FAO in Pakistan

Opening New Horizons

 “Women should help their husbands earn money so that their families can live a better life,” says Hamdi Maojee.  Hamdi is one of the beneficiaries under the FAO project entitled, Livelihood Restoration and Protection and Sustainable Empowerment of Vulnerable Peasant Communities in Sindh Province. She used FAO support to start a small business and boost her family’s earnings.

Hamdi lives with her husband Mr. Maojee and two sons, 7 and 11, in a small village of Sanjar Khaskheli in Mirpurkhas District, Sindh Province. “My husband is a laborer; he barely makes enough living for the most essential needs,” says Hamdi. “Our life is very poor.”

One day, Hamdi heard that FAO is launching a Women’s Open School to help women in her community learn about kitchen gardening and joined it. “Our landlord was upset about my decision. He said women should spend their time working in the fields rather than attend training courses,” says Hamdi. “But my husband supported me.”

FAO organized a group of 25 women to work together on a communal kitchen garden to learn and test best practices on growing vegetables. The women met once a week to prepare the soil, plant the seeds and conduct other gardening chores while comparing the traditional ways with new methods suggested by FAO.  The school discussed the nutritional value of the vegetables, harmful and beneficial insects, and a variety of other topics related to gardening.

Hamdi became one of the most active participants of the group, eagerly following all the techniques discussed. “I even learned to write my name during these sessions,” says Hamdi. She also set up a small kitchen garden near her home where she applied all the methods learned. 

Soon, Hamdi’s garden began producing vegetables, and she started selling them with her husband’s support. As the sales kept increasing, Hamdi and Maojee realized that their small plot of land and a share of the collective plot at the Women’s Open School cannot produce enough vegetables to meet demand.  The couple spoke to other villagers and offered to sell vegetables on their behalf. 

Hamdi and Maojee started collecting 700-800 Rupees worth of vegetables a day from their neighbors and rented a push-cart for 50 Rupees a day to transport the produce to the nearest communities. At first, profits were low, but over time, their business started picking up, and income became better and better. “We now earn some 500 Rupees per day,” says Hamdi, “but we want to be selling more vegetables. There’s a lot of demand for them,” she adds. The couple plans to purchase their own push- cart and dreams about opening a vegetable shop in the nearby town as soon as they save enough money.

Most of their earnings pay for the family’s daily living, but part of the money is set aside for a rainy day. “We also use this money to send our sons to school,” says Hamdi. “The FAO project has taught me that education is key to a better life for the family,” says Hamdi.