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Heavy rainfall began in Pakistan in July, 2010, and caused flooding in most districts in Pakistan. Twenty million people were affected, and field crops destroyed. Food security is now a major humanitarian concern, with the Rabi planting season hampered by major losses of wheat seeds. In Punjab Province, the water rose relatively slowly and settled in the lower lying areas. In most affected areas in Punjab, the waters have now cleared, leaving limited amounts of silt and debris deposits.
This Pakistan EMMA assessment focused on the wheat seed, fodder and agricultural labor market systems in Punjab, all of which are essential to the food security of target households. The target population for this assessment are households who rely on casual agricultural labor for most of their income, farmers with small amounts of land and small farmers with high reliance on livestock. The objective of the assessment was to assist agencies in identifying appropriate program interventions.
Wheat is the staple food in the region and provides most of the caloric intake of the poor population. In non-emergency times, most small wheat farmers usually use their own production of grain for seeds, which generally produce lower yields than do the more expensive treated seeds. After harvest, a large portion of the wheat harvest is stored in local facilities made of mud bricks. Small farmers generally lack formal land titles and do not have access to government-provided agricultural machines and extension services due to their power relations with the large farmers. Since the flood, most farmers lost their main cash crop, cotton, which reduced their capacity to repay loans and buy inputs for the next season. Leveling of heavily silted land is now the most urgent need for restarting agricultural production. However, small farmers lack access to the necessary machinery, know-how and manpower to accomplish this. Irrigation canals, village-level storage facilities and roads were all severely affected by the flood; only the latter have been repaired since the crisis.
Main recommendations for the wheat seed market system include cash transfers to restore agricultural infrastructure; vouchers to ensure quality and appropriate agricultural inputs; support to extension services; and advocacy for land rights.
Agricultural labor is seasonal, peaking during the harvest times for major crops, like wheat, cotton, sugar and rice. Normally, medium-scale land owners and agri-businesses take on casual workers as needed rather than hiring permanent staff. For the poor population without access to land, casual labor is the main/only source of income. The agricultural labor market was hit badly by the floods, as cotton harvesting, the major type of casual employment, was disrupted. Local factories reported that they are processing less than half of their normal volumes of cotton this year. In addition, rising prices overall have affected the real purchasing power for low-income households.
Main recommendations for the casual agricultural labor market include providing unconditional cash transfers; cash for work until the next harvest; income support for extra vulnerable people unable to participate in the cash for work programs; and income generating activities and vocational training.
Livestock and its by-products provide an important source of income and nutrition and play a major role in protecting livelihoods of the target population. Most small livestock owners grow their own green fodder but purchase seed cakes and other agricultural byproduct supplements from local retailers, usually on credit. During the floods, many households lost their standing fodder crops as well as their fodder stocks and storage facilities. Prices of green fodder increased overall due to higher demand after the flood, while prices for other types of fodder vary based on local demand. Livestock owners are feeding their livestock less, leading to lower milk production.
Main recommendations for the fodder market system include cash for work to restore agricultural infrastructure for enabling normal seasonal employment patterns; vouchers for agricultural inputs; and advocacy around land rights.