کالام میں سیاح دوستی

کالام میں سیاح دوست رویہ

طاہرعلی خان

http://www.humsub.com.pk/69143/tahir-ali-khan-5/

 3جولائی 2017 کو ہم سب پر وسی بابا کی تحریر‘‘شمال والو! بدتمیزی کا علاج بتاؤں؟’’ شایع ہوئی جس میں انہوں نے شمالی علاقہ جات کے مکینوں کو اپنی روایت کا تحفظ کرنے، جس سیاح کے خلاف بدتمیزی کا واقعہ رپورٹ ہو اس سے جرمانہ وصول کرنے اور دوبارہ مخصوص عرصے کے لیے اپنے علاقے میں گھسنے نہ  دینے کا مشورہ دیا ہے  اور امید ظاہر کی ہے کہ جب دو چار کو پانچ دس ہزار جرمانہ ہو گا تو لڑکے لڑکیوں سے کئی گز دور رہیں گے۔ اس تحریر پر ایک تبصرہ میں رانا اورنگزیب رانگا  نے پٹھانوں میں اجنبیوں، مسافروں اور خواتین کے ساتھ تعاون واحترام کے چند واقعات قلمبند کرتے ہوئے انکی تریف کی ہے۔

جالبنڑ کی چڑھائی

یہ کالم اور اس پر تبصرہ پڑھ کر مجھے کالام سوات کے حوالے سے اپنے کچھ  مشاہدات ا ور تاثرات یاد آئے۔ یہ آج سے پندرہ برس پہلے کی بات ہے۔ گرمیوں کی تین مہینے کی تعطیلات کے لیے سکول بند ہوگٗئے تو ہم چند دوستوں نے یہ چھٹیاں خاندان کے ہمراہ پاکستان کے سوئٹزر لیںڈ سوات کے علاقے کالام میں گزارنے کا ارادہ کیا۔ وہاں جانے سے پہلے ہم نے گھر کرائے پر لے لیے تھے۔ تین مہینے کے لے اُس وقت ایک مناسب گھر دس سے پندرہ ہزار میں مل جاتا تھا ۔ 2010 کے سیلاب سے ابھی سڑکیں خراب نہیں ہوئی تھیں۔ ہم سہولت سے پہنچے بھی اور وہاں ہمارا قیام بھی بڑاخوشگوار رہا۔ ہم چار دوست روزانہ میلوں پیدل آس پاس کے علاقوں کے چکرلگاتے رہتے اور ہفتے میں ایک بار دورافتادہ مقامات پر گاڑی میں بھی جاتے ۔اس دوران کئ ایک یادگار واقعات پیش آئے جن سے ایک دوواقعات وسی بابا  کے کالم اور اس پر تبصرہ کی تائید کرتی ہیں۔

جالبنڑ سے کالام کا نظارہ

ہم نے کالام بازار سے مغرب کی طرف تین کلومیٹر بلندی پر واقع ایک گاؤں جالبنڑ میں جگہ کرائے پر حاصل کی تھی۔ جالبنڑ سے  مغرب کی طرف اونچائی پرایک بڑا پہاڑ ہے اور ایک آبشار  بھی ہے جس پر چھوٹا سا بجلی گھر بنایا گیا ہے۔ مشرق کی طرف اونچائی پر برف سے لدی ہوئی پہاڑی چوٹیاں نظر آتی ہیں۔ شمال کی طرف بھی پہاڑیاں اور وسیع جنگلات دکھائی دیتے ہیں جبکہ اس کے جنوب میں  ایک پہاڑی ہے جس کے اُس طرف گیل کی مشہور وادی ہے۔ گیل اور جالبنڑ کے درمیانی پہاڑ کی چوٹی پر وسیع رقبے پر محیط ایک محل نما گھر اور باغ تھا، اس کے چاروں طرف خاردار تاریں اور آہنی جنگلے لگے ہوئے تھے۔ علاقے کے مکینوں کا کہنا تھا یہ لاہور کے شریف خاندان کا سرمائی گھر ہے۔

 جالبنڑ سے  بازار آنے جانے کے لیے کھیتوں کے درمیان ایک سڑک بنی ہوئی تھی۔ اس کی حالت بہت خراب تھی۔گیل کی وادی تک پہنچنے کے لیے جالبنڑ سے ایک انتہائی سخت چڑھائی والی پگڈنڈی لوگوں نے بنائی ہوئی تھی۔ ان راستوں پر نیچے آنے اور پھر واپس جانے کا اپنا ہی مزہ تھا۔ پٹھے مضبوط ہونے شروع ہوئے تو دم بھی آہستہ آہستہ پختہ ہوتا گیا۔ آغازمیں معمولی سفر کے بعد آرام کرنا پڑتا لیکن پھر میلوں سفر پر بھی اس کی ضرورت نہ پڑتی۔ یوں تو ہر ایک کو  فائدہ ہوا مگر ہمارے ایک لحیم دوست جس کا وزن کالام جانے سے پہلے ۱۱۰ کلوگرام تھا ان سیاحتی مٹرگشتیوں کے بعد ۸۰ کلو تک آگئے۔

جالبنڑ کے لوگوں کو بڑا ملنسارپایا۔ جس شخص کا مکان ہم نے کرایہ پر لیا تھا وہ حاجی صاحب کہلاتے تھے۔ انہوں نے ہماری دعوت کی۔ اس کے بعد کئ دوسرے افراد نے بھی مہمان نوازی کی۔ پنجاب اور دوسرے علاقوں کے لوگ بھی یہاں رہ رہے تھے اور وہ بھی بڑے خوش اور مطمئن تھے۔

