Farmers have started harvesting of wheat crop to ensure food availability during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Rabi crop that was sown before the onset of COVID-19 is providing much-needed relief to local farmers in North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Khyber, Orakzai, and Kurram districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province whose livelihoods have been severely disrupted due to the ongoing crisis.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with support from UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) provided improved climate-resilient certified wheat seeds to 8000 households, out of which 410 were female-headed households, to support the conservation of agriculture practices in the newly merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 50 kilograms of certified seeds were provided to each family. The expected yield will help counter the difficulties being faced by local farmers who heavily rely on agriculture-based livelihoods. The harvest will also provide a relief to smallholder farmers who can use the wheat for their own consumption at a time when agriculture and markets are being affected due to the lockdown.
“Small holder farmers in these areas are extremely vulnerable to any shocks to their agriculture system, and they now also face higher risks in agriculture production due to the COVID-19 outbreak, making their livelihoods even more precarious. It is necessary therefore to help men and women ensure the continuity of work in the fields and along the supply chain, while mitigating the risk of infections. In these difficult times, adapting the way to work in the fields and along the value chain with physical distancing and hygiene practices at every step has proven to be a good coping strategy to deal with food insecurity and securing livelihoods,” said Minà Dowlatchahi, FAO Representative in Pakistan.
Through the project, FAO aims to support resumption of agriculture production, reduction of poverty and economic inequality through sustainable agriculture development; establishment of vegetable enterprises, integration of natural resources management and agri-value chain development.
The completion of a successful six-month cycle of wheat production along with other Rabi crops in the tribal districts has given hope to local farmers. The anticipated high-production season of Rabi crops is subject to resumption of agro-economic activities in a ‘smart’ lockdown mode and with physical distancing and hygiene SOPs implemented to ensure food security and secure livelihoods for vulnerable communities in the area amid the COVID-19 pandemic.