Javed Iqbal: family comes first

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Javed Iqbal: family comes first

Javed Iqbal is 25 and lives in Akhoon Bandi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. He married at the age of 18 and has five children.
Javed is illiterate, whereas his three brothers "got an education". When he was "small, still young" he ran away from home. "Father was the only earner for the family and if we all started studying then we would have to spend a lot on getting education too… I saw that because my other brothers were studying, I should go somewhere for work," Javed explains.

"Our childhood we spent in extreme poverty," he says. His father, who died 10 years ago, was "a servant of the railway" and away from home most of the time. He would come back to do essential agricultural tasks. "If he did not come in time," Javed recalls, "then neighbours used to scatter the seed in the field [for him]… We used to ask the villagers to sow the seed, and when there was time to water the field. We were so young, and at that time we were not able to do any work. We asked some uncles to help us. When it was the time to put fertilizers in the field my father used to come back, on leave, to do the watering and put in the fertilizer."

Javed spent several years alternating between waged labour and farming: "When there was no farming and the prices for the crops were also low I left farming. Crops got diseases and I left and started labouring again. I did [manual labour] for two or three months and I came back again. Then grew crops again and along with that did labour in someone else's field."

Since marrying, Javed has stayed in the village, where he does "a bit of farming" on 2 kanals (0.1 hectares) ofland that he owns on a shared basis; he also continues to do casual labouring in other people's fields. But farming has been badly affected by drought in recent years: "Now… two or three years have passed since there has been [any] rain and we have not got work daily," he says.

Some expenses, such as ploughing, have risen sharply. "When I was young, people used to plough with oxen, nowadays there are tractors," Javed says. "The owners of the tractors are taking 800 rupees (9.6 US$)1 per hour, for ploughing… And it is only if you have money in your pocket that they plough your field. If there is no money they won't plough the field udhara (on credit). This is a problem, there is poverty."

Recently Javed has had to borrow money from neighbours. Unless he can find labouring work, he says will have pay off the loan by selling the goat's kids.
Javed has also learnt that part of his land falls within the area demarcated for a new road passing through Akhoon Bandi. "No one has informed me about compensation," he comments. He says he may also be forced to sell his remaining kanal of land if conditions do not improve.


1/ Average exchange rate, (83.58 rupees = 1 US$) November 2009, Interbank rate, source: www.oanda.com