ایک روز جالبنڑ میں عشاء کی نماز کے شوروغوغا بلند ہوا۔ پتہ چلا کسی سیاح پنجابی جوڑی کو کسی نے بازار سے اوپر جالبنڑ آتے ہوئے نقدی اور زیورات سے محروم کردیا ہے۔ کچھ بزرگ حضرات  رونے والی لڑکی اور پریشان لڑکے کی ڈھارس بندھانے لگے جب کہ اس دوران لاؤڈ سپیکروں پر جوڑے کے لٹنے کا اعلان کرکےکہا گیا کہ سب لوگ نکل آئیں تاکہ چوروں کو پکڑا جا سکے۔ آناً فاناً  اپنے علاقے کی اس طرح بدنامی پر بپھرے اور لاٹھیوں سے مسلح جوان ادھر ادھر پھیل گئے۔ تھوڑی دیر بعد دو نوجوان ان کے قبضے میں تھے۔ انہیں بزرگوں کے سامنے پیش کیاگیا مگر اس سے پہلے انکی اچھی خاصی مرمت کی جا چکی تھی۔ معلوم ہوا یہ لڑکے بھی سیاح کے طور پرباہر سے آئے تھے۔ ان سے رقم اور زیورات لےکر جوڑے کےحوالے کر دئیے گئے۔ وہ ڈاکو روتے دھوتے معافی مانگتے رہے کہ آئندہ وہ یہاں ایسا کچھ نہیں کریں گے اور نہ ہی وہ سوات آئیں گے۔ بعد میں غالباً انہیں پولیس کے حوالے کردیا گیا۔

kondol lake

ایک اورناقابل فراموش واقعہ کالام سے سولہ کلومیٹردور شمال میں واقع اتروڑ وادی میں پیش آیا۔ اتروڑ سے شمال کی جانب چار میل کی مسافت پر واقع جھیل کنڈول یا کنڈل جھیل (ڈھنڈٌ) کو جانے کا راستہ دشوار گزار ہے، پانچ چھے گھنٹہ کا پیدل سفر ہے اور اوپر آکسیجن کی کمی بھی پیش آتی ہے جس کے لیے مقامی لوگوں نے ایک مقامی بوٹی کو مسلسل سونگھتے رہنے کی ہدایت کی۔ وہ واقعی ایک کٹھن سفر تھا۔ ہمارے لحیم دوست کی سانس تو لگ بھگ ٹوٹ گئ تھی اور ہمارے ہاتھوں کے توتے اڑ گئے تھے لیکن خدا خدا کرکے کنڈل جھیل پہنچ گئے تو ایک اورامتحان ہمارے منتظر تھا۔ ہمارے ساتھ لاہور سے تعلق رکھنے والے پانچ لڑکوں کو ایک گروپ بھی تھا۔ ہم وہاں پہنچ گئے تو لاہوری بھائیوں کے درمیان کسی مسئلے پر توتو میں میں شروع ہوگئ۔ دیکھتے ہی تین لڑکے ایک دھان پان سے لڑکے پر ٹوٹ پڑے اور اس سے پہلے کہ ہم بیچ بچاؤ کرتے وہ لڑکا اور اس کے ایک اور ساتھی کے سر اور چہرے سے خون بہنے لگا۔ ان کے کپڑے جگہ جگہ سے پھٹ گئے تھے۔ ہم نے لڑکوں کو روکنے کی کوشش کی تو وہ ہم سے بھی الجھ گئے کہ ہمارا ان کے ذاتی معاملے میں کیا کام۔ جو قصور اس لڑکےکا ان سے معلوم ہوا وہ  بہت معمولی تھا مگرلاہوری دوست ہمارے منع کرنے اور اس لڑکے کی بچاؤ بچاؤ کی دہائی کے باوجود  اس دوران اس کو ٹھڈے مارتے رہے۔ اس دوران مارنے والوں میں سے ایک نے آواز لگائی اس۔۔۔ کے کپڑے نکال دو۔  ہم ابھی اپنے اگلے طرزعمل پر ابھی سوچ رہے تھے کہ اس دوران  کچھ فاصلے پر موجود تین لڑکوں کا ایک گروپ تیزی سے قریب آیا۔  ایک لڑکے ، جس نے لمبا کوٹ اور چادر اوڑھی ہوئی تھی، نے آتے ہی مارنے والوں کو کہا کہ ہاتھ روک دیں اور ساتھ ہی ہمیں بھی کھری کھری سنائیں کہ پٹھان ہونے کے باوجود ہم خاموش تماشائی بنے ہوئے ہیں اور مظلوم کو بچانہیں رہے۔ بپھرے ہوئے لاہوری جوانوں نے اس کو بھی جھڑک دیا۔ اس لڑکے نے اچانک چادر اتار پھینکی اور کوٹ کے نیچے ہاتھ ڈال کر نکالا تو اس  میں کلاشنکوف تھی۔ اس نےکلاشنکوف کا رخ ان کی طرف کرکے انہیں ہاتھ اوپر اٹھانے اور آنکھیں بند کرکے کھڑے ہونے کا حکم دیا۔ اس کے بعد اس لڑکے کو اٹھایا اور اپنے ساتھیوں سے بھاری بھاری بدلہ لینے کا کہا۔ وہ لڑکا رونےلگ گیا کہ میں انہیں معاف کرتا ہوں آپ بھی انہیں معاف کردیں۔ کلاشنکوف والا لڑکا کہنے لگا۔ نہیں مگر اگر یہ خود آپ سے معافی مانگ لیں۔ لڑکے جو اس سے پہلے بڑے تیس مار خان بنے ہوئے تھے، فوراً لڑکے کے پاؤں پڑ گئے۔ لڑکے نے انہیں اٹھا کر گلے لگایا اور ہم سب نے ہنسی خوشی اکٹھے کھانا کھایا۔ کلاشنکوف والا لڑکا پھروہاں سے پہاڑکی جانب چلا اور جلد ہی نگاہوں سے اوجھل ہوگیا۔

