Chitral: early snowfall forces farmers to leave highlands

CHITRAL, Oct 29: Early snowfall in mountains and Eidul Azha have led to early return of farmers to villages from pastures in highlands. According to Dr Inayatullah Faizi, former project manager of International Union for Conservation of Nature in Chitral, cattle are sent to pastures in early June and they are brought home at the start of snowfall. He said around 60 per cent of the district was covered by pastures, so every family kept livestock. Mr Faizi said return of the cattle was celebrated but this time, Eidul Azha and early snowfall had hampered the celebrations. People from upper parts of Chitral told Dawn that raising livestock was an integral part of the local economy and a large fraction of the population mostly women folk was engaged in it. They said each village in upper and central Chitral had its allocated pasture in highlands where they left livestock, including cow, ox, sheep and goat to graze freely, while some families spent their summer season in the huts to oversee them. The return of the families along with the cattle of the village is an occasion celebrated by the villagers which can be gauged from the fact that there were folk songs sung during the certain parts of celebrations. Zahid Khan, a resident of Oveer valley, said this was an event of joy for the villagers for which they made preparations for many days. He said villagers advanced to receive the flock of cattle and the herdsman at a certain distance and the village echoed with the folksongs the young men sung in chorus. Qurban Zar of Terich valley said after the people of each village assembled in a central place to celebrate the occasion during where collective feast is given to all. He said bull fighting competition between two different villages in the later part of the day also marked an important event of the day in which the two hefty competing bulls from two different villages descended from the pasture are made to fight each other in an open yard. “The sentiments of the villagers rose to heights during the event and the event is remembered throughout the year and the modern times have provided the facilities of preserving it in films,” he said. Shapir Khan of Laspur said every house in the village had good stock of dairy products, including cheese and butter, which herdsmen prepared. He said the cheese was preserved for consumption during harsh winter to derive extra calories when villages were shrouded in snow sending residents to go on virtual hibernation. He said in all villages, herdsmen were paid in cash or in kind as remuneration for which they visited each household of the village just the next day they descend from the pasture.–Dawn]]>

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