculture on global warming are still not fully known. The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials. Specific foods include cereals (grains), vegetables, fruits, oils, meat and spices. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Other useful materials are produced by plants, such as resins, dyes, drugs, perfume, biofuels and ornamental products such as cut flowers and nursery plants. Over one third of the world's workers are employed in agriculture, second only to the services sector, although the percentages of agricultural workers in developed countries has decreased significantly over the past several centuries.

Economy and resources

The economy of the region is primarily based on a traditional route of trade through the historic "Silk Road." The China Trade Organization was the leading economic forum through which most of barter trade activity made a phenomenal change in the general economic outlook of the area, which, being the remotest region under Pakistani control, was neglected for over a quarter of a century. That forum led the people of the area to actively invest and learn modern trade know-how from its Chinese neighbor Xinjiang. The participation of all ethnic groups and the active force behind this activity, the legendary economist of the area Ashraf Khan, brought a great change in the region. Later, the establishment of a chamber of commerce and the Sost dry port (in Gojal Hunza) are milestones. The rest of the economy is shouldered by mainly agriculture and tourism. Agricultural products are wheat, corn (maize), barley, and fruits. Tourism is mostly in trekking and mountaineering, and this industry is growing in importance. In early September 2009, Pakistan signed an agreement with the People's Republic of China for a major energy project in Gilgit–Baltistan which includes the construction of a 7,000-megawatt dam at Bunji in the Astore District. Exiled activists of the region, Mumtaz Khan and Senge Hasnan Sering have since asked India to take a more proactive stance and save the region from exploitation.


Gilgit-Baltistan a mountainous area, plays a vital role in tourism sector because of existence of world most fascinating places such as Fairy meadow, Hunza valley, snow covered mountains like K-2, G-I, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat etc, such physical features enhance the economic activities. Apart from tourism sector many other economic activities are the responsible of boosting up the economy but what is the role of agricultural sector in the economy of GB?

Literature review

KARACHI: Huge opportunities exist in the agriculture and organic farming sector in the Gilgit- Baltistan region, according to Chief Executive Officer, Harvest Tradings, Ahmad Jawad. In a press statement, he said, “Climate and abundant water resources make it ideally suitable for the marvelous growth of this sector, where immense potential is yet to be exploited for export”. Apricots, peaches, mulberries, apples and honey-dew melons are some fruits grown in abundance, whereas trees of almonds and walnuts are also in great numbers, he said. Gilgit- Baltistan also grows dates, mangoes, plums, cherry, blue berries, and watermelons. He said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan don’t appreciate the usage of fertilisers and technology and prefer to use traditional farming methods which are good from the health point of view. He said the prospect for foreign investment is high and the investors could launch ventures in different sectors. “Indonesia has expressed a desire to extend maximum cooperation to Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said. However, he also highlighted that there is lack of facilities, such as non-availability of cold storage for short-term storage of fruit and of export quality packaging material, which hampers the sector from expanding further.


The main strength of the economy of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) depends largely on fruits and horticulture, but lack of interest of public sector organizations towards this paradise from where we could earn billions of rupees through fruits exports has remained neglected. What is needed is establishment of proper infrastructure there. Instead of investing on research and innovation, Pakistan’s agriculture sector is focused on increased use of inputs, including fertilizers, pesticides and water, which has led to stagnation in productivity,” said CEO Harvest Trading’s and member export Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Ahmad Jawad.Talking to Business Recorder, he said: “Huge opportunities exist in the agriculture sector and organic farming in GB area. Climate and abundant water resources make it ideally suitable for marvellous growth of this sector in Gilgit Baltistan, where immense potential is yet to be exploited.” The most scrumptious fruits in Gilgit Baltistan include apricots, peaches, mulberries, apples and honey-dew melons. Trees of almonds and walnuts also grow rapidly. He said harsh weather of Gilgit Baltistan disables annual farming and it is only possible during summers and springs and that too for a short time. People usually harvest crops and dry the fruits to survive the harsh climate of winters. As there is shortage of arable and cultivable land, farming is on small scale and the harvest barely meets the requirements of local population. The most popular fruit of Gilgit Baltistan is apricot. A huge variety of apricot are found there such as Shikundda, Dodor, Alishah kakus, and many more. Each type has its own specific characteristics.

