For farmers in flood ravaged Pakistan a race against time
Race against time
Farmers in flood ravaged Pakistan are in a race against time to plough fields and sow seeds before the end of the winter planting season. Failure to plant will mean another year without crops, food and income. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, the IRC is rushing to provide some 3,500 farmers with 300 tons of seeds.
All IRC Slideshows >
All Pakistan Slideshows >
Farmers load wheat seeds onto a cart to take to their fields. Before they can sow the seeds the farmers must clear their land of debris, silt and sand left by the floods. Failure to plant will mean another year without crops, food and income.
(Photo: Selena Marr/The IRC)
No group was more affected by the devastating floods that swept through Pakistan this summer than farmers. The flooding washed away or ruined entire swaths of agricultural land and destroyed crops and stores of seeds needed for the coming planting season. Where once good arable land provided families with regular crops, vast areas have become barren, buried under sand and silt.
Now farmers are in a race against time to plough fields and plant seeds before the end of the winter planting season in December when it becomes too cold for crops to grow. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, in northwestern Pakistan, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has joined the race. The IRC is rushing to provide some 3,500 farmers with 300 tons of seeds in time for the planting season. The IRC is distributing the seeds in 20 of the province’s most flood damaged villages.
Before they can sow the seeds the farmers must clear their land of debris, silt and sand. Failure to plant will mean another year without crops, food and income. We recently talked to some of the farmers the IRC is assisting as they struggle to restore their land and livelihoods.
Haji Khan, 50, has farmed wheat and sugarcane all of his life—until the flood waters inundated his land. Now his 26 acres of farmland are mostly covered by sand. He recently received five 50kg bags of wheat seed from the IRC. After loading the bags onto a cart, the father of six children smiles shyly and says, “Tomorrow I will plant these seeds. I have prepared and cleared some of my fields. My land is only suitable for wheat now after the floods.”
Khan says that he had carefully saved seeds from previous crops, but that they had all washed away in the floods. “These seeds make me very happy,” he says with a smile.
The IRC is also providing Khan and other farmers in the area with 12,000 bags of fertilizer. “Without fertilizer I know the crops won’t grow on this soil,” Khan says. “It is as important as the seeds.”
It will take three months for the seeds to grow into a wheat crop, Khan says. “After the harvest, my family will be able to survive for six or seven months with the income from this crop. Right now we are only surviving on aid.”
A fellow farmer, Obaid Ullah, 44, is helping Khan to load the seed onto the cart. Before the flood he barely supported his wife and six children by renting fields to farm. He paid $830 a year to rent his latest field and in good times might turn a yearly profit of $600 or $700, supplemented by a little income brought in by his wife from sewing. This is not a good time. Obaid lost his house and possessions and his livestock and crops in the flood. Part of his land was washed away as well.
“Everything was lost!” he exclaims. “Where my house once stood, the river is now there.”
Obaid has moved his family to a new area and is starting over. “I will plant these seeds in a field that I am renting from a land owner. God willing in six or seven months we will have enough to buy food and some household items. “
Obaid says he knows it will take time but that with the help of the IRC he is optimistic that things will get better. “We can’t get back all that we lost. But these seeds and the crops that will grow from them will help us recover from the floods. I thank the IRC for this assistance.”
As Khan, Obaid, and other farmers gather at the seed distribution point, a group of young girls have gathered to see what the commotion is in their usually quiet village is about. A girl named Azra watches the scene with a hopeful smile. These seeds will grow into much needed crops that will provide income for many families, she explains. Slowly and steadily, these seeds will help people get back on their feet.
Donate Now: Make an urgent donation to the IRC and help deliver lifesaving water, shelter, sanitation, health care, and other vital resources to the survivors of the Pakistan flooding.