FAO in Pakistan

Promoting sustainable agriculture-based solutions for local farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

Muhammad Farooq, a small-holder farmer from Ambar Tehsil of District Mohmand in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province lives jointly with his seven children and extended family. With 30 people of the family living under the same roof, Farooq took up beekeeping and small-scale vegetable production to help meet the increasing household expenses. 

Illicit crop cultivation was common practice in the mountainous terrain of district Mohmand, an area situated in the heart of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. These practices were discouraged, however, in order for any such call to be successful, alternative crops needed to be introduced which would give farmers the same amount of benefits that they received earlier. 

Muhammad Farooq was amongst the three selected farmers from Tehsil Ambar who received 24 000 bulbs each of imported gladiolus from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under a US-INL supported pilot initiative. With the 24 000 gladiolus bulbs he received, he set up his own gladiolus farm – allocating 5 kanals of land to plant the gladiolus bulbs. With proper guidance and support provided at every stage of the crop growing process, Muhammad Farooq learned new skills which helped him successfully establish this new venture.

Farooq was also amongst the 17 farmers who visited Mansehra district on an exposure visit to meet progressive growers of gladiolus flowers. He then travelled to Peshawar where he met flower buyers and traders. “It was a dream come true!” said Muhammad Farooq. “Some buyers from Peshawar even offered to buy standing crops. I decided to explore and understand better the local market in Peshawar before I went ahead with selling the plants.” 

He joined a collective marketing group of gladiolus farmers through which he met a buyer in Peshawar. At PKR20 per flower stick, the buyer offered to pay more than what he had expected for the gladiolus flowers. “Now that we were collectively bargaining, we were able to set a higher price for our flowers. The transportation costs also reduced significantly as we could transport our flowers together,” said Muhammad Farooq. 

Within a short duration of 2 months Farooq had already harvested 22 180 sticks of gladiolus flowers that he sold at PKR 395 943. His income had increased ten-fold since last year and his circumstances had taken a turn for the better. 

For years, Farooq had dreamed of owning a tractor, however, he never had enough savings to buy one. With a significant increase in profits this year, he could now use the money to buy a tractor. He would use this tractor for his own land and also rent it to other farmers to further increase his income by PKR2 000 – 3 000 per day on average. 

With an extra income he could now provide quality education, nutritious food and good clothes to his children. He used the remaining savings to install solar panels for his tubewell and also brought some additional land under cultivation. While replanting the gladiolus bulbs for a second season, Farooq was hopeful that he would be able to scale-up his business in the foreseeable future to also include rose farming. He hoped to expand his business to local markets in Karachi.

The value chain development approach is key to successful introduction of gladiolus as an alternative crop. The introduction of alternative high value crops in the poppy growing areas is vital for the eradication of illicit crops and will contribute to increasing livelihood opportunities and economic growth for the Tribal Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.