Of a wild nature: Indigenous plant helps small enterprises in Mohmand Agency

Profitable products such as hand fans, ropes, baskets can be made from parts of the ‘meazari’ plant.

Profitable products such as hand fans, ropes, baskets can be made from parts of the ‘meazari’ plant. DESIGN: KIRAN SHAHID


Meazari, an indigenous reed which grows on a large-scale in Mohmand Agency, has the potential to be a great source of income, maintain forest officials and local inhabitants.

The leaves and stalks of meazari are used to make a number of handmade goods. Those in most demand are decorated hand fans, baskets, charpoys, mats, hats, and ropes.  Most of these products are made by women and helps families earn a substantial profit, say locals.

According to the Agricultural University Peshawar’s former director general and botanical expert Aladad Khan, meazari is a local plant found in abundance in Kohat, Hangu and hilly areas of Kurram Agency. The name of the plant ‘meazari’ has also been used in academia. “Previously it was considered a wild plant; however after understanding its market value many farmers are now growing it in various rugged mountainous areas,” explains Aladad.

In Mohmand Agency, Ambar and Prang Ghar are said to be ripe for growing the plant. Farmers say they have also started cultivating meazari in Ghaljo Dara, Chargoli, Sangar, Shatemena and a few other areas in Mohmand Agency.

Farmers in Mohmand harvest meazari once a year and export the products made from it to towns and cities across the country. On average, a farmer might expect to earn Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 per month from the sale of such goods. Jandai Bazaar in Mardan is popular because of the handcrafted meazari products – it also supplies them to other parts of the country.

Forest Divisional Officer Muhammad Farooq says meazari is one of those plants which remain in an area for many years as its seeds easily survive buried underground. Harvesting part of the plant does not necessarily mean replanting all of it.

Meazari has been planted on 300 acres of land in Prang Ghar and another 200 acres in Ambar. Farooq explains the plant is sowed in June or July and harvested between October and March.

Roughly, one acre produces five to six mounds of meazari, and the price of one mound could range between Rs2,000 to Rs3,000, according to Farooq.

Anwar Syed, a farmer from Utmankhel, Ambar, finds the demand for handmade products made from meazari spikes in the summer. Prolonged stretches of load-shedding in the country has given a newfound need for hand fans and straw mats, the latter being a cool surface to sleep on.

Unfortunately, Anwar claims, agriculture officials do not help farmers sustain the growth and production of the reeds.

An official of the agriculture department in Mohmand Agency told The Express Tribune only 6% of the 22 hectres of cultivable land has easy access to water. “The traditional methods of cultivating and cutting meazari are proving to be a major factor behind the decline in its production.”

Farmers need to wait for three years before the plant can be cut. Its first year shoots should not be cut and leaves in the second year need to be cut in a sustainable manner.

Farooq says it would be beneficial to provide farmers with technical training in how to cut meazari instead of reducing the production of the plant.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2013.


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