SWAT: Swat valley is not only famous for its dazzling beauty and tourism, but also for the delicious and quality fruits. Swat produces some of the best apples, peaches, persimmons and strawberries. Its off-season fruits cater not only national but also international markets. It had been the largest producer of strawberries in the country. Onions, cabbage, turnips and potatoes from Swat are also famous.
Unfortunately, the militancy took its toll on the agriculture sector as the local Taliban blocked all access to fruit and vegetable markets across the county for three years. The monsoon floods multiplied their troubles as 60 per cent, or 150,000 of 250,000 acres of land was washed away by the floods. The government has taken no initiative for the rehabilitation of agriculture.
Speaking at a farmers’ conference organised by Apple Growers Association in Swat and Pakistan Oil and Seed Development Board, Swat, Apple Growers Association President Salahuddin said, the militancy paralysed the economy and cost up to Rs8 million per annum in earnings, then the flood washed away 60 per cent of the agricultural land and irrigation channels.
“If the irrigation channels are not restored immediately, the rest of the land will go barren and be completely useless,” he added.
Abdul Qayyum, a farmer from Arkot area of Tehsil Matta was upset with the government, telling The Express Tribune, “Our valuable fruits could not reach the markets for three years, then the floods destroyed us, but neither has the government nor any NGO helped us in a true sense.”
He demanded of the government to restore irrigation channels and provide fertilizers, seeds and interest-free loans to the farmers.
Regarding the scores of issues presented by the farmers, District Agriculture Officer Fazal Maula, said, “We have estimated the total loss and submitted report to the government, NGOs and UN agencies, the Provincial Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority. Based on our reports different NGOs have initiated activities here.
The federal government has also approved a recovery plan and different schemes for the rehabilitation of agriculture will soon start in the Swat valley.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2011.