Pakistan: COVID 19 Lockdown and Smallholder farmers

Almost 80% smallholder farmers in Pakistan are facing huge challenges and difficulties due to the lockdown situation nationwide till April 14, 2020. It is expected that this lockdown may prolong for a few more weeks. The most vulnerable people affected by this crisis are the smallholder farmers and tenants holding small piece of land. Moreover, most of the smallholders also work as daily wage labourers. The wider concern is that as lockdown continues, the halted economic activities would knock off people’s daily wages and push them all into further poverty

While the country battles the COVID 19 pandemic, the other problem that the farmers are facing is the harvesting of crops like wheat, gram and mustard as they deal with shortage of labor. The agriculture and farming industry have clearly collapsed under the lockdown with the freezing of labor workforce and supplies. Agriculture output and supply chains play a vital role for the life of farmers. Following problems are facing the smallholder farmers in the face of this pandemic crisis.

• Hoarding may artificially increase food prices and increase pressure on supply chains.

• Farmers will be unable to sell their products in the market if the lockdown prevails.

• In Sargodha district farmers are facing difficulties in finding labour for ploughing, pruning, and weeding in maize crop and vegetables fields

There are some serious challenges ahead that government need to recognize and act on as priority. Considering that situation here is urgent, and farmers need to be provided withs the seed of next sowing crops and fodder for livestock. Action taken by SAFBIN Team during COVID-19 Crisis Situation: Due to lockdown situation there is huge shortage of wheat flour in the markets, and prices of the wheat flour and rice are rising sharply. Mr. Mahnaz (DPO-SAFBIN) had a meeting with the district administration where he requested the government departments cooperate and ensure the availability of wheat flour to the smallholder farmers on subsidized rates. The meeting was successful and the request accepted. 50 bags for poor farmers on subsidized rates were sent immediately. On April 06; 2020 SAFBIN team along with district administration arranged the distribution in two villages of 37 & 38 DB in district Khushab Government of Pakistan has launched Ehsaas emergency cash program to aid the most affected people by coronavirus. Pakistan Rupees 12000 will be given to the needy per month under this program. In both district’s SAFBIN team facilitated 810 poor and needy people to register in this program. VRPs from the same villages, will ensure all the precautionary measures for COVID-19 prevention is followed during facilitation with the smallholder farmers. 77 farmers from the SAFBIN SHFC received confirmation and accepted message of CASH Grant. List for rest of the farmers is awaited. The exact number will be shared after April 14, 2020. SAFBIN Team is working on awareness generation on COVID 19. IEC Materials developed by Caritas Pakistan have been distributed in the programme areas. Use of Mega phones for announcements and awareness raising in the villages and communities are also simultaneously being done.