Muhammed Naveed: interview transcript

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Muhammed Naveed: interview transcript

Muhammad Naveed lives in Akhoon Bandi village, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.  He was aged 22 when he was interviewed on 25 April 2010 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in the language of Hindko and carried out by a staff member from the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation. The interviewer had an existing relationship with the community but was not a professional researcher.


Assalam-o-Alaikum (greeting)
Walaikum Assalam (greeting)

My name is Riaz Khan and I am working with the Omar Asghar Khan Foundation. The Foundation is working on a poverty assessment survey in collaboration with PANOS London which was asked by IFAD to provide oral testimonies for a Rural Poverty Report which it publishes every 10 years. Presently this work is underway in six countries, and Pakistan is one of them. Village Akhoon Bandi (your village) has been selected for this work in Pakistan. In this respect we would like to conduct your interview and request your permission to record it. Is it okay if we record it?
Okay, permitted.

Now, first of all I request you to introduce yourself.
My name is Muhammad Naveed and my father's name is Muhammad Yousaf. And the name of my village is Akhoon Bandi, District and Tehsil Haripur and Union Council Shah Maqsood.

Can you please tell me about your family?
We are seven brothers and two sisters. Three brothers are married. Two sisters are also married. Four brothers are unmarried. Our three married brothers live separately after their marriage. Their food and residence is separate. And we four brothers live with our parents. My age is 22 years. And my two brothers are younger than me. The elder brothers do their own work. Before, we all lived with our parents. As the brothers got married, they started living separately. We four unmarried brothers live with our parents. Our food is separate. Sometimes the elder brothers give 2,000 rupees (141 US$)1 in a month to our parents. And that too when they have some saving. Otherwise, nowadays there is so much inflation, it is difficult to meet household expenses.

My eldest brother's name is Riaz. He is a driver. He drives Mazda (vehicle). And works in Hattar Industries. The one younger than him is called Khursheed. He is a tailor. Younger than him is Javed who is also a driver. He drives a Mazda in Karachi. Sheraz is younger than him and is at home. He does farming. And does daily wage labour with masons. I am younger than him. I also do farming. Two brothers are younger than me. Habib is younger than me. He goes to college and is a student of 1st year (11th grade). He will now give his papers (take exams). The youngest is Haseeb. He is doing a course in surveying. At this time, my two brothers are studying. My father also does farming. He does cultivation. In case there is no farming, he works with masons on daily wages. He cannot work a lot as he is now elderly. Because nowadays he is unwell. But when he is better he does work… farming etc, or labour with masons.

Please tell me more about his illness.
Bas (And so), there is pain in his legs. But now he is much better than before. My father's illness started about five years ago. And the pain in his legs remained for almost three years.  Along with this, we also took him to a doctor. Gave him medicine etc, also did his treatment. Brothers also helped. And they took loans from people, and would return loans when there was some income. God has blessed us a lot. [We] gave medicine etc for a year and then he got better. Nevertheless sometimes his legs hurt. After two months or three months his legs begin to hurt. Then we give him medicines. With the blessings of God he feels better. Now, thank God he is much better. We took our father to the Abbottabad Complex Hospital. Our mother remains at home. She does housework. We also have some cattle. Mother looks after it, feeds it etc, gives it water etc… My mother does all the housework and she is alone because our sisters are married. They give roti (literally, bread; by extension, a meal) etc and help to do the laundry etc. She is alone and she gets very tired. We also help her, feed the cattle and give it water etc.

Do you like living in your village?
Yes. Our village is our own… because it is the land of our ancestors. We cannot leave it. Wherever a person works, he returns to the village. Our happiness and our sorrows are in this village. Our relatives live here, which is why we cannot leave this place. We have our own land, that's why we will live here and not go anywhere else.

Do you remember your childhood? Can you please tell me something about your childhood?
Yes, I remember that [once] when my mother picked me up, I fell down on the other side of her shoulder. My mother told me: "When you fell, you made a racket." God saved me. I just remember that. In my childhood when I went to school I would take money from my father. We did not have many resources. At that time we all lived together. The system was running with difficultly.  Father was the only breadwinner. Even then my father did farming, and he was alone. The entire responsibility was on him. Sometimes there was work and at other times there was none. In farming too, if it rained there would be something… if not, then you get nothing. He would cultivate garlic, cabbage, ladyfinger and gourd... in this way the system continued. With this too we would be able to go to school.

