Further food insecurity : Monsoon flooding devastates cash crops

K-P’s farmers rue the loss of their only source of income and are worried for future


Wisal Yousafzai August 22, 2022
Heavy rains continue to lash Dera Ghazi Khan and the surrounding areas, triggering roof collapses and flash-floods across the region. The collapse of a major bridge has cut off the area from the rest of the country. Photos: Express

PESHAWAR:

The monsoon season has been the true embodiment of when it rains, it pours for the farmers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) who have been left devastated by the destruction the torrential downpour induced flooding has caused to crops.

Many who spent months preparing their fields and sowing seeds could only watch in horror as the muddy waters swept away their hard work and source of income in a matter of minutes. 45-year-old Javed Khan, who belongs to Tank district in K-P, is amongst the hundreds of agriculturists in the province who lost their crop of maize and other vegetables. “I lost all my crops which were the only source of income for my family,” Javed lamented, adding that he was immensely worried about how he would put food on the table now.

According to recent data released by the Directorate of Crop Reporting Services, 778,724 acres of farmland was impacted by the flood out of which 14,592 acres was severely damaged. Resultantly, production losses of crops presently stand at 16,491 tons which translates into financial losses across the province of more than Rs 3,300 million.

Javed and other farmers, who cultivate maize, incurred losses amounting to Rs 368.09 million, as per the report. However, those who plant dates, suffered the most, with a financial loss of Rs 2,754.05 million; followed by vegetable farmers losing Rs 145.28 million; pulses at Rs 50.86 million; tobacco agriculturists in Swabi and Charsadda recording losses of Rs 22.70 million; rice farmers at Rs 11.81 million; and those who maintain orchards suffered financial losses of Rs 5.52 million.

Sajid Khan, Assistant Director, at the Agriculture Research Centre, commenting on the pecuniary losses, said the huge devastation was a long term worry as lands affected by the flooding would take many years to grow crops again.

Professor Dr Ihsan Qazi, from the Department of Food Science and Technology, at the University of Agriculture, Peshawar, shares Sajid’s concerns. “The food insecurity in the province will further increase and people will be in dire straits,” he predicted. Dr Ihsan informed that pregnant women and children would be the worst affectees of the predicament that awaited K-P. “We will begin to see a rise in stunted growth, along with the rise of anaemia and other diseases in the near future.”

However, Dr Ihsan believes that the loss of crops could have been prevented. “When the metrology department had warned about the flooding, more could have been done to secure the food and crops,” the professor opined. When asked to elaborate on measures that could have been taken, Dr Ihsan replied that there is a dearth of cold storages in the province and perhaps building more would be a good place to start. “In circumstances like floods or other natural disasters, we should have cold storages operated by the government, in which farmers can secure their crops.” The professor believes that steps such as cold storages are even more relevant given the threat of climate change. “These natural disasters will only increase in the future as we the country is quite vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Therefore, the provincial government and agriculture department should work on an emergency basis to take precautionary measures,” Dr Ihsan suggested while talking to The Express Tribune.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2022.

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