Continuous experimentation of new varieties is going on as to produce more juicy, sweet and flavored fruits. Jawad said Gilgit-Baltistan also grows dates, mango, plums, cherry, peaches, blue berries, and water and honey melon. These delicious dry fruits are shipped all over the heart of Asia and are being used in the preparation of sweet dishes and tasty traditional cuisines. People of Gilgit-Baltistan don’t appreciate the usage of fertilizers and technology and prefer to use traditional farming which is good from the health point of view. Prospects for foreign investment are equally high and the investors could launch ventures in different alluring sectors, he said. Meanwhile, Indonesia has expressed desire to extend maximum co-operation to Gilgit-Baltistan government in its efforts aimed at bringing progress and prosperity in the area. Indonesia has the expertise in these areas and the sharing of technical skills could create a win-win situation. Japan has also agreed to provide around Rs 437 million in aid for promoting manufacture of value added fruit products in Gilgit-Baltistan. Read also G oogle's business model relies on which of the following to generate revenue

Japan International Co-operation Agency has extended the firm commitment to fund value addition of apples and apricots,” he said. From Gilgit Baltistan (GB), the nearest large city is Rawalpindi/Islamabad and the road distance is nearly 600 km. Under these conditions one of the options available is to process the fruit at location to increase its shelf life and to add to its value, so that it may be transported economically.Jawad highlighted that lack of facilities, such as non-availability of cold storage for short-term storage of fruit and of export quality packaging material, quality control for grading and facilities for washing and disinfection also needed to be developed. The development of roads and infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan is also on the cards as investors are keen to invest in construction of all-weather airports in Gilgit and Skardu. Investment in Gilgit-Baltistan would not only be beneficial to that particular area but it would also help strengthen the economy of the country, he added. Copyright Business Recorder, 2012

Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan: a glimpse of resilience

A novel look over agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan implies subsistence farming that is as hard as the mountains of the area, and people are contented with it. Agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan is both rain fed as well as irrigated with agronomic and horticultural crops being the two most important pillars. In agronomic crops mostly the indigenous cultivars and even the wild relatives of many crops are grown with the idea of ‘food for own’ whilst the horticultural crops that includes fruits and vegetables are the mainstay of Gilgit-Baltistan’s economy. Need of the time is to call the imperative efforts for the indulgence of self-sufficiency factor in the agriculture of Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in world with 2.03% population growth rate (Economic Survey of Pakistan-2012) cannot endure the idea of subsistence farming, in any part, that can impose a big threat to the very edifice of agriculture, thus food security. Efficient resource utilization for resilience is the basic pillar of today’s agriculture as the future prosperity and economic stability mainly depends upon the quantum of material resources and their judicious exploitation and utilization. So in current era, sustainable agriculture is required that should not only be proficient but also profitable. Current scenario of agriculture in Gilgit-Baltistan is miserable and requires immediate attention.

Primitive vis-à-vis native cultivars are used in cropping pattern and poor crop management practices are followed in rising of agronomic crops. No innovations for major field crop production and soil management are in practice thus an ecological agricultural pattern is prevailing. Besides limited land holding, quality seed, traditional systems, and untrained labor are a big hindrance in step to progressive farming. As far as horticultural crops are concerned, fruits and vegetables are highly valuable cash crops grown largely throughout the northern areas and are a major source of livelihood. Again the yield is very low that could not meet market demand, and the crops grown are not well received in market. Obsolete practices, local varieties and post-harvest losses are very much common prevailing everywhere throughout the area thus causing the decline in quality and perishing the product before marketed.

