Miandad: living on loans
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Miandad: living on loans22 December 2014
Miandad is a 48-year-old farmer who lives in the village of Akhoon Bandi, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. He is married to the daughter of a paternal uncle who brought him up after Miandad's father was murdered. He has two sons and two daughters.
Miandad describes how he used his main asset, his land, to release cash for his elder daughter's marriage: "The land that I owned, I mortgaged for 150,000 rupees (US$1,795)1… and bought furniture, clothes, [a] stove etc [as dowry]. And after that I took money from the bank and arranged to buy a [fuel-driven] flourmill for my son. And…people bring us their grain for grinding."
The investment in the flourmill forms a crucial part of Miandad's plan to re-stabilise the household finances. "God willing, the income from the machine will help to meet our expenses…", he says. "Now, my thinking is that first I must repay the bank loan. And then I will take another loan and get back my land that is mortgaged… When our land is returned to us then we can invest in it, so that whatever it yields will help us repay… This is the only way to pay off loans – there is no other way."
When Miandad farmed his own land he grew garlic, ginger and arum and looked after his uncle's oxen and buffalo. One particularly successful harvest produced 6,000 kg of garlic, enabling to him build two mud brick houses. "Since then we have never had such a harvest of garlic. Thank God I had built the…houses," he reflects. Garlic no longer grows successfully: "It gets diseased," Miandad says, and its market value has decreased.
Drought and erratic rainfall in recent years have been major problems for farmers. "As there is no rain, the water [in the river] has dried up," Miandad says. "If it rains, then the irrigation system works." But when rainfall is too heavy it can cause erosion, flooding and crop damage. He explains, "Only when there are moderate rains…do the crops grow, this is the situation."
Miandad points out that for farmers to work in isolation, selling small quantities of vegetables in the market is not profitable: "Even if a person's daily earnings are 1,000 rupees (US$12), their expenses may also be 1,500 rupees (US$18) per day." He advocates a collective approach to farming, marketing and investment. "If we get a lump sum of money," he says, "we can add more from our labour or a loan and do something meaningful with it."
Since mortgaging his land Miandad and his son have been doing labouring work when they can find it: "If, any day, I get a daily wage I take the spade and go." But casual employment is scarce. "On labour alone, nobody can make it," he says.
Traditional notions of honour are important themes in Miandad's testimony. He discusses changing social attitudes, particularly towards women, and explains why he believes it is unacceptable for his wife to go out alone. According to Miandad, "The person that has a sense of honour will say…‘Even if I die of hunger, I will not let my wife step out of the house [to work].'"
1/ Average exchange rate (83.58 rupees = 1 US$), November 2009, Interbank rate,source: www.oanda.com