Till primary I studied in the village. Till fifth grade I studied in my village. After that I went toBhairi Bandi and would go on foot. We would be very irritated. At times our father would give money, and sometimes not. With a lot of difficulty I studied up to matriculation. Till matriculation I went to Bhairi Bandi. In our village, there was a school only up to fifth grade. There is only a primary school in our village. My father did farming to keep the system going. We also had enough cattle. When we would return from school, we would do some homework and then look after the cattle, brought fodder etc for it. After matriculation, I could not continue my education. There were no resources. Because after that I had to go to the college. College was in Haripur and we did not have enough money for our father to have met household expenses and also our education expenses. So after that I started farming and also did labour...

In your opinion, should the curriculum include agriculture-related subjects?
Yes, because our area mostly depends on agriculture.                            

You have mentioned farming, please, tell me more about it?
I have done a lot of farming. We have cultivated wheat, cabbage, ladyfinger, gourd, pumpkin and tomatoes. Everything is according to its season. At this time it's loquat season. This is the fruit at present. When it finishes then wheat harvesting will begin. After that, we will cultivate cabbage, then ladyfinger, gourd and then charende (a local vegetable). With that we will run our system. Our father's land is 40 kanals (2.024 ha; 1 kanal = 506m²): 20 kanals land is pariayala (irrigated land). Besides that about 20 kanals is uttarh (rain-fed) or barani (rain-fed). There is no source of water for it. If there is rain, there will be a crop. If not then there will be no crop. It is very difficult. God willing, I hope there is rain so that cultivation is possible. We water the pariayala land.

What do you mean by pariayala land?
Pariayala is the land that is irrigated through a channel. The channel is already there. And these channels have been there since even before our father. Our grandfather and other elders made them. And these channels connect with the water from the stream. We work day and night on irrigation. There is a lot of land, even that belonging to others. Each person has about 10 to 15 kanals of land. It is very tiring when it's time for irrigation. Because each person with pariayala land irrigates it in turn. And there is not enough water. The turn for water is difficult to come by. We have to spend nights and also days. And then till morning… stay awake. We keep trying for three – three – days, and then get some water on our turn. And that too after making 10 – 10 – visits… so that no other person stops our water. First we irrigate one field. When it is irrigated, then the second and then the third. This way we irrigate the fields. When this finishes, then we irrigate lands in other places after 10 days.

Only my father and I do farming. Because the two brothers younger than me are studying. They go to college. And we run the household. My elder brother Sheraz is free. He also does farming and stays at home. He keeps applying for jobs. These days he has tried for a job in the railway. And he has also applied to the army. We have, I mean my father and I, we have about 10 kanals of land. Which we farm. The remaining land has been given by my father to my other three elder brothers... That means 4 kanals to one brother, 6 to another, and 8 to yet another, in this way it has been given. So that they are also able to run their households. Neither do we give them nor they us. In this way, we are running the system.

These days it's the loquat season. We sell loquat. We are one or two persons… we our brothers. There are my brothers and myself… in the morning we pick loquat. We continue till the evening. Then we bring a vehicle, load the loquat and take it to the market. The vehicle fare is 10 to 20 rupees. With difficulty we pick 10 to 12 crates of loquat a day. The fare for one crate is 10 to 20 rupees. We sell it in the market ourselves. The market has different rates. If the rate today is 200 rupees per crate… tomorrow it can even be 250 rupees. And then the day after it could even be 150 rupees. We sell it in the market. These days loquat is in large quantity in the market. We search for a customer and show him the loquat. If he likes them then he buys them. Even if the rate is 200 rupees per crate, it includes 10 rupees only for the crate. We bring 20 to 25 crates daily. This expenditure is also taken out of the income made from selling the loquat. It is difficult to run the household.

When we pick the loquat and place them in crates, we pack the loquat and its weight is about 9 kilogram. That is only the weight of the loquat… and does not include the weight of the crate. We seal the loquat crates. After sealing them, we bring a vehicle. About eight or nine people hire a vehicle collectively. If a single person transports the loquat then the expense on it is too high. A single person cannot afford the 500 rupees that is the fare to Abbottabad. Because a single person at times has 10 crates of loquat, or 20 or 30. Together about six to seven people share a vehicle so that the costs are shared. On a good rate, the transport cost can be up to 20 rupees per crate to Abbottabad. After that, we go to the market ourselves and sell. After selling we calculate the entire cost. That is, how much the total cost is. And how much is the saving. If loquat is sold at 200 rupees per crate, then its cost including transport is about 50 rupees. This also includes commission. And we save 150 rupees per crate. If we add the remaining costs like packing, labour etc, then we barely save 100 rupees per crate. If we hire labour to pick all the loquat and also pack them, the labour wage is 300 rupees… in that case we don't save anything. That's why we two or three brothers do that ourselves. If we add our wages then we would not save anything. This is the way we run the household. Loquat is not ripe every day. They are ready for picking after four days. If we get free time, we pick one day and not on the second day. Then we pick on the third day. If we get free time we do [day] labour.

