Background to the Pakistan interviews

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Background to the Pakistan interviews

Location
All of the narrators in Pakistan come from Akhoon Bandi village, Haripur district, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North West Frontier Province). There are some 300 households in the village.

Livelihood options
The main livelihood in the village is agriculture. Crops cultivated include wheat, maize, garlic, onion and several varieties of fruit. Other sources of income include casual wage labour, primarily in agriculture and construction. Unemployment is one of the most pressing problems in Akhoon Bandi. Some men have found jobs in cities, for example as drivers.

People also keep livestock, including buffalo and cows, and sell milk to generate extra income. Some villagers also keep goats, chickens and donkeys, using the latter to transport construction materials and other goods.

Facilities and services/infrastructure
Akhoon Bandi has two primary schools: one for girls and one for boys. The need to travel to Haripur for secondary schooling has restricted further educational opportunities, especially for girls. As there is no middle or high school, and it is expensive to access education elsewhere, villagers tend to involve their children in farming as soon as they have completed primary education.

The village has no health facility, and inhabitants have to travel to the nearby towns of Haripur (15 kilometres away) and Abbottabad (30 kilometres away) when they need medical care.

Akhoon Bandi has been suffering from problems with its water supply, both for domestic consumption (because of maintenance problems) and for crop irrigation (there is a diminishing supply). The main source of water is a well, but damaged pipes and the lack of separation between sewage and the drinking water supply has led to pollution, and made the water unfit for human consumption. There is also a natural stream in the village, but water levels have reduced due to decreasing rainfall in recent years.

Akhoon Bandi has electricity and telephone lines, and some villagers have mobile phones. The village is accessible by a kutcha (dirt) road, but the condition of the road is very poor. A stream separates the village from the main road, over which a bridge has recently been constructed. Prior to this, the village was cut off whenever there were heavy rains.

The partner organisation Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation decided to use the Panos London community grant to construct a shingle road, which will be of particular benefit to people in the poorest neighbourhood, linking them with the rest of the village.

The challenge of irrigation
While the village is known for its vegetable production, this is now in decline because of decreasing water supplies. The irrigated farmland runs alongside the stream, the only source of irrigation. But decreasing rain and snow in the stream's catchment area over recent years has resulted in lower water levels, to the extent that significant areas of land can no longer be irrigated. Yet when it does rain the stream often receives too much water in a short time, which causes soil erosion and crop damage.

As people are cultivating fewer crops, the villagers who rely on daily wages from weeding and other agricultural tasks struggle to find work.

The effect of the floods

Since the testimonies were collected, Akhoon Bandi has been affected by the severe flooding which began in July 2010. Five houses in Akhoon Bandi were destroyed and approximately 25 kanals (1.26 hectares) of irrigated land was washed away. This land was cultivated by 12 different households. It was the only source of income for these families, who are now labouring in other people's fields to secure enough money to survive.

The partner organisation
The Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation, established in 1999, is a national organization with its field base in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It works with citizens, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, to achieve human and livelihood security. The foundation organizes citizens, assists them in engaging with the state over policy and institutional reform, and supports their livelihood strategies through skill-building, credit provision and community infrastructure development. Currently (November 2010), the foundation is also providing relief and rehabilitation assistance following the devastating floods triggered by the 2010 monsoon in Pakistan.