ایک اور عجیب و غریب تجربہ یا مشاہدہ یہ تھا کہ کالام میں آپ کہیں بھی کسی کھیت یا باغ کے اندر مصروف کار لوگوں سے کوئی سبزی یا پھل مانگ لیں تو وہ آپ سے پیسے نہیں لیتے۔ بازار کی بات الگ ہے۔ گھر سے آپ کو دودھ بھی پیسوں سے نہیں مفت ملے گا اگر ہوگا تو۔ وہ کہتے ہیں کھیت، باغ اور گھر سے مانگنے کی کوئی چیز پیسوں سےبیچنا ان کی روایات کے خلاف ہے۔

مٹلتان کالام

ایک اور واقعہ پیش خدمت ہے۔ ایک روز حاجی صاحب اور جالبنڑ کے چند اور بزرگوں کے ساتھ ہم گیل وادی میں ’’شریف محل‘‘ میں ایک دعوت سے فارغ ہوکر واپس آرہے تھے کہ پہاڑ کی چوٹی پر راستے سے کافی دور ایک لڑکا لڑکی جھاڑیوں میں ’’راز ونیاز‘‘ کرتے نظر آئے۔ ہم ان کے پاس گئے کہ ان سے ’’تفتیش‘‘ کرلیں مگر حاجی صاحب نے ایک دو سوالات کے بعد ہی ہمیں انہیں چھوڑ کر نماز کے لیے مسجد کی راہ لینے پر آمادہ کر لیا۔ایسا لگا ہماری ’تجسس‘ اور ان کی ’سیاح دوستی‘ کے مقابلے میں ہماری تجسس ہار گئ۔

مہو ڈھنڈ کالام

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Swat development initiatives

planning
Returning to normalcy
A few development projects
undertaken in Swat can make the difference for the local people
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2012-weekly/nos-05-08-2012/pol1.htm#2

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has undertaken several development initiatives in Swat and Malakand division (MD) with the support from local and foreign partners.

The Chief Planning Officer (CPO) of P&D KP, Usman Gul, said hundreds of projects worth around Rs145bn are being pursued there. “213 projects in line with the Post Conflict Needs Assessment (PCNA) Strategy worth Rs114bn are being planned with allocation of Rs11.4bn this year’s ADP for the purpose.

Similarly, 5 mega projects under Swat development package worth Rs1bn, funded by the federal government, have been completed in Swat. As far as normal ADP channel funded by KP is concerned, 111 projects worth Rs30bn are being planned in Malakand division of which Rs4.5bn are to be spent this FY. 44 projects of these are due for completion shortly,” said the official.

“There are two donors’ assisted projects underway in Malakand under the ADP: One is the UNDP-assisted for strengthening rule of law in Malakand worth Rs13.38bn with an allocation of 335mn for this year.

The other relates to the construction of three police stations and one police line in Swat (NAS Assisted) costing Rs622mn with an allocation of Rs203mn for this year,” he added.

 “Agriculture, minority affairs, drinking water and sanitation, elementary and secondary education, energy and power, food, forestry, Industries, law and justice, mines and minerals, population welfare, regional development, roads, sports, tourism, archaeology, etc are major focus of all these projects,” he informs.

“Energy and power sector is one of the top priority sectors, therefore, 55 per cent of the ADP alone in energy and power sector is being managed through our indigenous resources,” he said.

According to Gul, there is no foreign aided hydro power project (HPP) in Malakand but as most of the hydro power potential was located there, the government was spending 50 percent of the funds there. “13 out of 15 ongoing projects and Rs600mn of Rs1.137bn total allocated for the sector this year are for Malakand division. And off the total cost of Rs23bn of these schemes, Rs16bn have been allocated for the area,” he added. 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, recently inaugurated the Matiltan and Daral Khwar (Bahrain) hydro power projects. Both projects would earn billions for the province besides considerably mitigating loadshedding.

The residents of Matiltan and Kalam would receive Rs260mn from the Matiltan HPP and 250 persons from the area would get jobs. Similarly, the Daral Khwar HPP would generate Rs100 million as royalty for the residents.

The Chief Planning Officer agreed that KP and Swat has great hydropower potential which should be utilised but said that the government had to see institutional capacity of the implementing agencies before assigning any project to them.

The CPO identified sites identification, acquisition of land, funding issue and security constraints as the main problems in implementation of projects and meeting of targets.

The army has been in the forefront in development work in the area. Colonel Arif, In-charge of the Inter Services Public Relations in Swat, said the army also sought help from the NGOs and sensitised and requested the international donors for assistance to rebuild the area. “By activating all these channels, we have been able to restore 100 per cent all the 1625 schools that were partially or totally destroyed by floods or militancy.

The army engineers ensured that the Kalam-Bahrain road remained open for traffic for the first time round the year. So far, the reconstruction of road and bridges has been done on self-help basis by the army and no government funds have been used for them,” he said.

“We had also worked with the local and international NGOs to revive the agriculture and to rebuild the devastated trout fish hatcheries,” he added. According to another official, the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), a subsidiary of the Pakistan army, has been given around $70mn for water sanitation, construction of schools and road infrastructure development etc by donors.