In the spare time after labour we fetch fodder for the cattle. We have two buffaloes, two cows, and three or four goats. We fetch fodder for them. Amongst the brothers, whoever has time in the morning or in the evening brings fodder for the cattle. So that the system of cattle also keeps running and it does not go hungry. Two buffaloes give milk. The milk of one is used at home and also given to our brothers. The brothers also have children… so that they don't have to purchase it we give them the milk. We sell the milk of the other buffalo. From that money we bring its fodder. We also have two cows –  they don't give milk. We have goats, and their offspring drink the milk…

Where do you sell the buffalo milk and how much do you earn from it?
Most of the milk is consumed at home. If we sell some, then we give it to the local shop. Or take it from our home. At this time, milk sells at 50 rupees per kilo.

Apart from loquat, which other crops do you grow?
At present we have cultivated wheat. And cultivated garlic in 1.5 to 2 kanals of land coughs]. When the garlic finishes then we will cultivate gourd, and then ladyfinger. The issue is water. Water is difficult to get. We have to work very hard to irrigate our land. We have to work day and night. And have to work through the night.

Can you please tell me the reason for the shortage of water?
Rain is not in abundance. If there is enough rain then water flows from the mountains. Then we irrigate. Even then we work day and night to irrigate. Before the wheat crop, we cultivated cabbage. Even on that we brothers worked together. After cutting it we took it to Abbottabad market. Even on this there was a lot of expenditure. The selling rate was not that good in the market: 5 kilograms would fetch 30 rupees. There was nothing saved: 5 kilograms sold for 30 rupees. And at that time the cabbage was also affected by pests... and the crop was ruined. Due to rain shortage, there was insufficient produce. Water was not available. Because of that the crop was ruined, and it was with great difficulty that we sold that cabbage.

Was there any profit in it?
No, we suffered losses. Loss in that the sense that when the cabbage flowers its stem finishes. Its juice dries out. It yellows and is destroyed. In this way our crop was ruined. Destroyed… the crop. At that time we had purchased cabbage seeds for 8,000 rupees per kilogram… and that too on loan. When it is cultivated, first we sow the seeds and then after that we have to spray pesticides, etc. Even the pesticides have to be purchased and it has to be sprayed on the fields. By the time we sprayed pesticides, we had already incurred a lot of expenditure. We plough with tractors. And pay 800 rupees per hour to the tractor-owner. On ploughing we had spent 4000-5000 rupees. We had spent a lot on the crop, and that year we were not able to save anything. At this time we have cultivated wheat. With wheat we have the benefit that the produce from 1 kanal is about 5-7 maund (200 to 280 kilograms)… from 1 kanal. At this time we have cultivated wheat in about 15 to 20 kanals. Now the crop is ready for harvest. After it's threshed, the chaff is used as fodder. And this we do not purchase. Our own is enough. Wheat is used in our home, we don't have to purchase flour. This too is a saving for us.

Do the brothers divide the wheat cultivated in the 15-20 kanals area. If yes, how is it divided?
No, we don't divide it. My father has given land to the brothers. They are separate. This is for my father and me and those brothers that are together – this is for us. We are four brothers that live with our parents. Total land is 40 kanals and we along with our father have 20 kanals. The wheat which we produce we use at home. It is enough for a whole year. We do not sell it – with it we are able to run our household. We don't have to purchase flour, and the wheat that is produced is ground in the machine installed in the village. By the grace of the God our household is run. Sometime I do daily wage labour, or my father does. My father does farming at the time of farming and is also able to do masonry.

What do you think are the difficulties in farming these days?
The difficulties in farming are that the cost of a tractor is 800 rupees per hour. Labour for harvesting wheat is 400 rupees. With that there is little saving. The biggest problem is that of water. We irrigate with great difficulty. First of all there is very little water, and then to irrigate we have to work day and night. After many days we get our turn to irrigate.

