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Jackie Dent is a former journalist who has worked for Reuters, The Guardian, Monocle, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Much of Pakistan’s farmland is near its main waterways, which means farmers saw the worst of the recent flooding. Unless they are able to get back to their fields soon, they risk missing the next planting season, which would mean more and worse hunger in the near future.
ISLAMABAD--The distribution point at the Peer Jo Goth Government College is buzzing in the afternoon heat. Men with dyed red beards wait patiently in line while women with bangles all the way up their arms haul sacks of food onto donkeys tethered to carts.
Two large and colourful Pakistani trucks are full with bags of rice and oil and by the end of the day it will have been distributed to around 1,000 families affected by the devastating Pakistani floods. But behind the hive of activity and swathes of bright colour, many of these people are living with utter devastation.
Shaman Fakir, a father of 12, has traveled 12 km by donkey to reach this distribution point in Khaipur district in Sindh. A sugarcane and cotton farmer, his four acre plot was entirely wiped out when the floods struck a month ago. Since then, he and his family have been living on a mound, the highest point in their village.
“We had 30 houses in our village and everything is gone,” he says. Most of the people have had no option but to move. “All of us have lost everything.”
The floods that struck Pakistan in late July and early August has hit the farming sector hardest. Some 17 million acres of farmland were lost to the floodwaters together with seeds and machinery.
Unless farmers are able to return to their fields soon, they will be unable to plant for the winter—a scenario which could create rising prices and food shortages in a country already shouldering the burden of a major natural disaster.
A precarious existence
Just as devastating, the floods killed around 1.2 million head of livestock, with over 14 million at risk due animal diseases and shortages of feed. Families that managed to escape the floods with their animals are now unable to live in camps, and it is a common sight to see the roads lined with displaced families living alongside their buffalo, sheep and cows.
Surveys have found that the main income for more than half of the population in flooded areas was agricultural crop farming while others survived on casual wage labour and livestock rearing.
To help them, WFP has launched projects that will supply them with food, and in some cases seeds, in exchange for work repairing the flood damage.