For the total post floods reconstruction estimates of $1.1bn, work plans for Rs34bn have been prepared but only Rs18bn have been committed by last year. For the total post militancy reconstruction needs of $0.86bn, only $0.4bn have been committed by the same period. 

The European Union (EU) has been working through a multi-donor trust fund in various fields, which has set aside $114mn for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Malakand. EU was spending 300 million Euros on the reconstruction of schools and other development projects in Swat and Malakand. The USAID has provided $25mn for reconstructing about 110 militancy-destroyed schools in MD.

KP also hopes to receive $200 million for reconstruction activities from the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund for Development which would be utilised for construction of Swat Expressway, university in Swat, besides reconstructing damaged schools and colleges. Negotiations are also underway with the Korean government for the Malakand tunnel project of $78 million.

Many areas still have no bridges and chairlifts are the only means of communications across the noisy Swat River. On the way to Kalam, one can see that several micro power stations and the biggest Madyan grid station have been swept away by floods. As none of the hydro power stations and the Madyan grid station has been rebuilt, the entire Swat is provided power by the Khwazakhela grid-station which is beyond its capacity.

“There is no electricity. The only exchange in Kalam is closed since last two years. The health units, schools and other entities have no facilities. Swat airport is still not open for flights,” said Zahid Khan, a local hotel industry leader.

Humayun Khan from Bahrain lost his house and agriculture lands worth millions of rupees in the flash floods of 2010. “Several NGOs helped reconstruct the houses of the affected people. But as I lost my land too, my house wasn’t built by any NGO,” he says. Humayun still lives in a tent with his family which interestingly has solar-lamps and a solar-cooker provided by an NGO.

The army is reported to have helped women and girls to learn skills such as knitting, sewing, machine embroidery, etc, by establishing training centres which were later handed over to the Sarhad Rural Support Programme. Over 800 girls and women had completed training and were now running their own businesses.

Lasting stability depends on several other factors and not restoration of peace alone. Sluggish economic recovery, perpetuation of faulty governance and failure to reach out to the distant areas and the poor most and lack of a speedy judicial system in Malakand could undo military gains.

According to the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development, the Taliban gained support in Swat valley by building their case on local grievances, weaknesses in administration and justice system. Unless the region has a sound and speedy justice system, the problem would not be solved.

Peach orchards on the rise in Swat

Peach replacing apple farms in Swat

By Tahir Ali

APPLE orchards in lower Swat, particularly in Matta, are losing space to peach farms, farmers say.

“Peach has become the centre of interest for fruit farmers. While apple trees are intact in upper Swat areas like Kalam, Bahrain etc, these are gradually disappearing in lower parts of the districts,” says Abdul Jabbar Khan, president of Anjuman-i-Tahaffuze Zamindaran wa Kashtkaran, Swat.

“Apple orchards, that require cool climate, have been hit by changes in climate and global warming. The trees are becoming susceptible to diseases and insects and are drying up. With decrease in the number of healthy plants, per tree yield of apple has decreased considerably with less profitability,” he said.

“Apple is losing to peaches for other factors also. A peach tree matures early and starts production in 4-5 years while an apple tree bears fruit in 7-10 years. Again, a peach tree bears fruit regularly every year whereas apple has ample yield every alternate year,” he added.

Both apple and peach trees can produce up to 30-40 crates each of 20 and 10 kg respectively if the trees are healthy. “An acre of apple/peach orchard could fetch its owner up to Rs0.4 million but apple production and profitability is coming down.

Earlier around 50-60 trucks load of apples with around 8-10 tons each used to leave the area for markets, now only 4-6 trucks are marketed. Against this, over 100 trucks loaded with peach now leave the area for markets in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi,” Khan said.

According to another Swat farmer Saeed Alam, peach has eight varieties. “ Top 1-3 varieties fetch good prices as these are ready by May-June. Depending on size and quality of the fruit, these are sold at Rs500-600 per crate. These days, varieties 4-6 are being sold at Rs200-350 per crate. The next two varieties also usually fetch good prices in local and outside markets,” he said.

“The costs of transportation of a truck of fruits to Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi are Rs20,000, Rs40,000 and Rs70,000 respectively. Each truck can take a load of around 800 crates of peach and 400 crates of apples. The total cost per crate including transportation and harvesting, comes to around Rs80 per crate. Thus a crate usually fetches around Rs200-400 for the growers though it is sold at much higher prices by commission agents. Had there been big local markets in the area, the growers would have benefited more,” he added.

Orchards are commonly bought by fruit dealers before the start of the fruiting season. Farmers prefer this deal as they get risk-free cash payments in advance. But in this case, the rates are far less than the market price at the time of harvest.

Pre- and post-harvest losses are estimated at 30-40 per cent on account of windstorm, hailstorm, diseases and outdated harvesting techniques.

“While value-addition can be a thriving business in the area, it is regrettable that there are no processing plants, neither the people have the means to enter into such lucrative business. The government and private investors are needed to set up such plants in the area,” said Khan.

According to a fruit dealer in Mingora, peaches and apples in the past were packed in wooden crates but now these were being packaged in paper cartons. “Paper cartons may be good from environmental point of view but cannot save fruit against rain and sustain weight pressure during transportation. As a result, huge losses are suffered by farmers, he said.

The absence of cold storages in Matta and shortage elsewhere are also a problem, according to Khan. “There was only one peach specific cold storage in Mingora but it has been closed. The other is in the city which can only provide space to fruit dealers for a month. More such cold storages are needed in the area but they cannot be set up because of acute power shortage,” he added.