Realizing the above facets, a big gap is there to fill in order to boost up the agriculture of northern areas on new lines and ultimately improve the economic conditions of people. In fact this requires the participatory approach involving all disciplines directly or indirectly linked with agriculture. Firstly I would like to highlight the research wing as researchers are the nib pins in process of food production. We will have to change our research patterns and stop working on all the obsolete lines as no further benefit we can have from repeating the existing. New horizons in research focusing the needs of area should be explored and fund based projects should be run in collaboration with Research and Development Institutions. Next to Research it begins the turn of extension department who are the front line soldiers in dissemination of all research output given by researchers. Existing weak and rudimentary type of extension system has to play a vital role for the uplift of system that includes technology transfer, training of farmers and advice, provision of helping material, and supply of good and quality agricultural inputs (seed, fertilizer etc.).

A meagre role of Agriculture marketing can be seen in down country parts but this wing should be strengthened enough in northern areas because a big potential is there for the produce to be marketed in national and international markets. Local as well as foreign based Stakeholders can be invited by creating interest factor thereby providing a room for industrial growth that correlates directly with employment and income generation. Here I would like to appreciate the efforts made by different NGO’s for the agriculture, sustainable development, and food security. Likewise our state-owned agencies should be interconnected and work together for the betterment and mutually agreed benefits. Finally keeping in view the environment sensitivity, all steps taken for the vertical move should be eco-friendly and conservation of nature should be given due diligence.

Pakistan is agro-based country and as per Economic Survey of Pakistan 2012 agriculture contribution to GDP is 21%. About 75% of the total population is directly or indirectly linked with this industry so every move should be made in boosting up the overall system and it’s up gradation. Our valuable farmer is practicing agriculture since centuries so what all we need is to create the awareness and exposure to new horizons that will act as spontaneous chain reaction for a better future. The writer is an agriculturist working in Sadpara Development Project-SDP (USAID-funded project) at Skardu-Baltistan, Pakistan. He can be reached at

In Diamer, the mafia pays Rs20-30 per cubic foot to the local owners. The same amount of timber is sold for around Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 outside G-B. PHOTO COURTESY: UMER FAROOQ GILGIT:
Timber mafia in Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) Diamer valley continues to sweep woodlands, making a mockery of the government’s efforts to stop deforestation. On Tuesday, G-B Chief Secretary Younas Dhaga suspended 10 forest department officials for failing to curb tree felling in Diamer’s Thore valley. Divisional forest officer Saleemullah and Range Forest Officer Qadar Jan were among the ones suspended while temporary staff, Abdul Wajid, Naveed Alam and Zaman, were terminated from service. A day later, six more junior employees in Diamer were suspended by the forest department for the same reason.

The measures, however, do not seem to have affected the timber mafia as more than 4,000 trees have been cut from Botogah valley since Tuesday. “Trees are being chopped at a large-scale,” said Faizullah, a resident of Chilas, while confirming the figure. “The freshly chopped trees were brought here (Chilas) on tractors,” he told The Express Tribune. An official from the information cell said they have constituted a committee to probe into the deforestation. The felling has confirmed widespread fears that timber smugglers will use the Forest Policy, which lifted a decade-old ban on transportation of four million cubic feet of timber in Diamer district, to smuggle the freshly-cut timber. The controversial policy was approved by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on March 15, a day before his term in office expired. While the policy only allows transporting old stock, the mafia is accused of smuggling fresh timber with it. “The fresh stock will also be transported with the old, and ultimately sold for higher prices,” said a Chilas-based journalist affiliated with a regional newspaper. In Diamer, the mafia pays Rs20-30 per cubic foot to the local owners. The same amount of timber is sold for around Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 outside G-B. With the connivance of officials, smugglers then register the illegal timber in official records. Even though Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif cancelled the policy immediately after assuming office, the G-B government has taken up the matter with the federal government, which may revise the move. Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2013.


