Reviving livelihood of flood-hit people

By Manzoor Chandio
Nov 1, 2010

AS floodwaters slowly recede, people are returning to their native areas. With no disaster recovery plan in sight, it’s sure they will not be able to earn their livelihood because the entire place has been turned into debris.
Destroyed farms, cattle pens, shops and small cottage industries are a common scene in flood-hit areas. One such area is Khairpur Nathan Shah in Dadu district. There is a general feeling among owners of small businesses that it will take many years before their lives return to normal.
K. N. Shah located on the Indus highway was the main business centre between Dadu and Larkana. The town and its adjoining farmlands were ravaged by floods from the breaches in the main Nara valley (MNV) drain.
Among the crops worst hit were rice, cotton, sugarcane, vegetables and animal feed. Hundreds of shops along the main road and Shahi Bazaar have been damaged. Even pucca shops have developed cracks.
Traders returning to the town have been frustrated on discovering damages to their shops. Their future looks downright gloomy.
They told this scribe during a recent visit to the town that even if they restart their businesses, they will have to wait for customers from villages whose farmlands have also been destroyed.
They said, most of their customers were farmers living in the town’s adjoining villages. Farmers have been crippled financially with their crops and cattle washed away.
“Even if we rebuild our shops and start business unless the farming community is not able to cultivate one crop we’ll not be able to earn enough,” they said.
There is a faint chance of quick revival of destroyed infrastructure, roads and rail network and repair of public service buildings.
According to Zafar Junejo of Thardeep Rural Development Programme, some 224,630 acres of land with standing crop of paddy was inundated and some 1,785 cattle died during the recent flood in Dadu district.
He said that initially the TRDP provided boats and vehicles to rescue people and then supplied potable water and cooked food. But it will take time to help people in reviving their livelihoods by giving them small loans.
A good sign was that almost all people wanted to fend for themselves by starting their shops as soon as possible, instead of getting alms from the government.
“I have no hope the government will help me to rebuild my house,” said Abdullah Soomro. He said his family had lost its two bread earners during the flood and the government had not yet compensated for their deaths.
Aslam Shaikh, a cable operator from the town, said he wanted to resume his own business of cable service which he had started with the investment of Rs2.5 million, but the building from which he ran the cable system had developed cracks.
He said that he saved the devices but the cable network in the town was destroyed. Similarly, the town’s rice mills were under water.
It is very important that people must start earning themselves, instead of getting food and other services from the government and NGOs.
Mr Junejo said that self-motivation of people to restart their businesses was important, but they will need loans for it. Farmers will need seeds, fertilisers and tractors for removing debris from their land. Businessmen will need reconstruction of destroyed shops and small-scale cottage industries.
Livestock has also been hit because farmers were forced to abandon or sell their cattle and poultry in half prices in order to escape the floods. The government and philanthropists provided food for people but there were no plans to supply feed for animals. Thousands of cattle have died of hunger and diseases.
It’s important to provide goats, sheep and buffaloes to rural communities because rearing animals is the main occupation of the people.
Mr Junejo said that for restarting the whole cycle of business it was imperative that there should be schemes for empowering rural communities by providing small loans to purchase animals.
K. N. Shah has never remained food-deficit area, but the reduction in cereal production during floods could cause hunger. Two deaths by hunger have already been reported from the area. However, it appeared from the government inaction that overall prospects for the Rabi harvest are not bright.

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