FAO in Pakistan

Saving Livestock from Starvation

Under the IDPs Livestock Support Project, FAO partners with donor agencies to help displaced farmers protect their livestock

Fifty-six year old Zoorowar Khan lifts a large container filled with concentrated feed, milking implements, plastic sheet and other materials for animal shelter dotted with the logos of FAO and USAID, and smiles with relief. “Thanks to this support, I will be able to take a better care of my animals, so that they produce more milk for our family,” said Zoorowar, one of 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan who have received livestock assistance from the FAO and USAID IDP Livestock Support Project.

Zoorowar, his wife, and four school-aged children used to live a comfortable life in Saroobi Village not far from Miran Shah, the capital of the North Waziristan Agency in FATA.  Zoorawar used to earn a living by driving a truck and farming.  Each year, he produced approximately 2 tons of wheat, 1 ton of maize, and 2.5-3 tons of potatoes on his 5 acres of land. His 58 heads of livestock (8 cows, 40 sheep, and 10 goats) provided plenty of milk and meat. Children went to school, and Zoorowar hoped that one day, they will go to college - the first ones in his family.

Their lives were drastically disrupted in May 2014, when the government informed North Waziristan communities about the military operation to be launched against terrorists. Zoorowar packed his children, most important possessions, and  as much livestock as he could, and fled his home, leaving the recently harvested winter crops and all of his property behind.

The military operation in North Waziristan displaced more than 100,000 families (1.3 million people) from their homes. Many of them moved to Bannu District of the neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, bringing along more than 350,000 livestock as a source of food and livelihoods. Many more animals were left behind or perished during the exile due to exertion and blistering summer heat.

Zoorowar lost 25 animals during the move, and arrived to Bannu with only one cow and 25 sheep and goats.  Soon, he discovered that even the smaller number of animals is difficult to take care of: Pastureland was scarce and very poor around Bannu, and animals were not able to get enough nutrients from grazing. To keep his animals from starvation, Zoorowar was buying 30 kilograms of wheat straw for 350-500 Rupees (US$3.5-5) every 2-3 days , but the money was running out fast, and the man became increasingly more concerned that soon, he would have to sell some of the animals. “I am unable to provide for myself or my children, how can I provide for my animals?” said Zoorowar.

Lack of feed and shelter affected the milk production too. “At home, we used to produce enough milk not only for our family, but also to share with our neighbors,” said Zoorowar. “Now, we don’t even have enough milk for ourselves.”

In late autumn, a visiting livestock department worker told Zoorowar that FAO, with funding from USAID, was offering livestock assistance to farmers like him.  Zoorowar immediately applied for assistance from the project. Upon verification of his situation, Zoorowar received a package of animal feed and implements for feeding and milking, while his animals received vaccination and de-worming medicine.

By early 2015, the USAID and FAO project delivered support for 10,000 vulnerable families displaced from North Waziristan and vaccinated more than 120,000 of their animals.  The families received 10,000 animal feed packages and implements for milking and feeding;1,000 sets of plastic sheeting, rope, and bamboo polls for temporary animal shelter; and 9,800 packages of vegetable seed to enable farmers to grow some food.

While all assistance was important, Zoorowar noted that feed support during the winter was especially appreciated by the farmers due to the severe shortage of fodder in the fields this time of the year. “We badly needed such relief,” said Zoorowar. “Now we will be able to keep our animals alive and more healthy, so that we can feed ourselves and our families.”