FAO in Pakistan

A Ray of Hope

Emergency Support to the Restoration of Agricultural-Based Livelihoods of Returned Families in Kurram Agency of FATA (OSRO/PAK/301/BEL)

Much like thousands of other people in the predominantly rural Kurram Agency of FATA, 45-year old Ghani ur-Rahman and his family of six used to depend on agriculture and livestock for livelihood in the village of MuzaffarKot, Lower Kurram. Ghani used to grow most of his food on his two-acre plot.

When a sectarian conflict broke out in the Kurram Agency in 2008, Ghani’s family fled their village leaving all their belongings behind.  Their search for a safer place to live brought the family to Peshawar District of Khyber Pakhtunkkhwa Province hours away from home.  Ghani and his family spent the next five years struggling to make ends meet, afraid to go back even for a short visit.

The conflict affected every aspect of life for communities in Kurram. More than four million people were displaced to other areas. Those who stayed in their homes had their movement severely restricted. Agricultural fields, the only source of living for majority of the local population, were abandoned. Large numbers of livestock were either lost or sold at depressed prices, their shelters were destroyed, and a significant part of animal feed resources (including wheat straw, maize stock and fodder seeds) perished.

While almost 3 million of the displaced residents returned to their villages over time, another escalation of hostilities in 2013 pushed yet more people out of their homes.  By June 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered more than 9,000 internally displaced families. While most of the refugees stayed with their relatives, approximately 14 percent lived in camps the government had established.  When the Government of Pakistan initiated the return of internally displaced persons to the Kurram Agency, displaced families had very little hope for resuming their lives as they had been before.

Ghani and his family headed back to their village in December 2012. “I had no idea how I was going to cultivate my land,” said Ghani. The five years in exile left him no money to start farming again.

To help communities restore their livelihoods, FAO provided 2,770 farmers in the Kurram Agency with high-yielding Faisalabad 2008 variety of wheat seeds, fertilizer and vegetable seeds. Each farmer received enough seed and fertilizer to plant wheat on one acre of land. The vegetable seeds were to help the families set up homestead gardens to supply food until the wheat harvest.  FAO also offered training on improved technologies for wheat production to the farmers.

Ghani was one of the Kuram residents who received support from FAO.
The next several months went by preparing the land, planting wheat and vegetables, and applying all the new knowledge that the farmers received from the FAO training. Before too long, the fields were covered with a lush green carpet of wheat, and the farmers began harboring more and more hopes for a better tomorrow.

But nothing could compare to the joy of harvest. “Thanks to the quality inputs from FAO and good weather, this year, I harvested almost 2 tons from the acre of land planted with the Faisalabad 2008 seed instead of 480-600 kilograms I used to get before,” said Ghani. 

Ghani set aside 240 kilograms of wheat for next year’s seed and 640 kilograms of wheat for food, estimating that this amount would last the family for 4-5 months. The remaining 1,080 kilograms were sold for 32,400 Rupees (US$324). Additionally, Ghani made 15,000 Rupees (US$150) from the sale of wheat straw, which gave him a total of 47,000 Rupees (US$470) in revenues. 

“I am happy that my family will not have to worry about food this year. Even better, the seed I have set aside will ensure good harvests for the years to come,” said Ghani. “FAO support has given me a great foundation to resume the living on my land.”