SWAT: The impact of flood has been two-fold in the Swat Valley: On the one hand, it has destroyed infrastructure, disrupting the social fabric, and on the other it washed away valuable farmland and standing crops, rendering the already poor people without any means to survive, making their lives more miserable.
According to one estimate, 28,000 acres of agricultural land has been washed away, including 10,000 acres over which vegetables used to grow.
Most farmers here grew tomato, cabbage, turnip, peas, spinach, potatoes and rice, earning them a handsome livelihood and fulfilling the demand of nearby markets.
But floods have not only destroyed the crops, but also rendered the farmers unemployed and without a means to survive the hard times.
Bacha Sardar, a farmer from the Nawa Kaley area told The Express Tribune: “I have been working as a farmer since my childhood. This is my ancestral profession. Floods washed away my entire land holding near the Swat Police Lines. It now looks like a desolate area filled with sand and stones. We used to harvest as much as 10 tons of rice from that land every year.”
Amir Rahman, another farmer of the same area, said: “Farmers’ losses are one issue, but I think the rehabilitation of farmlands is more crucial. I know it will be very hard. We will need fresh soil to cover areas where hard rock surface has emerged. We will also need a lot of fertilisers and agro-chemicals to restore the soil’s productiveness. Floodwaters weaken the soil and reduce the land’s fertility, rendering it barren.”
Referring to his current means of livelihood, he said: “Nowadays, some of us (farmers) are working as labourers. Some have found work in the cosmetics industry, but most of us are without any kind of work. There was nothing much to do in Swat even in normal times, but now there is no work to be found.”
An officer of the Swat Farming Department Mazullah Khan told The Express Tribune: “Farmers’ losses are three-fold: Some of them have permanently lost their land as floods have completely washed it away and there are some tracts over which the river is now flowing with stones lying on its banks. This land cannot be rehabilitated any time soon. It will take a very long time to restore it to its full production capacity. Then there are low-lying lands over which rice was grown. Floods have washed away some topsoil, erasing all demarcations. This land can be rehabilitated but it will take time to restore it to its full capacity. The third of type of land is where flood waters only destroyed crop grown over it. This can be readily rehabilitated. It only needs removal of sand, requiring a thorough ploughing. Farming must be restarted immediately in such areas so that its owners can earn livelihoods and start supplying local markets.”
Talking about the extent to which the government was willing to cooperate with these farmers, he said: “Our department is ready to support them in any way we can. We can give them technical support as well as useful advice. We can tell them about new seasonal crops that they can grow. But the government can do nothing alone to overcome effects of such a calamity. NGOs and farmers themselves need to take steps to restore their lands. We all have to do our part to effectively tackle the issue.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2010.