 Where do you get water for irrigation?
This, sir, comes from the mountains and the stream which passes near our village. And that too, if it rains, there is water in the stream. If it does not rain then there is no water flow. This is the source of water that reaches us and which we use for irrigation and use for water.

Please tell me more about the difficulties that you face?
Other difficulties include the differing quality of seeds. We have to purchase from outside. The seeds which we have, we use in one season and they are not good for the next season. The problem is that we have to purchase from outside.

What do you mean by outside? From where?
By outside I mean the agriculture office. The seeds from the agriculture department we get on the basis of maund (40kg). One maund (40kg) is about 1,000-1,200 rupees. And we purchase pesticides from the market. If pesticides are needed, then we bring them after five or 10 days from the market. There is no shop in village. That's why we have to go to the market inHaripur. We have to bear the transportation expenses. These are the difficulties…

Naveed, please tell me whether you want to continue farming? Or leave it and look for a job, etc.?
No, no. We want to continue it. Without it we cannot run our household. With it we meet our household expenses. And we will continue it...

How do you manage household expenses with farming?
In the way that when we harvest the crop we use the wheat or vegetable etc for consumption in our home.

Which vegetables have you sold in the market?
In the market, as for vegetables we have sold ladyfinger, gourd. With those we have benefited a lot. The most benefit came from ladyfinger – in that we pick ladyfinger every other day. We sell it in the market and also use it at home. It is also dependent on rain. If there is rain, then there is a lot of water in the stream and that is used for irrigation, and the produce is also good.

Please can you tell me if you have ever worked outside your village or studied outside the village?
I studied outside the village. In the village there is only primary level education. After primary, there is an adjacent village Bhairi Bandi and I studied up to matric level in that village. I could not study any further. We did not have any resources. There was poverty. There was a burden on my parents. Only with farming did we manage our household affairs. . I also went to Karachi for work. There I worked in a shop. I worked in Karachi for almost a year and then returned home. In Karachi I worked in a milk shop. There was also no saving in it. The expense was almost 2,000 to 3,000 rupees. My salary was about 3,000. With great difficulty there was a saving of 3,000 rupees. Expenses were up to 3,000 rupees. When I returned home, I spent two months at home. Then I started working with a vehicle. When I was driving a vehicle my salary was about 6,000 rupees. Food and lodging were not covered, which is why I was not able to save. When I was driving a vehicle, then I was able to save about 4,000 rupees. From that too I would keep 1,500 rupees for my own expenses. And the rest I sent home to my father. It has been a year since I returned from Karachi. On my return I started farming.

In your opinion, is farming good or would you prefer to work elsewhere? And what are the difficulties in farming?
If the land is one's own, then one does farming according to one's own preference. And it's one's own work and so one works hard. If one gets tired, then we rest… there is nobody to check on us. When we do labour outside, then we can only earn when we work. And they stand on our heads to make sure we work. We have to work for 12 hours. They also give wages at their own discretion. We do not receive wages on time. Sometimes they give the wages after a month. Sometimes 10-15 days after the end of the month. The household is not run this way. We need money every month to run the household. That's why working outside is very difficult. We are better at home. We are better off farming.

In your opinion, if you work or stay outside the village, then will it reduce poverty?
Poverty can only be reduced when we receive good wages. At least 15,000 to 20,000 rupees. Then poverty can be reduced. Households can run easily. It is difficult to run a household with 4,000 or 5,000 rupees. There is an excessive price hike. Everything is costly. Households can be run with a salary or income of 15,000 or 20,000 rupees.

Naveed, can you please tell me if there is any organization in your village? And if so, what is your role in it?
Yes, there is one. Its name is Young Star Welfare Society and I am a member in it. We have done a lot for this organization. First of all, we worked on the main pathway. We made a path. We also worked on a water supply scheme. We constructed water pipelines and a tank. And all this was done from the platform of this organization. We collected funds from people… We did a lot of work and also contributed labour. People worked hard, did labour on this…
 
Naveed, can you please tell me how do you get news and information from outside the village?
In the past, messages were sent through letters. Today is the modern age, there are mobile phones. Most people have a mobile phone. Through mobiles, news reaches [us]. If something happens in the village and someone finds out, then they inform others as well. The newspaper also comes only if someone gets it from Haripur. There is no other source of newspaper in our village. Whoever goes to Haripur fetches the newspaper. And we borrow it from them to read it. Apart from that some people in the village have television sets. We catch news on the PTV (Pakistan Television – state-run TV).