The period between June and September is the fruit season in Swat. The local fruit industry provides employment to 70 per cent of locals including females in spraying, pruning, packing and transportation at fruit orchards.

In 2007-08 together with Swat, Malakand division accounted for 30 per cent of provincial plums yield, eighty per cent of persimmon, 67 per cent of apricots and over 82 per cent of apple and peach yields.

A farmer said non-governmental-organisations should offer cash grants or soft loans and modern technology with training to farmers for saving their orchards from diseases. “Far-flung areas such as Kabal, Matta and other upper Swat areas need to be given proper attention to augment fruit production,” he said.

Most of the 0.3 million farmers in Swat are small and poor who cannot afford to buy agricultural inputs.

They should be offered agriculture inputs free or at subsidised rates to nurture their fruit plants.

Increasing walnuts production in Malakand

………plantation………………
Growing nuts
There is a great potential for planting walnut trees in Malakand and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2011-weekly/nos-25-12-2011/pol1.htm#5

The Malakand Division, according to one estimate, accounts for roughly 95 percent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s walnut yield. Walnut of different sizes, quality, and colour are produced here which are marketed in whole form or its flesh taken out and packed, and is sold in the market. What is being done to increase the yield of dry fruits after the militancy days are over?

In Dir, these days per kilogramme prices of different qualities of walnuts range between Rs100-250 for whole and Rs400-700 for walnut flesh, of pistachio between Rs600-800, of almond Rs150-400 and chilghoza being the costliest of all with Rs1400, according to Saeedur Rehman, a dry fruit dealer in Dir.

Rehman says chilghoza (pine-nut) prices have surged to over Rs70,000 per 50kg (Rs1400) in the whole sale market and it may be sold around for Rs1500-1800 in the open market after adding the transportation charges, dealers’ commission, shopkeepers’ profit and imposition of various taxes.”

Contrary to the general impression, he says, militancy hadn’t badly impacted on the dry fruit production and businesses and opined that prices have come down as compared to last year.

“Prices of whole walnut were around Rs13-14000-50kg last year but this year these have come down to Rs11-12000. It is because there was bumper production this year. While we still have last year’s stock, the produce for this year has arrived in the market.” He believes, “There is no hope for the price-surge as the market is sluggish at the moment. The government needs to make arrangements for purchasing and exporting the commodity. I am sure the country would earn a lot of money in the global dry fruit market by exporting this quality commodity.”

He says, “The price of walnut, a Dir speciality, ranges between Rs5000-12000 per 50kg while that of its pure flesh ranges between Rs22000-35000-50kg. Walnut from Barawal and Bamboret are liked for their big size and taste. The brighter the fleshy part, the higher the price. And the cooler the area where it is produced, the better the taste and quality of the walnut,” he adds.

The sale of the walnut flesh fetches more income for the dealers. That is why people in Dir, rather than selling standing walnut trees or the whole fruit with cover, have started taking out its flesh and packing and selling it. A 50kg sac of whole walnut produces around 22-25kg pure fruit which fetches around Rs22000-35000 in the market, much higher than the whole fruit prices.

The importance of the walnuts cannot be overstated. Dry fruits and winters go hand in hand. While watching movies, reading books or newspapers or partying with friends, dry fruits help warm the body. Dry fruit are not only health-friendly but are also taken as gifts to friends and officials in beautiful packing. But skyrocketing prices are making them an unaffordable luxury for the majority.

Hundreds of tonnes of walnut, pine-nut and other dry fruit are produced in Dir and surrounding districts. Barawal, Dir Kohistan and Garam Chashma, Bamboret and Bony valleys in Chitral produce the best walnut and pine nut. The walnut from Nooristan Afghanistan also reaches the local market.” Experts say walnut helps improve memory, is useful for treating stomach, liver and kidney diseases, for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. It helps control cholesterol level, strengthens the walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes and supports immune system.

Lack of official support, negligence of the concerned departments, continuous deforestation of the existing trees for getting ‘Dandansa’ and other purposes, and non-cultivation of new ones have badly affected the produce.

The government should provide technical advice and support to grow more walnut trees as these are depleting and about 90 per cent of the potential in the area is yet to be utilised.

Rehman was particularly unhappy over cutting walnut trees for getting “dandansa”. “The problem is for dandansa you have to cut down the younger trees whose stem-cover and roots are the best.

Shah Abdar, a Swat-based grower of walnut, says hundreds of tons of walnuts are grown in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat, adding that the potential of walnut in the area is not being explored.

Swat is the ideal place for walnut. It usually grows on mountain ridges, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less cultivable land. Walnut could be the greatest source of income for the area people. But despite being the main asset along with fruit, vegetable and livestock, the number of walnut trees has been on the decline and only about 5 to 10 percent of the area in Swat suitable for walnut is utilised..

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The trees so cultivated are often destroyed by the people as there is no sufficient care and security for them. The government and non-governmental organisations need to provide expert advice, walnut plantlets /seeds, and insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. It is only then that the problem will be solved once and for all. In the hope of huge returns, they will do whatever is possible to keep it safe and healthy,” Shah argues.

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty, militancy, and floods-stricken farmers. “Around 5 big walnut trees grow in one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate.”

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent, the link roads to far flung areas are still inaccessible. It leaves the poor people with no choice but to sell their standing walnut trees to dealers on meagre prices, thus incurring losses,” according to him.

Swat wanluts await proper care

English: a walnut and a walnut core

Swat walnuts await proper care

By Tahir Ali

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/26/walnut-trees-need-proper-care.html

SWAT accounts for around 50 per cent of walnut trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But the lack of official support and negligence, deforestation, non-plantation of new trees and attack of stem-borer has endangered this great agricultural asset, farmers say.

