FAO in Pakistan

Paving Way for Better Income

New technologies introduced by the USAID-funded FAO Balochistan Agriculture Project enable a farmer to modernize his work, increase income

“My sheep have never been shorn so closely,” says Khair-Ud-Din watching one sheep after another shed their heavy fleeces of wool. As soon as the wool comes off the animal, two helpers start sorting it into separate bins for colour and quality, just as they were taught by FAO.

Khair-ud-Din belongs to a small but steadily growing group of Balochistan farmers who have replaced the traditional manual shears with mechanical equipment to shear sheep. The new technique was introduced in the province by the FAO Balochistan Agricultural Project, funded by USAID, to improve farmer productivity and incomes.

Khair-ud-Din lives in the village of Drug, Musakhel District, which is one of the areas supported by the FAO project. Just like all other farmers in the province, Khair-ud-Din used to shear his sheep using traditional shears. Despite his long years of experience, it used to take at least 30 minutes to remove the wool from just one animal, and two men had to hold the animal during the shearing. It took 2-3 days and a team of several men shear Khair-ud-Din’s entire flock of 75 sheep. No matter how the men tried, the fleece always came out very uneven, and large chunks of it remained on the animal. The wool sold at 22-25 Rupees (US$0.22-US$0.25) per kilogram at best; oftentimes, Khair-ud-Din simply gave the wool away.

The mechanical shearing introduced by FAO vastly reduces the time to remove the wool. Today, men like Khair-ud Din can shear as many as 60 sheep a day.  More importantly, the length of the wool is very even.  This property is very much valued by the wool merchants. Khair-ud-Din has also started pre-washing the sheep before shearing to make the shearing easier and to protect the machinery for damage. “The shearers work much faster on the pre-washed sheep, and the fleece is much nicer too,” explains the farmer who now teaches other men to use mechanical shears on the sheep. Both the sorting and pre-washing of the wool is done by the women, which enables them to earn some income.

Khair-ud-Din’s earnings are also much higher. “I had never been able to get such a high price before,” says Khair-ud-Din, who received 97 Rupees (US$0.97) per kilogram of white wool from a middleman. “Even the poorest quality wool was better than the product I used to sell before,”- he adds.

FAO has already trained over 60 shearers from 8 districts to use mechanical equipment and expects that over time, this trade will earn the shearers 50 Rupees (US$0.5) per sheep. “Right now, it costs farmers approximately PKR 60 per sheep to feed the shearers; we believe that the price for mechanical shearing will be attractive to the farmers, and provide a nice source of income to the men who take up shearing,” says Grant Vinning, FAO international Marketing Consultant.

To encourage the transfer of the new skill, FAO provides mechanical hand shears to master trainers like Khair-Ud-Din to shear the sheep for his neighbors and farmers in surrounding communities. “I will never go back to traditional shearing. The new technology is much better not only for me, but also for the animals,” says the farmer.