International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Grain means survival

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Grain is at the center of life for most farmers in Pakistan. The International Rescue Committee is working to help the poorest farmers, many of whom are still struggling to recover from the devastating floods of 2010, protect that essential crop. As the IRC’s Ned Colt reports from northern Pakistan, the hope is that the project can be expanded to include thousands more farm families. (Posted January 31, 2012)

Video Transcript

Grain means survival for most of Pakistan’s farmers like Anwar Ayaz. The 28-year-old father of five carries his wheat to the village mill once a week, grinds it, then brings the flour home where it’s  made into the flat bread  that rural villagers eat as their staple food.

Whether wheat, rice or corn each tiny grain represents food, health and income for the coming year. The best seed is saved to sow again for the next season’s crop.

But last year’s record floods demonstrated how Pakistan’s farmers can easily lose everything. The floods wiped out grain crops in an area the size of England and farmers lost most of their seed stock, which is often stored in mud huts like this.

<< The water came here, up to this point. >>

They’re vulnerable not only to moisture but to rats and insects. Typically 50% of the grain is lost in storage every year.

Anwar Ayaz  is one of 95 farmers the IRC chose to receive a new storage container last August. That’s it on the wood stand. It’s commonly called a “cocoon” and until now has never been used in Pakistan.
In a typical year, Anwar... says, we lose half our grain to rats, insects and moisture. With these “cocoons” we haven’t lost a single kernel of wheat.

Anwar and other farmers learned about the storage containers at a village meeting in August. The IRC showed them how the “cocoon” holds as much as a ton of grain. And because the bags are made of rugged rubber they are impervious to water and rodents. And being airtight any insects in the grain die without the use of unhealthy insecticides. Almost 100 farmers completed the training, signing by thumb print or pen, and then heading home with their black-wrapped cocoons.

And while the cocoons aren’t cheap at $200 per bag, Anwar says he’s astounding at the results. He hasn’t lost any of his grain. It’s as though he’s harvested twice as much.

Thanks to volunteer Fabien P. for this transcription.