Every year Gilgit-Baltistan sell-off variety of fruits and vegetables, e.g apple, cherry, apricot, pear, peach, mulberries, almonds, walnuts, potatoes, maize, barley etc. A large number of families, sustain only on agriculture and there is no any other source of income, that is why most of them are doing are doing organic farming which is a best farming method. The inhabitants of Hunza Valley sell apples, potatoes and cherries in a bulk amount, but lack of their own market the merchants directly buying them at a very low cost, which not only affects the economy of the farmers but also it effects the economy of whole area. The government of GB does not take heed upon the agriculture of the area because of lack of interest it is much difficult to store the fruit and vegetables there are no facilities of preserving and no proper way of buying and selling. The harsh climate also plays a vital role in devastation of fruit and vegetable market. In Hunza the farmers who have sold the apples at half price as they have sold in previous year, I am is the witness that we have sold the apples for Rs.50,000 but in this year we have sold only for Rs.35,000.Else apple market, the same problem is with other fruit and vegetable markets. Timber mafia in GB by leaps and bounds smuggle timber to down country because of which the forest of GB does not adds any coin to the revenue.

Discussion and analysis

Gilgit-Baltistan is an agricultural land, where most of the population cultivates various crops every year. They cultivate wheat, barley, maize such crops are not enough in some places for their own requirements like in Astore, Ghanche and some places of Diamer & Ghizer. Apart from these Hunza Valley is also includes with such areas. Some places like Nagar Valley and Danyore cultivates wheat and maize in bulk amount so these corps are enough for 8-9 months for their food but these places lack the apple and cherry trees. Skardu and Hunza Valley are good for apricot production, the formers of these places are earning from apricot and apple products. From apricot they make jam, apricot juice, and dry apricot for selling. They are using dry apricot for their own food like in winter session they make an especial kind of soup locally called it “Batering-e-Daudow” and in summer session they make a juice called “Chhamus”. GB sells bulk amount of cherry, apricot, potatoes etc every year. To enhance the agricultural production various NGOs are working nation wise and internationally. Aga Khan Rural Support Programme is working with full zeal and zest here this institute has taught the farmers different methods of drying apricot, cherry and apples.

It trains the inhabitants of GB in agricultural sector. Chilas Valley and surrounding areas possess forest that helps to generate income by selling timber and fuel wood to other places of GB. But weak and bad governance, current administration could not control upon the timber mafia so timber mafia by leaps and bounds busy in deforestation and smuggle bulk amount of timber to the down country. The government should take action against the timber mafia and should do control upon the deforestation in diamer valley but the GB government failed to control upon timber mafia and it does not enhance the forest of GB. There should be fruit, vegetable and livestock market via these market the farmers of GB could correspond in a proper way.


In all seven districts of Gilgit-Baltistan there are practicing the classic agriculture at very minute scale if the government of GB takes interest in agricultural sector then there could be generate more revenue and more jobs which increase the economy of GB. There should be a proper market for fruit and vegetable so that the farmers of GB could sell their product at a suitable amount. Due to lack of fruit and vegetable market and livestock market farmers selling their product at a very low price so they have to face the music.


  1. I. Safety and health in agriculture. International Labour Organization. 1999. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-92-2-111517-5. Retrieved 13 September 2010. II. "Definition of Agriculture". State of Maine. Retrieved 2013-05-06. III. Committee on Forestry Research, National Research Council (1990). Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. National Academies Press. pp. 15–16.ISBN 0309042488 IV. Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2013.
  2. V. AKRSP, 2002. Study on Agriculture potential and enterprise development in District Chitral and Northern Areas. Enterprize Dev. Centre (EDC), Mgt. Excellence (Pvt) Ltd.
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Role of agriculture in the economy of Gilgit-Baltistan. (2018, Apr 22). Retrieved from

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