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Pakistan farmers' livelihoods buried under flood mud
October 1, 2010 / 5:52 AM / 7 years ago

Pakistan farmers' livelihoods buried under flood mud

CHARSADDA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Farmer Mohammad Ayaz and his family took refuge on nearby treetops and stayed there for three days when floods ripped through their village.

A family takes refuge on top of a mosque while awaiting rescue from flood waters in Sanawa, a town located in the Muzaffar Ghar district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 5, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Weeks later, deep layers of sand, silt and dried mud cover an area where he once worked green, fertile fields.

Ayaz may not be able to generate income for two years unless expensive heavy machinery is quickly brought in to clear the area for future harvests.

“I miss the feeling of holding sugarcane and slicing it,” said Ayaz, recalling life before the floods which damaged or destroyed crops over an area of 2.4 million hectares in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s government will need to focus on reviving the livelihood of farmers like Ayaz in the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in the country’s history.

Agriculture is the mainstay of an economy that was already fragile before the floods destroyed bridges and roads and made 10 million people homeless. More than 1,750 people were killed.

Hundreds of nearby villages look like Ayaz‘s. Crops lie six feet underground in some areas. Labourers spend hours each day removing bricks lodged into solid dirt to clear small paths.

Floodwaters diverted the Swat River about a kilometer sideways, swallowing houses and drowning wheat, maize and sugarcane fields that can no longer produce.

As winter approaches, chances for unrest will increase if the government fails to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing and ensure food security.

“We are worried very seriously...We can’t do much about it. It’s basically the responsibility of the authorities,” International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies President Tadateru Konoe told Reuters after visiting Charsadda.

The government may be headed for another showdown with the judiciary, and media speculation is swirling that the military may try to manipulate politics to avoid instability, after Pakistani leaders’ perceived mishandling of the floods.

So it may be too busy to act decisively to tackle issues such as the farming crisis, possibly leaving Taliban insurgents a chance to recruit Pakistanis disillusioned with the government.

“The Taliban do bad things like behead people,” said Pakistan Red Crescent Movement Coordinator Muhammad Mazhar-ul-Islam.

“But if in four months the government has not given people relief and the Taliban come along and say ‘we will give you hope and dreams’ they will have a good chance of winning over people.”

Life for tenant farmers, like Rafi-ud-din, his father and five uncles, is particularly tough now. They have already paid their landlord rent money for the next two harvests.

“The floods were God’s will,” said Rafi-ud-din, standing beside a dry well. “Even if we ask for the rent back, we won’t get it.”

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