May 10, 2011

Sindh: Dadu Farmers Migrate To Greener Pastures

Farmers from Sindh’s Dadu district have been forced to migrate with their families to greener pastures in search of an honest living, as cultivation as well as rearing livestock is almost impossible in the face of the severe water shortage that plagues the region.


Below is an article published by: The News International.

It was only nine months ago when last year’s devastating floods displaced a number of families in the area.

The 1.9 million acres of Dadu’s cultivable land is divided into two parts; the Barrage Zone that is watered through canals, and the arid zone of Kachho, where people are dependant on rain as their primary source of water supply.

The tail-end canal areas fall at the mouth of the parched Kachho region. Due to an intractable water-crisis that has gripped these areas for the past 16 years, only 20 percent of the cultivable land has been used for farming in the canal-fed region. Those residing in the barren grounds of Kachho face similar difficulties, as farmers are heavily dependant on seasonal rains and hilly streams; with no permanent source for water.

“Only a decade ago, we used to cultivate wheat, cotton, vegetables, rice, sugarcane and other crops, as there was ample canal water in the area. Even the underground water has failed to compensate for the water shortage due to contamination and salinity; thus, paralysing our traditional livelihoods and compelling people to leave their ancestral villages,” said Faqir Mohammed with a heavy heart. The 50-year-old farmer hails from Dadu’s Ali Mohammed Loond Goth.

He regretfully told The News that at least half of the families residing in his village have packed up their lives and shifted to Sanghar and other districts, where they have little choice but to work on farms for daily wages; adding that the rest have opted to rough it out and remain in their own villages in fear of influential individuals taking over their deserted lands.

Mohammad said that the farmers in his area traditionally cultivate their own lands, regretfully adding that recently the populations of neighboring villages such as Qambar Loond, Rahim Khan Loond were shrinking due to mass migration.

He accused influential and greedy growers of depriving small land owners of their fair share of water. As a result, his village of Ali Mohammed Loond Goth is left with only 25 households; all of which are waiting in hope and anticipations for the provincial government to make good on their promises of solving the water crisis.

Several famers confirmed that the matter was taken up with two Sindh ministers, elected from Dadu, who later visited affected villages and assured residents that the government would provide canal water.

“They have failed to fulfill their promises,” said another Loond Goth farmer, Mohammed Usman, adding that the ministers never returned to follow-up on the issue because the government was less concerned with the grievances of poor farmers, and was more inclined to catering to the whims of up-stream farmers; who enjoyed more political clout.

According to 45-year-old Mohammed Usman, the migration started in 1992 when certain powerful farmers, who enjoyed the strong backing of the government, blocked Dadu canal’s water; depriving farmlands located downstream at the tail-end of the canal.

With regards to the recent wheat harvest, he clarified that flood waters temporarily replenished the previously dried up Pir Shakh canal, which was used to grow this year’s crop. He added that despite the successful harvest, farmers are still worried as the future remains uncertain with respect to water supply.

The water crisis is two-thronged, as climatic conditions have also had a major impact on the aridity of the land and the availability of water. Sindh, especially it’s Arid Zone that dominates over 50 percent of its total land mass, has been affected by erratic patterns in rainfall, rises in mean temperatures, increased intensity of floods as well as droughts, and many other changes in weather.

The drought of 1999-2000 severely crippled the fertility of the Dadu district, as there was a sharp decline in water tables and wetlands were completely dried up. The merciless weather left cracks snaking across the arid land and damaged entire ecosystems.

A local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Research and Development Foundation (RDF), has initiated different projects to help the communities cope with the land’s aridity.

For example, RDF has facilitated locals in adopting innovative techniques like drip-irrigation, which is a system that consumes less water.

They have also donated drought-resistant tree plants to local farmers, as tree cover reduce the harsh effects of aridity.

Imdad Ali Khonharo, who works for RDF, said that the organization aimed to motivate farmers to adopt drip irrigation and continue growing cash crops like vegetables and fruits. He added that the climate of this mountainous district was conducive for cultivation if the right methods were applied; stressing the need to assist locals in their main source of income.

Mohammed Amin, a farmer hailing from the village of Haji Murad Loond proudly showed The News the demonstration plot facilitated by RDF, where he grew vegetables.

“Since we all belong to the same community, we first supply to our neighbors and sell the rest in the local market,” he said.

Executive Director Research and Development Foundation (RDF) Masood Mahesar said that the organisation’s objective is to help reduce the risks of climate change at the community level, and mainstream environmentally friendly adaptations in both the public as well as the private sectors.

He explained that RDF had mobilised communities in 20 villages to work as climate change mitigation agents. He added that the organization has already conducted a research on agriculture policy and the development of an eco-agriculture action plan for the targeted union councils, which form disaster prone areas.