“Walnut trees in the area, especially in the Madyan valley, are hit by stem-borers which penetrate deep into their stems, eat them up and eventually lead to the death of the tree. Porcupine also eats the nuts when they are sown. But these are curable phenomenon. Many farmers are unaware of these problems.”

Shah Abdar, a Swat-based farmer, says walnut is sold between Rs5,000-12,000/50kg in the market depending upon their size and quality.

“ Given support from the government, walnut could be a bigger source of income for the area people. An ordinary family in upper Swat owns on an average 3-4 walnut trees. A single tree yields around 100-300kg of nut which by the current market price of about Rs10,000/50kg earns the family around Rs80,000-240,000,” he said. The forest department every year runs tree plantation campaigns but no progress is visible on the ground.

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The seeds or saplings cultivated are often destroyed as there is no sufficient care. The government needs to provide expert advice, walnut saplings and seeds, pesticides/insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. In the hope of large returns, they will do whatever possible to keep it safe and healthy,” he says.

Hundreds of tons of walnut are produced in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat, but the real potential of the nut in the area is far from being utilised.

“Swat is the best place for growing walnut. The tree usually grows on ridges of mountains, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less arable land. But despite being the main asset and source of income of the family, the number of walnut trees are on the decline and only about 5-10 per cent of the potential in the area has been utilised so far,” he said.

In 2005 walnut production in Swat was 4,963 tons, which jumped to 6,973 tons in 2006. But in 2008, after the spread of militancy in the area, it dived to 3,960 tons.

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent making communications possible, link roads to far flung areas in the valley remain damaged making them inaccessible. It leaves the poor with no choice but to sell their trees to fruit dealers on meagre prices,” he said.

Malakand division accounts for around 90 per cent of the provincial land under walnut trees and grows thousands of tons of nut in Chitral, Swat, Lower and Upper Dir, Kohistan and Shangla. Nut of different sizes, quality and colours are produced here and marketed.

Saeedur Rehman, another farmer said the kernel of walnut depending on its quality and taste is sold at Rs30,000-35,000/50kg in the market. The brighter the kernel, the better is the price,” he said.

He was particularly unhappy over cutting of young trees for getting “Dandansa”. The bark and roots of the tree used as Dandansa, which is smuggled to neighbouring countries, ” he said.

Walnut is beneficial to health. Experts say it stimulates brain and is believed to be useful in treatment of stomach, liver and kidney diseases. It is recommended for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Walnut helps control cholesterol level, strengthens walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes, supports immune system, helps improve memory and speeds up recovery after serious operation.

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Walnut population short of potential

By Tahir Ali

Swat accounts for around 50 percent of the provincial walnut population and has around 500 hectares out of the total 1000 hectares under the walnut trees. But lack of official support, negligence of the concerned departments, continuous deforestation of the existing trees for getting ‘Dandansa’ and other purposes, non-cultivation of new ones and some ailments (stem-borer), ignorance of farmers and porcupine attacks have endangered this great asset,  farmers say.

“The walnut trees in the area, especially in Madyan valley are hit by stem-borer which eats up the stem eventually drying the tree. Porcupine also attack the seeds when they are planted. But these are curable phenomenon. The problem is most farmers are unaware of this,” said a farmer.

Shah Abdar, a Swat based farmer, said salnuts are sold between Rs5000-12000/50kg in the market depending upon their size, health and hardness or softness of nutshell.

“Subject to a little patronage and support from the government, walnut could be the greatest source of income and asset for the area people. An example will illustrate the point. An ordinary family in upper Swat owns on average 3-4 walnut trees. A walnut tree yields between 100kg-300kg of walnut fruit which by the current market price of about Rs10000/50kg earn them about Rs80,000-240,000,” he said.

The forest department, he said each year runs tree plantation campaigns but there is no progress on the ground.

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The trees so cultivated are often destroyed by the people as there is no sufficient care and security for them.  The government and non-governmental organisations need to provide expert advice, walnut plantlets/seeds, pesticides/insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. It is only when the people will be provided plantlets or seeds and they grow it in their lands that the problem will be solved once and for all. In the hope of huge returns, they will do whatever possible to keep it safe and healthy,” he argued.

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty/militancy/floods-stricken farmers.

“Its financial benefits could be judged from the fact that there are around 5 big walnut tree is one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals (around 6 acres) and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate,” he opined.

He said hundreds of tons of walnuts are grown in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat adding that the potential of walnut in the area is far from being utilized.

“Swat is the best place for walnut. The tree usually grows on mountain ridges, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less arable land. But despite being the main asset and source of income for the family along with fruit, vegetable and livestock, the number of walnut trees has been on the decline and only about 5 to 10 per cent of the potential in the area has been utilised so far,” he said.

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent and communication made possible, the link roads to far flung areas in the valley are still inaccessible. It leaves the poor people with no choice but to sell their standing walnut trees to dealers on meagre prices thus incurring losses,” according to him.

Mlakand division accounts for around 90 per cent of provincial land under walnut trees and grows thousands of tons of walnut in Chitral, Swat, Lower and Upper Dir, Kohistan and Shangla.

Walnut of different sizes, quality and colour are produced here which are marketed in whole form or only its flesh, taken out and packed, is sold in the market.

Saeedur Rehman, another farmer said the walnut flesh, dependent upon its colour and taste, is sold at Rs30-35000/50kg in the market. The more the brighter the flesh, the better is the price. And the cooler an area, the more standard and delicious the walnut flesh,” he said.

