FAO in Pakistan

Climbing out of Debts, with FAO's Support

Support for the recovery of agriculture based livelihoods of vulnerable farmers affected by 2012 floods of Sindh and Balochistan Provinces in Pakistan (OSRO/PAK/304/UK)

“I am so grateful for FAO assistance. It allowed me to cultivate my fields and saved me from an unbearable financial burden,” says Shakal Khan, one of the 12,000 beneficiaries of the FAO project which provided support to flood-affected vulnerable farmers in Kashmore and Jacobabad districts of Sindh and Jaffarabad District of Baluchistan. The project was implemented by FAO local partner, ACTED NGO and funded by DFID.

Shakal lives in Kajli Union Council, Kashmore District of Sindh Province with his wife, daughter and five sons, one of whom is physically disabled. Just as his forefathers have done before him, Shakal has been earning a living by growing wheat on a plot of land he rents from a local land owner. Despite his back-breaking work, the money was always short.

Life took a turn for the worse when the village got hit by the floods. The fields remained submerged under water for months, and most of Shakal’s rice crop perished. The harvest was so small that after paying the men who helped to cut the rice, Shakal had no money left for anything else. “The damage to my crops hit me both financially and emotionally,” says Shakal. “I had bought the seeds on credit, but because of the low yield, I had no money to repay it.”

Shakal’s worries grew even bigger with the approach of winter: He had no money to buy seeds for the winter planting season (locally called Rabi). “I did not dare to ask the shopkeeper for more credit,” says Shakal.

A small hope was ignited when Shakal heard that some humanitarian agencies were assisting poor farmers with agricultural inputs in his area. Yet Shakal feared that support would not reach people like him.

To his relief, Shakal was selected to receive assistance under a FAO project which was providing support to flood-affected vulnerable farmers in Sindh and Baluchistan. “Contrary to my fears, not only did I receive seeds and fertilizer for the Rabi planting season, but the project team treated me with respect,” says Shakal.

Shakal received from FAO 50 kilograms of wheat seed and 100 kilograms of fertilizer (50 kilograms of DAP and 50 kilograms of Urea) for a one-acre plot of land. To make sure that the family has enough food on their tables until the harvest comes, FAO provided the farmer with 0.5 kilogram of vegetable seeds for kitchen gardening. Shakeel and other farmers were also taught how to plant and manage their crops to maximize yields.

In late spring, FAO assistance finally brought fruit: Shakal harvested 1,800 kilograms of wheat from the FAO-sponsored seed.  Shakal gave half of the harvest to his landlord in lieu of payment for the land, put some of the wheat aside for food as well as for next year’s planting season. The rest was sold and earned PKR27,000 for Shakal’s family. “First of all, I used this money to return my debts,” says Shakal hoping that he would never have to purchase anything on credit. “FAO not only helped me in the hour of need, but gave me skills to earn more income for the years to come,” says Shakal.