It is August 2011and once more the monsoon season has begun in Pakistan. In the valley Swat, named after the broad river running through its depths, streams of grey-brown water are winding their way down the mountainsides. Between the numerous branches of the river, islands of gravel appear every now and then. Previously - before that moment in summer 2010 when the floods washed away everything - these islands used to be small fields.
Some of these fields belonged to the farmer Afreen Nawab, whose whole income is based on agriculture. Before the flood, the 28-year-old used to sell the apples from his orchard to resellers. In the end, he has always had enough money to take care of his wife and two small children. His orchards being just ten minutes away from the river, he depended on the Swat as a source of irrigation for his trees – just like everybody else in the village.
But their reliable partner became an enemy, a harbinger of the flood that destroyed everything that the villager had built up so arduously. “100 of my 200 trees simply disappeared”, Afreen Nawab explains. Without his regular harvest, he wouldn’t have had enough to live of – hadn’t there been the seeds distributed by Malteser International.
Now, Afreen Nawab proudly stands beside his corn field. The plants have almost grown up to his chin and he will soon be able to bring in his second harvest. With the revenue of this harvest, he will - step by step - rebuild his orchards.
Along the hills of the Swat valley, other farmers have set up field terraces again. Here, too, the effects of the floods had been disastrous – not because of the flooded river, but because of the torrential rainfalls harbouring landslides that washed away crops and land.
Today, the lush green hides the fact that many have lost their harvest and thus their livelihood. One of them is Umar Naeem, a tenant with no land he can call his own. Taking care of 11 family members, the flood could have ruined him.
“We gave him 16 kilos of each - corn and rice seeds - as well as fertilizers. But on this sloping terrain, erosion is a huge problem”, explains Niaz Ali. He is an agricultural expert of Lasoona, the local partner organization of Malteser International. That is why farmers like Umar Naeem receive not only seeds and fertilizers but also some training on how to best cultivate plants on steep terrain.
Dozens of men like Umar Naeem were trained by Niaz Ali and now share their acquired knowledge with the other villagers. “Even months after the training, people come and consult me”, says Umar Naeem. His son Ataullah is very happy that his family has found its footing again, because this way he can continue to go to school: “I want to become a doctor or an engineer – something to help the people.”
Alexander Bühler, summer 2011
Together with its partner organisation Lasoona, Malteser International identified 500 needy families in Pir Kalay district. In this process, every village of the district has been visited. The families then received seeds and fertilisers and were trained how to produce a maximum output. The aim was to help them make a new start after the losses they have experienced during the monsoon flood in 2010.