FAO in Pakistan

Weaving a Better Future

Thousands of women improve their income and lives with support from the USAID-funded FAO Balochistan Agricultural Project

“Now that I earn more money, I am able to send my children to school,” says Fatima, a 40 year-old widow from Sraghurgai Village in Quetta District of Balochistan. Fatima is one of the thousands of women whose lives have become better through assistance from the FAO Balochistan Agricultural Project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 

“Thanks to the project, my income has doubled,” says Fatima, wrapping her face more tightly in a colorful scarf she is wearing. The only part of her face that still shows are the eyes, beautifully highlighted with the traditional charcoal black liner, telling the story of her life. 

Fatima’s husband was killed in Afghanistan five years ago, and since then she has been the sole breadwinner for her eight children, the youngest of whom is barely five while the oldest – 20 years of age. She has been earning a living by making embroideries, small carpet pieces and other textiles for her neighbors. “Most of the time, they only paid a couple of hundred rupees per item, and it barely put food on the table,” says Fatima. To earn a little bit more money, Fatima also did various chores for her neighbors. “I could not even afford to send my children to school.”

Fatima’s life began changing when in 2012, the FAO Balochistan Agricultural Project started working in her village. Fatima was identified as one of the people in need of support. Through participation in the project, Fatima learned new carpet weaving techniques, started dying her yarns and received a spinning wheel. “Before, I used to spin yarn by hand. Now I can spin wool much faster and more easily,” says Fatima as she continues working on a small carpet. One knot follows another to become a row that gets expertly tightened with a heavy comb, and soon, a pattern begins to emerge on the loom.

To increase her profits, the project helped Fatima and a group of other women who work with textiles form a Farmer Marketing Collective. Through this organization, the women are able to sell their products to bulk buyers, buy yarn and other inputs of their work at lower prices and have more bargaining power, all of which translates into more income. With the project’s support, the women also visited major markets in Lahore and Jhang and established direct contacts with larger-scale buyers. “I used to sell my products from home; the only buyers were my neighbors in the village. Now, most of my pieces go to bulk byers who pay much more money,” says Fatima.

The increased earnings have enabled Fatima to provide a better life for her family. But most importantly for this mother of eight, her children are now able to go to school. “My older children never had a chance to receive education, but at least I can give it to my little ones,” says Fatima.