Rawela Jan: small returns from farming

IFAD Asset Request Portlet

Asset Publisher

Rawela Jan: small returns from farming

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Rawela Jan is a 40-year-old married woman living inAkhoon Bandi, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. She has a son and a daughter. Another son committed suicide many years earlier and Rawela still finds it traumatic to think or talk about what happened: "…my mind explodes", she says.

Early on in her marriage Rawela fell seriously ill. "I caught tuberculosis from a small boil on my hand and with that I got very sick," she explains. "They…were saying I was dying today or tomorrow." She was ill on and off for 14–15 years "…and then by the grace of God the disease finished." The cost of treatment also took its toll on family finances: "My home situation at that time was…that we were poor, no land or other property was left… No ­– some land was there – I forgot."

Rawela and her husband now own a reasonable amount of land, just over half of which is irrigated. She says the rain-fed land "can produce wheat and maize only", whereas "all kinds of crops can be produced from the irrigated land – okra, cabbage, green chillies, tomato and onion…" They produce 50–60 sacks of wheat a year, which sustains their household for that time. They also "grow ganhar (green fodder), cut it and feed it to livestock".

Rawela works in the field with her husband, picking okra, cutting maize and wheat, and peeling the maize, as well as doing the more traditional female tasks of packing grain in sacks, and preparing food for her husband and the day labourers.

They have a buffalo, a cow and a donkey. "The cow has a calf as well and there is also a katta (buffalo calf) with the buffalo," says Rawela. She describes one of the main benefits: "We do not have to purchase milk with money. It is available at home. We also sell milk… In the morning we milk and children from the surrounding houses come and sit there. When I finish milking, I give milk to the children." But payment in a poor community is erratic. "Nobody gives money on a monthly basis," she says. "Some give tukray (bread pieces), some give one kilo, some do not give and some are poor."

Some aspects of agriculture have become easier, according to Rawela. To sow and harvest the crops they hire a man with a tractor and labourers to help, and a power-driven flourmill has recently been installed in the village. But these – along with fertilizers and pesticides – are expensive. They sell vegetables in the market and buy "…groceries such as sugar and tea...along with cooking oil" but often their sales are minimal. "Sometimes when we get nothing we just sell the vegetables [cheaply] and come back. We hardly cover the fare," Rawela says.

Rawela relays her husband's view that "when [our] son completes his studies then he should not do farming." The reason, she says, is: "There is nothing gained from farming… There are no savings."

Like many other narrators, Rawela says she and her husband have had to withdraw their daughter from school as they they cannot afford the transport fares. Paradoxically, she expresses the view that "for daughters the benefits [of education] are even more than for sons".