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Special Report:
Flood Crisis

1
 

 
Horticulture losses in Swat

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FARMERS of the vegetable and fruit-rich Swat valley estimate that the recent floods have inflicted ten times more losses than those suffered by them during militancy and military operations.

July is the peak season for various fruit and vegetables produced in the valley which are known for their taste and quality. The vegetable crops, fruit orchards and walnut trees have been washed away or damaged by the devastating floods.

Murad Ali Khan, president of Kissan Board Pakistan, Bakht Biland, general secretary of Kisan Board Swat, and Muhammad Naeem, president of Model Farm Services Centre Swat, were unanimous that the region had suffered huge devastations during the recent floods and windstorms. These would have serious short, medium and long-term repercussions for the subsistence farmers.

“The losses to agriculture in Swat, according to our estimates, during the militancy period were around Rs28 billion of which horticulture suffered around Rs14 billion. From what we have come to know after getting feedback from farmers in the area after the floods, the losses to farmers are ten times more than those inflicted on us by years of militancy. According to our estimates, around 60 per cent of fruit and vegetable production has been lost to the floods,” said Biland.

“Peaches that were at maturity stage have been washed away or dropped to the ground in most of upper Swat. With seemingly no hope of revival of communication infrastructure in the area soon, the apple production about to start, farmers may not find access to market and get wasted,” he added.

“I have lost paddy crop on 102 canals of my prime cultivable land along with trees on the sides in Matta. Richer farmers can afford the losses, but where will the poor amongst us go. They need immediate relief before a vigorous plan for their rehabilitation and recovery of irrigation and agriculture is put in place,” he suggested.

The floods have destroyed most of the irrigation infrastructure and it is feared that lack of irrigation water will severely hit the farmers.

“Around 6,500 acres under rice cultivation have been completely washed by floods in our area. It is and will not be cultivable as the river has changed its course and is flowing through these fields,” said Naeem.

“The crops that have remained safe will surely dry out soon as no water will be available for them,” he added.
 

 


Naeem said they were still waiting for the compensation they had been promised earlier. “The government, NGOs and the world community will help us but the major concern should be that the aid reaches the right people. “NGOs earlier had helped but as responsible officials and departments such as agriculture department and patwaris were not taken on board and the aid didn’t reach the eligible people. This should be guarded against this time,” he added.

“With no transportation is available and upper Swat areas like Kabal, Matta, Kalam etc. remain cut off from rest of the country due to land-slides. Fruits and vegetables that will be ready this month must be transported out of Swat or else they will be lost. This is unprecedented damage requiring urgent restoration of at least temporary road and bridge network,” said Khan.

To ensure food supplies, as a short term measure, the government should put in place temporary and folding bridges to restore transportation networks as soon as possible. Supply of subsidised or free agriculture inputs and easy loans to farmers also needs to be addressed.

Farmers take two to three crops from their fields alternatively and earn their livelihood. Water-logging and soil erosion caused by floods have deprived them of this income for this year. This inability of farmers to cultivate their fields and earn money would exacerbate their debt burden.

Donors and government should ensure that agriculture losses of the destitute farmers are rightly assessed and compensated. Besides, the government should arrange for tractors and other field levelling machinery for the affected farmers.

The soil erosion caused by floods has also created another problem: that of demarcation of fields. Farmers had placed stones as signs of demarcation to differentiate their farms. These signs swept away by slides and gushing water in several areas could cause problem of demarcation inflicting more financial losses on farmers.

Courtesy: The DAWN

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