Govt urged to devise rehabilitation plan for displaced farmers

June 5, 2009 (DailyTimes)

* Officials say wheat and peach crops have almost perished in operation * Swat produces 18 percent of country’s total tomato crop

By Zakir Hassnain

PESHAWAR: A report prepared by South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP) and Punjab Lok Sujag (PLS), two non-governmental organisations (NGOs), suggested farmers belonging to Swat, Buner, Lower Dir, Shangla and other restive regions of Malakand division needed a well worked-out rehabilitation plan before they returned to their homes.

The report said the timing of military operation and ensuing displacement of people coincided with harvesting ripe wheat, fruits and other rabi crops and sowing of kharif crops in five troubled districts crippling economically over 226,000 farming families.

Presenting the report before the media, civil society members, politicians, peace activists and other segments of the society at Peshawar Press Club on Thursday, SAP Chief Executive Muhammad Tehsin and Rashid Chaudhary of PLS said 85 percent of farmers that suffered during the armed conflict in Malakand division were small crop growers and could not stand on their feet unless the government designed a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for them before their return to their homes.

According to joint study carried by SAP and PLS, around 1.9 million individuals from farming families rely fully or partly on agriculture to make a living while the total population of the conflict region stands at 4 million. The SAP and PLS officials said wheat and peach crops had almost perished in the current operation against terrorists while plums, pears, onion, tomato, other vegetables and tobacco were likely to rot in the fields if displaced farmers did not go back to their homes in the next few weeks.

The joint study points out that the insurgency-hit region excelled in cattle population in the province and had a sizeable population of buffalos and domesticated animals that were left unattended by the displaced people when they fled their homes. About 70 percent of the total households in the restive region bred animals. SAP-Sujag study suggests the government immediately start work on the rehabilitation plan involving financial support and other facilities and incentives for displaced farmers to help them stand on their own feet when they return to their homes.

According to the SAP-Sujag joint report, the devastation of crops and fruits will raise the market prices of peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes, apricots, and onions as the troubled region is a major producer of these commodities.

Three in every five peaches and one in three pears that Pakistanis enjoy come from Swat and its adjoining areas and affected districts.

Swat conflict zones produce 18 percent of total tomatoes produced in the country and Swat alone produces 13 percent in national production.

The study says the vegetable supplies from the troubled regions to other parts of the NWFP and other provinces were 37 percent.

SAP’s Tehsin said 85 percent people of Swat valley were poor and their only source of income was agriculture. He said these people left standing crops behind them when they migrated from the conflict-hit areas to safer places. Tehsin said 85 percent of total crop growers were small farmers, 14 percent medium and one percent large farmers.

Sujag’s Rashid said total cow and buffalo population in the valley was 1275,000 while one in five buffalos and one in seven cows were from the conflict zone. He said Buner was rich in camels. He said the biggest problem of the internally displaced farmers would be lack of money. Rashid said they would have nothing to eat for a year when they returned to their homes. The government should therefore devise a plan for their rehabilitation.


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