He was particularly unhappy for cutting the walnut tree for getting “Dandansa”. “The problem is for Dandansa you have to cut down the younger trees whose stem-cover and roots are the best for the purpose. Even though it is unlawful to get Dandansa, its smuggling continues unabated which needs to be controlled,” he said.

Walnut has been found to be extremely beneficial for health. Experts say it stimulates brain and is believed to be useful in treatment of stomach, liver and kidney diseases. It is recommended for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Walnut helps control cholesterol level, strengthens the walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes, supports immune system, helps improve memory, speeds up the recovery period after a difficult operation or trauma.

Potato growers’ woes

Potato cultivars

Image via Wikipedia

Frustrated potato growers of Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/08/frustrated-potato-growers-of-swat.html

WHILE potato growers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from the huge losses caused by the floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes.

Most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored but the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the crop from Kalam and other upper Swat areas difficult, costly and unaffordable for growers.

Officials claimed that the reconstruction work would be finished within a year but the pace of work indicates it may take much longer for the actual completion. If the monsoon this year triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may become impossible.

Shah Abdar, president of model farm services centre, upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows quality potato in abundance. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers.” he said.

“Large size, good quality and taste are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents reap most of the profits. Average per hectare yield of the crop in KP and the country is 12 and 17 metric tons respectively but it is around 20MT in Swat,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project but communication problems are diminishing its impact.

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam, Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sack of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even more. An acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

Going by the current market price, an acre’s harvest can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers. In the international market it could fetch $7,000 or Rs0.59mn (average price of $500 per metric ton).

To fetch a good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. However, it too has its related problems. “The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence need to be used within weeks but nevertheless provide us the growers good returns. The more the delay, the lesser the price at the market,” says Gul.

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

“Inadequate storage, processing facilities and the manipulation of the market by middlemen results in price volatility as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by proper bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” another farmer Bakht Biland Khan, said.

Limited grading and labelling of the produce, absence of regulated local potato purchase along export facilitation centres and market information system are the other major problems faced by potato growers.

Despite favourable climatic conditions for the three potato crops, KP has a meagre share in countrywide potato yield. Its output was about 0.12 million tons from 10,000 hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.The main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat with seeds obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20 per cent potato is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities. A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 per cent reduction in post-harvest losses cane save Rs6 billion.

Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the world market. Despite having export potential worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

Lack of credit facilities is the main snag for small growers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were unable to buy standardised seed from the market as banks denied or delayed credit facilities.

………………

Original text of the article.

Dejected Swat potato growers

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

 

While potato farmers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from massive losses for the impacts of floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes this season once again.

 

Though most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored, the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potential potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the potato produce from Kalam and other upper Swat areas highly difficult and costly, almost unaffordable for farmers.

 

Officials claim the reconstruction work would finish within a year but the pace and volume of the work suggests it may take three to four years to complete. And if this year’s rainy season triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may virtually come to a standstill.

 

Shah Abdar, the president of model farm services centre upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows abundant quality potato. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers. In the past, farmers in far off villages would bring their produce to the market using camels and donkeys but that has also become unfeasible as onward transportation from upper Swat is expensive beyond affordability, for transportation charges have quadrupled of late,” he said.

“There is vast potential for the crop. Large size and good taste and quality are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents have reaped most of the profits. Average yield per hectare is 12 and 17 metric tons in KP and the country respectively but is around 20MT in Swat. But, for marketing snags, farmers prefer to grow only for their own needs and avoid commercial farming,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project and farmers but communication problems are diminishing its impact now.

 

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sac of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even beyond. And, an acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

 

Going by the current market price, it can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers which is a hefty price by any standard.  And in the international market it could fetch $7000 or Rs0.59mn (on the basis of price of $500 per metric ton).

 

To fetch good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. But it too has its related problems.

 

“The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence needs to be used within weeks but nevertheless they provide us good returns. The more there is delay, the lesser is the price at the market,” says Tor Gul.

 

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

 

“The combination of inadequate storage and processing facilities and middlemen manoeuvres lead to volatility in prices as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production and supply that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” Bakht Biland Khan, another farmer, said.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Swat in particular has not been able to exploit the potato potential. Escalated cost of production, non-availability of quality potato seeds, poor post-harvest handling and lack of value addition and of modern plants of potato by-products in the province are hindering the process.

 

Besides, limited grading and labelling of produce, the absence of regulated local potato purchase centres, potato export facilitation centres and market information system are the other woes of potato growers.

 

Despite being tax-free zone and hub of industries, the lack of potato processing units, one that could produce potato chips or frozen French fries, is amazing to the say the least.

 

A multinational company, according to a report, had agreed to install a potato chips unit in Swat but the facility is no where seen thus far.

 

Despite having favourable climatic conditions for all the three potato crops, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has meagre share in country-wide potato yield. It yielded about 0.12 million tons from 10 thousand hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.

Main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat. Seeds in obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20% of potato quality is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities.  A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 percent reduction in post-harvest losses means savings of Rs6 billion.

 

Potato has large potential for the province and the country. Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the global market. Despite having potential of exports worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

 

The lack of credit facilities are one of the main problems for small farmers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were reportedly unable to buy standardised seed from the market for the banks denied or delayed credit facility to them.

The provincial horticulture policy says nonexistence of producers and marketing associations and market committees, non-exploration of new markets, and traditional outdated delivery systems of horticulture produce as the biggest constraints of the sector.

It recommends setting up of agriculture producers markets and market information systems at the district level and urges for quality grades for vegetables and to establish training institute for productivity and quality enhancement with funding from the export development fund.