In your opinion what is poverty? And what do you understand by it?
I consider a person poor if he is a daily wage earner. At times he gets a wage and at other times not. And then there are those who do not have any source of income. If someone gets work, then they are able to purchase tea or flour etc. And then the person searches for work again the next day. Waits for work. And if someone needs his labour he will earn a wage or he will remain at home. If someone has some land, then he works there, helps with farming and then comes home. We don't have drinking water… It is not available...  it is available at a certain time... if it is available in the morning then we use it, or if in the evening then we use it then, if available. Some people store water. Some don't get any. Their turn comes every other day… it is very difficult.

Are there any who are very poor in your village? If yes, who are they?
Yes, there are many… those who are landless and have no other source of income. Some do daily wage labour… if they get a wage then it is all right. If not, they stay at home.

How do they run their households? Please tell me more about it?
With great difficulty. If they get a wage one  day they may be without work for three to four days. Their household runs with support from neighbours – if they are better off – and others in the village. They help out. And those that earn well in farming give wheat grains. Some people also give money. That is how the poor survive. There is a lot of poverty in this village…

Could you please tell me what you do in your spare time, if you have any?
When I was studying, I had very little spare time. When I returned from school, I had about an hour or two. And that too was spent fetching fodder for the cattle. Nowadays I don't have any spare time. I am mostly busy in farming. If I have any spare time, then I play cricket for an hour or two.

Please tell me what are you plans for your future?
About the future, well… If I had a good education then I would have got a good job. I have also completed a course in plumbing. And I intend to go abroad. I have submitted my documents to a person. I am trying to go abroad. I have also applied to the army, and also to the police…

Please tell me more about it.
As yet I have not heard from any place. There is no letter from anywhere. I have tried for employment abroad as a plumber as I have completed a course in it. I have collected money from selling the buffalo. I have 20,000 rupees from it. I have paid 20,000 rupees to that person, and will pay him the remaining after the work is done. When the ticket comes, and if the ticket does not come then I will not give any more money…

Have you taken any loan for this?
No, I have not taken any loan from anyone… until now… but later I will have to take a loan, when I have to pay the remaining money. If the work is done, then I will take a loan.

What would you do for your area, if you were put in charge for its development?
When I am put in charge, then first of all I will resolve the water problem. These days are very difficult. It is difficult for us and also for the women. I will ensure water is delivered to each home. And I will collect funds from each person, as much as they may be able to afford. Some may give 5,000, some may give 1,000 – as much as they can afford. If I am in charge, then I will get work done on the road. I would also try for a middle school. Women cannot study beyond primary level as we only have education up to primary school in our village. Women are not allowed to go out of the village. I will construct a big mosque. At present the village mosque is small. There is neither a hospital nor a dispensary in this village. And I will contact the government in this regard. Will try for a middle or high school for girls so that girls do not go outside the village. We will God willing do this by contacting the government.

What do you think about the climate and weather of your area? How is it?
I'll tell you about the weather: it changes a lot. If you see the weather in the morning it may be very pleasant or moderate. From 8 am to 4 pm it remains hot. Sometimes it rains, and sometimes it doesn't. If it rains, then the weather is pleasant. Due to changes in weather there are many diseases. If it doesn't rain, then people fall ill. In summer it isn't too hot, and in winter it does not get too cold. In our area, there are many trees etc. We sit under them in the summer.

In your view is farming essential to get out of poverty or is there any other way? And what should be done to get out of poverty?
Farming is essential to get out of poverty if the produce is good ­- [if} there is rain and the produce is good. Not everyone owns land. That is also a reason why there is so much poverty. But arming [alone] cannot take you out of poverty, as water is a very big problem and our farming depends on water... depends on the rains. Or if one has any kind of good business or a good job with a salary of 15,000-20,000 rupees. There is no other source.

Naveed, have you ever faced any incident which you still remember?
I haven't faced any big incident. Illness is something everyone faces. The illness I have at present is that I have pain in my shoulders. I go to the doctor who gives me an injection etc, which helps relieve the pain.

How do you run your household?
We run our household by farming. If that is possible then that's fine. If not then we do labour on daily wages. The daily wage is 300 rupees – sometimes work as daily labour is available and sometimes it is not. The household expenditure is a lot – about 6,000 to 7,000 rupees is the average household expenditure. And income is less. We run the household with great difficulty.

Thank you so much Naveed for giving us your precious time.
Thank you so much that you came here and asked us about our condition.


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