The government should provide tax holidays for the first five years to encourage processing industries and ensure launch of specials schemes for development of modern horticulture enterprises in private sector in the province.

Strategy for revival of tourism in Swat

PTDC Motel at Swat, NWFP, Pakistan. Image by M...

Image via Wikipedia

Formulating a viable strategy to revive tourism
The middle class will have to participate in tourism promotion campaigns, but the slump in businesses and decline in incomes coupled with security fears have been responsible for the people to not visit tourist resorts of late

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/apr2011-weekly/busrev-25-04-2011/p7.htm

With summer at hand and peace established in Swat, the provincial and federal governments, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), Sarhad Tourism Corporation, local hotel/tourism industry and private tour operators should make joint concerted efforts to revive tourism in the region. To regain its erstwhile glory, tourism however needs some drastic measures and initiatives on part of all the stakeholders.

In collaboration with the private sector, the government should immediately conduct a need assessment survey to ascertain the different steps and facilities needed for attracting tourists in potential areas. But, obviously, the government cannot do all the things on its own. Therefore, public-private ventures are also the call of the hour to boost the tourism industry.

Revival of tourism is a prerequisite for eliminating extremism in the country as millions of people are jobless and thus indulge in such activities. A large chunk of the population is directly or indirectly dependent upon the sector. It, unfortunately, has suffered from the indifference of government and lack of sufficient involvement by the private sector.

The Ski Gala event which took place this winter and last year’s peace festival organised by the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) in Swat had attracted many tourists to the picturesque valley and rekindled hopes for reviving the tourism sector. But it requires a strong commitment and increased funding on part of the government to build the tourism infrastructure and public and private sectors’ coordination to achieve the milestone.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should hold such festivals each year and arrange other amusing programmes in Swat. And the festivals should be given sufficient coverage in print and electronic media to attract tourists from both in and out of the country.

The middle class will have to participate in these campaigns, but the slump in businesses and decline in incomes coupled with security fears have been responsible for the people’s decreased desire to visit tourist resorts of late. This necessitates introducing certain incentives for tourists belonging to the middle and lower-middle classes.

Pakistanis are great lovers of cricket. There is a beautiful ground near Kalam where a small-scale national cricket tournament can be organised. Hotels are there in plenty. The appetising local fruit and vegetable as well as the famous mouth-watering Swat trout-fish would add to their pleasure. This would also send positive signals to the world about the people in Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The government should repair and widen the roads damaged by floods in the area, construct new roads, construct walking treks at various locations and hotels. An international wildlife park at the world’s biggest plain Deodar forest at Kalam should be established.

Gabinajabba near Kabal, which is covered by snow even in peak summer, still has no road to go there. Hotel and the chairlift facilities in Malam Jabba Ski resort and other potential areas would have to be ensured. The government can develop a ski resort at Bishay Kalam where there is a natural miles long track. It should arrange a chairlift facility to go there from bazaar.

Communication facilities should be improved. Early restoration of Swat airport and helicopter facility to travel to/from Swat and between different areas of Swat will be welcome. Special transport facilities with discount in transport fares to the area could also be arranged by making a special request to the private transport companies.

There are 14 beautiful lakes in the valley such as Kondol Lake in Uthror Kalam. Several of them are unfortunately unknown and unattractive for tourists due to lack of roads and hotels.

The government should not only rejuvenate the PTDC motels and announce relief for tourists in its transport, lodging and cuisine services but also ask the private hotel industry to support the initiative with subsidised services to visitors. But is the latter in a position to do so in the wake of huge losses caused by floods and militancy?

“Apart from conducting several programmes for promotion of tourism like the peace tourism festival last year and Swat Peace Ski gala this year, we have also provided both in-kind and in-cash grants to 265 hotels amounting to millions of dollars with the help of USAID the FIRMS Project in Malakand to make them competitive and profitable,” Shakil Qadir Khan, the Director General of PaRRSA informed.

But more such steps need to be taken which will enable the badly-affected local hoteliers to provide better and cheaper services.

In a special package, the government, with the help of international donors and community, should immediately offer incentives to hotels, motels, restaurants and allied businesses. Besides, tourists’ information centres at several places must be established. Publication of literature in foreign languages, simple visa facilities like desks/counters for foreign tourists at airports will also greatly help revive tourism.

Swat has over 400 Buddhist sites. The government can prepare a special package/programme for the people of Japan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka to visit these places.

Swat, known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, is an ideal place for summer and winter tourism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, culture/heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, sports tourism and commercial tourism. Lots of TV dramas are being shot in foreign countries. Why cannot these be filmed in local areas which can go a long way to make the world familiar with the beautiful landscape of the area?

The government and private tour operators would do well to establish links between communities and enabling institutions, such as banks, line departments, foreign embassies and donor agencies to revive tourism in the region.

Malik said there would be no restrictions on the tourists to visit any place in Swat. Security situation has indeed improved in the area but the tourists’ apprehensions regarding fool-proof security need to be removed and more facilities should be provided to them. To restore tourists’ confidence, the government should arrange army-supported tours to Swat. The ministries of foreign affairs, interior and Pakistani embassies abroad should jointly work for promotion of tourism with regional and friendly countries.

The sector that fetched billions to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Swat alone has ceased to be a source of income anymore. It is estimated that Swat’s hotel industry has suffered losses of billions of rupees so far. The shrinkage of tourists has had an adverse impact on various tourism-dependent sectors like hotel, transport, cuisine, horticulture and handicrafts in the area rendering millions jobless.

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